As India increasingly becomes a country where crimes against women are on a steep rise, brutal incidents of violence against women grab headlines every other day. Guralambir Singh Alex, a Melbourne-based filmmaker, was so perturbed by these news pieces that he decided to use cinema to express his disapproval of such heinous crimes.
The resultant project is a Punjabi film that is tentatively titled Mamta Da Katal, set to release in India post July this year after it has been screened at some international film festivals. Talking about the film, Alex, who is the writer, director and producer of the film, says, “It is about a Dalit rape victim who cannot speak. The film is based on a real incident and tells the story of the woman in rural Punjab, who is sexually abused yet ignorant about it.”
Alex recently wrapped the movie’s one-month long shoot in Amritsar and surrounding villages. Starring Amritsar girl Mandeep Ghai and actor Vansh Bhardwaj, it is currently in post-production stage.
This is the first Punjabi film for Alex, who earlier worked as an assistant director and scriptwriter for 2012 Bollywood film Shobhna’s Seven Nights, and has also made short films and documentaries in Australia. Alex works for a television channel in Melbourne and is a Bollywood presenter for a radio channel. The filmmaker says his Punjabi background motivated him to take up the subject. “However, I am not making the film for commercial purposes but because I wish to make a film which will take Punjabi cinema to the next level. The audience will understand and appreciate films based on different issues only when we will give them such movies,” says Alex adding that the scripts of all his films carry a social message.
Drawing a contrast between the filmmaking scenario in Melbourne and India, Alex expresses his dismay at finding able technicians for the film. “Work is more organised in Melbourne as everybody knows their job. Here, you have to chase people to find good technicians,” he rues.
Meanwhile, for theatre actor Mandeep Ghai, playing the lead role was both physically and mentally challenging. “The role was difficult for me since I had to adopt the body language of a woman who can’t speak. My character in the film has only one fixation — that of having a child. So, she remains happy only in the company of children. However, people of the village don’t like it when she goes near their children,” explains Mandeep, adding that she was given complete freedom by Alex to perform. “The entire unit had a lot of fun on the sets,” smiles she.
Interestingly, the film was initially set to be staged as a play, informs Mandeep. “We had planned to stage a play and later make a film, but eventually decided to go ahead with the movie,” she says.