Set in 1940s Punjab, Anup Singh’s latest feature QISSA details the aftermath of the Indo-Pakistan Partition through the experiences of one Sikh family, headed by Umber (Irrfan Khan).
Following the family’s forceful displacement from their village, Umber’s desire for a male heir is stronger than ever. When his wife gives birth to their fourth daughter, Kanwar, Umber makes the fateful decision to raise her as a boy. This tragic choice ends up dividing the family in violent ways, and provokes a series of increasingly unsettling situations for Kanwar as she grows up.
Through Umber and Kanwar, Singh elaborates a very strong metaphor for the tortured post-Partition psyche along religious, national, and gender lines. He pairs the narrative’s unraveled subjectivity and desire with very stately cinematography, shot composition, and angles, hallmarks of an epic, sweeping narrative and history that he ultimately upends through the story of Kanwar. While in a sense a ghost story as the film’s subtitle describes, the source of pain and suffering is all too real.
QISSA won the NETPAC Award at the Toronto International Film Festival, as well as the Dioraphte Award at the International Film Festival Rotterdam.
- Anup Singh
Born in 1961 in Dar-Es-Salaam, Tanzania, Anup Singh grew up in a Sikh family of Punjab origin. Their forced displacement is one of the main sources of inspiration for QISSA. Singh’s first feature THE NAME OF A RIVER (2002) was in 30 festivals worldwide, won several awards and is available in BFI’s DVD collection. He has also directed film projects for Indian TV and consulted for BBC2, as well as writing film reviews for industry press including ‘Sight&Sound’. Singh’s third feature film project LASYA – THE GENTLE DANCE picked up the CNC (France) prize at the Locarno 2011 Open Doors Industry Days.