Navtej Sandhu’s short film Nooran appears to be making waves for all the right reasons. Being the first Punjabi film to enter the Cannes film festival, it has become a cause of great pride for the entire Punjabi film fraternity. This year’s edition of Cannes happens to be the 67th and will run from May 14 to 25.
A few days before he flies to the Rieviera, Singh took time out to speak about the film’s journey and his dream to promote parallel cinema based on outstanding works of literature.
This particular movie is 31 minutes long and inspired by noted Punjab dramatist and short story writer Balwant Gargi’s Rabbo Marasan.
It premiered in Toronto at the International Film Festival of South Asia (IFFSA) and since then has won accolades at numerous festivals including the International Film Festival of India in Goa and the Punjabi International Film Festival.
It was also chosen as the best short film at the Delhi and Mumbai international film festivals.
Singh’s journey rivals that of any passionate filmmaker. “Nooran is the first Punjabi film to make it to Cannes, and the motivation all along has been altruistic.
I didn’t produce it to make money, rather I wanted audiences to appreciate literature based cinema. I arranged more than 40 free screenings of the film, even distributing DVDs for free, as it’s a nonprofit venture.
I didn’t have the kind of dough required to make a commercial feature film, neither could I afford ads on TV. Thus, after putting in my own money and taking a little help from friends I made a short film that I could promote on social media by myself.”
Says Singh: “My target audience wasn’t the Punjabi youth who are almost totally out of sync with meaningful cinema.
It’s the more intelligent and aware audiences as well as Punjabis residing overseas who miss these subjects (Nooran is a story of a marasan women focusing on women’s empowerment).”
Singh has also been instrumental in launching the Punjabi Film Festival, whose 7th edition will be held this year.
Talking about making the grade at Cannes, he says: “Entering the festival wasn’t easy — I had to upload my film online, which then had to further go through a rigorous selection process under various juries.
Of 450 short films that were entered, only 120 films made it, of which there was only one in Punjabi”.
“As a filmmaker I was confident when I entered my short film at the prestigious festival because I knew it had a message. Those in mainstream Punjabi cinema know their kind of films would never even be considered at Cannes.
Who says Punjabi cinema it’s a “golden age” for Punjabi cinema — most will agree with me it’s actually going downhill. Punjabi feature films today don’t even have a story line, just jokes are woven together.