Restored on DVD: Anhe Ghore Da Daan (Alms for the Blind Horse)

Rating: ★★★1/2
Verdict: The silent portrayal of a community in turmoil is best reserved for a film festival audience.
 
In a dying village of Punjab, people don’t speak. Their vulnerability speaks. Forlorn of all hope and defenseless at all times are the Dalit Sikhs from Gurvinder Singh’s film. A staggering contrast to the conventional Bollywood depiction of the  Punjabis from Punjab.

 

Produced by the National Film Development Corporation of India, Anhey Ghorey Da Daan is a story about a community that wakes up with a sole-focused ambition of surviving the chilly winter mornings at dawn, and the unrelenting savages of humanity by dusk. Director Gurvinder Singh’s surety about the look of his film is like vacuum that sucks in the viewer, and lets him wander equally clueless as are the characters of this story, written by Gurdial Singh. The beauty of this film is exactly what might be wrongly-judged as opaqueness in vision per se.

Dharma, a peasant from the neighborhood has his land sold off by the landlord of the village. When men turn up to protest at the Sarpanch’s house, they’re given false hopes and glimpses of muscle power. The story creatively uses Dharma’s neighboring family members as pawns to showcase the despondence of life in troubled vicinity.

This film is not for a theater-going audience, and is simply meant for entry into film festivals and better off for personal viewing experience. Having stated so, the intention is not to tame the Indian audience for consuming films that rank below average intellect. A film like Anhe Ghore Da Daan is clearly made for the global audience, and is ambiguous and difficult to comprehend.

The cinematography is pertinent up to a point where the viewer can feel what it is to be subjugated to adverse conditions of existence. The time chosen to shoot the film is the winters, and it’s mostly-shot using natural lighting. However, the firm desire and patience to sit through the serenity are strings attached with Anhe Ghore Da Daan.

The latter part of this film focuses on the elderly villager’s son Melu, a rickshaw-puller in another village close by. His life is no different as there’s enough strife here as well.

Gurvinder’s sense of direction is dictated by film school ethics. The camera waits until Melu Singh has finished a meal or follows him as he peddles all the way to a doctor’s clinic. Scenes like these make you wish for a faster pace. The music by Catherine Lamb is no melody and absolute non-harmony. Exactly what the film demands! Disruption in sounds only helps the film realize its true potential. It is composed closely observing the psyche of the sapped turban-clad villagers.

Samuel Sikandar John, who plays Melu is stagnant with his expression and does fairly well. Anhe Ghore Da Daan is titled after the Hindu mythology that says dalits are the descendants of asuras and demons. For a film where every face is wrinkled by seasons of incongruity, the edit needs to be crisp so as to save the viewer from being burdened. Anhe Ghore is averagely-edited and would have stood out, had the final cut been shorter.

This is an environment where happiness is alienated and humans bargain their honor for sarson and roti. Anhe Ghorey Da Daan is class apart, and for the intellectual circles strictly. Watch it if you wish to expose yourself to a new experience.

Why should you watch this film?
Gurvinder Singh’s film comes from a road scarcely traveled in Punjabi cinema. A universal theme has gained the film awards and accolades. If facts like these excite you, then generously donate alms and watch the blind horse!

Anhe Ghore Da Daan is a title under the NFDC label ‘Cinemas of India’. The film is out on home video by NFDC.

By Soham Bhattacharyya

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