Chauthi Koot Movie Review


Gurvinder Singh’s Chauthi Koot (The Fourth Direction) has already attained the status of a cinematic milestone.

Last year, it became the first-ever Punjabi-language feature to break into the Cannes Film Festival’s official selection. No Indian entry in the past decade has arguably been more deserving of that nod.

Opening in multiplexes with English subtitles this Friday, Chauthi Koot, with its sparse dialogue, chilling use of shifty silences and deep sense of humanity, crafts a telling portrait of blighted, scarred lives in militancy era Punjab.

Cinematographer Satya Rai Nagpaul’s images breathe and speak in the most eloquent ways while sound designer Susmit Bob Nath’s subtle interventions complete the grim, gloomy frames and heighten their impact.

Chauthi Koot views a point in the history of contemporary Punjab through the eyes of flesh-and-blood men and women battered and bruised, both physically and mentally, by the state on one hand and Khalistani separatists on the other.

The human suffering is reflected in the fate of a pet dog whose barks metaphorically become the voice of the voiceless, no matter how unheard it is doomed to be.

A fusion of two Waryam Singh Sandhu short stories, Chauthi Koot is a stinging testament to the irreversible corrosion that violence wreaks on minds and souls.

The slow-paced, hard-edged narrative journeys deep into the heart of darkness that was 1980s Punjab in a way that no other film has ever done.

While much of Chauthi Koot is set in winter, a part of the film unfolds in monsoon. While one season mirrors the terrifyingly hopeless atmosphere, the other brings heavy downpours that drench the land but cannot wash away the woes of lacerated souls.

The film opens with two clean-shaven men alighting from a bus on a winter evening and hotfooting it towards Ferozepur Cantonment railway station.

The duo misses the last train, but they have to get to Amritsar come what may before the night ends.

Joined by a middle-aged Sikh gentleman befriended minutes ago, they force their way into the guard’s compartment of an emptied-out train headed for Amritsar’s shunting yard.

The guard is livid. These are difficult times, he says. If anybody discovers the unauthorized passengers on the train, he might lose his job, he bemoans.

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