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The story of students in murky politics

All’s well that ends well. And for Punjabi film Sikander everything has certainly ended well, especially after the controversy that the film was engulfed in. From a change in the title (from Sarsa to Sikander) a few months prior to its release, to the director boycotting its promotion and a delayed release, Sikander has braved adverse circumstances to see the light of day in theatres. Navleen Lakhi reports.

chandigarh Updated: Jun 24, 2013 09:36 IST
Navleen Lakhi

All’s well that ends well. And for Punjabi film Sikander everything has certainly ended well, especially after the controversy that the film was engulfed in. From a change in the title (from Sarsa to Sikander) a few months prior to its release, to the director boycotting its promotion and a delayed release, Sikander has braved adverse circumstances to see the light of day in theatres.

Before recounting the film’s highlights, here are a few things that Sikander is not about. If you are a great fan of nonsensical comedy, like to watch singers-turned-actors who don’t know how to act, enjoy poor scripts and prefer to keep your brains at home before proceeding to watch a film, Sikander might not be for you. But, for those who look forward to plot-driven films (uncommon so far in the Punjabi film industry), Sikander might be a turning point for the region’s cinema.

Encompassing the ugly side of student politics in its fold, Sikander attempts to acquaint the region’s ambitious youngsters with a future in politics that might not be very rosy. It’s a story of Punjab’s youth in the purview of student politics and how the state’s politicians use them for vested interests — including illegal activities involving monopolising cable networks. Set in Chandigarh’s Panjab University, Sikander shows a dark and dangerous side of campus as student groups clash for power, even if it means resorting to murder.

Harjang (Yaad Grewal) and Fateh (Nishawn Bhullar) are leaders of two student political groups, supported by strong political parties of the state. After a clash results in Fateh’s murder, there is a change in leadership when Sikander (played by Kartar Cheema), migrates from Mansa to study in Panjab University. He ends up joining Fateh’s student body, contests elections and wins. But, as the following year’s elections draw to a close, there is another contestant this time — a girl called Beant — played by Gul Panag. Incidentally, Beant and Sikander were lovers in Mansa, though they later split after Sikander wouldn’t let go of indulging in violence.

In a sudden turn of events, Beant decides to contest elections, for she is strong-willed and knows how to live life on her own terms. Dreaming of a revolution that brings a change for the better, she poses as a challenge to the two surviving parties. Ample drama and violence follow, but suffice to say, the film will remind you of days spent as a student.

This engaging film has compelling characters, some of whom we haven’t met so far in Punjabi cinema. There couldn’t have been a better actor to play Beant’s character than Gul, who charms with her simple beauty and typical Malwai dialect that makes her character sound real. She is a pleasure to watch and may we remind you that this is only her first Punjabi film.

Kartar Cheema, who previously essayed negative roles in Punjabi cinema, is an actor to watch out for as he showcases a strong acting prowess with a potential of stealing the show. Commanding every scene, his prominence is marked even in scenes where his role might seem marginalised. Though actors Manav Vij, Yaad Grewal and Raj Singh Jhinger have comparatively lesser screen space, they remain etched in memory.

Despite being locally shot — mostly Panjab University and Anandpur Sahib, where Holla Mohalla has been canned — the director, Jatinder Mauhar has done a remarkable job of making it look pleasing to the eye. Cinematic realism prevails, despite the violence having been exaggerated for the sake of the drama. Dialogues, also penned by Mauhar, represent the youth’s everyday language. Actor Om Puri’s voice stands out in the background narration, as does a rendition of Challa by Rabbi Shergill.

Though there is sometimes too quick a succession of events followed by a slump, you are never bored. No one will go away unprovoked and unmoved after having watched Sikander.

Film: Sikander
Release: June 21, 2013
Genre: Drama/Action
Director: Jatinder Mauhar
Produced by: Poonam Pawar
Cast: Gul Panag, Kartar Cheema, Manav Vij, Yaad Grewal, Nishawn Bhullar, Raj Singh Jhinger, Victor John
story: Jatinder Mauhar
Screenplay and dialogues : Jatinder Mauhar
Music : Davvy Singh and Gurmeet Singh
Film Rating:****1/2