After being in the cans since 2013, Anup Singh's Qissa: The Tale of a Lonely Ghost in Punjabi will open on February 20. It premiered at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival.
Qissa is the traumatic story of Umber Singh (played with perfect ease by Irrfan Khan), who along with his family has to flee his village in Pakistan. He finally arrives in India, and settles down in a border town - promising himself that he would give his family a life better than what they had to leave behind.
While he does well materialistically, his longing for a son remains unfulfilled, and when his wife gives birth to their fourth daughter, Singh decides to bring her up as a boy. What follows is tragic, and Anup Singh paints this with a touch of excellence.
Unfortunately, Khan appears to be associated with delay. Despite a brilliant performance as a champion steeplechase runner in Paan Singh Tomar, this exceptionally moving work could not find distributors in India for a long time.In an email interview from Geneva - where Singh lives for some part of the year - he explains the Qissa delay. "I think it's worth keeping in mind that Qissa is a movie in the Punjabi language .Usually, a work in Punjabi never sees an all-India release. But the producer, National Film Development Corporation of India, felt that Qissa deserved a national exposure, but it took a long time to convince theatres."
Although sounding relieved about Qissa getting a theatrical exposure, Singh has embarked on his next journey that will take him to the sands of Rajasthan. Principal photography on his new movie, Mantra: The Song of Scorpions, will begin in October.
The film - a mix of folklore and exotica - is woven around a simple tribe that lives in box-like houses bang in the middle of the harsh Rajasthan desert, which is also home to one of the most venomous scorpions on earth.
Singh writes: "When stung by one of these deadly creatures, the only known cure is to find a woman, known as Scorpion Singer, who can read the poisonous melody in the patient's pulse and hum a counter melody. This way, she draws out the lethal toxin from the victim's system. The Scorpion Singer has the ability to feel the venom as it travels through the body, and she has to stop its flow through the blood stream before it reaches the heart in 24 hours."
In certainly a coup of sorts, Singh has roped in the ravishing and gifted Iranian actor, Golshifteh Farahani (remember her in The Patience Stone?) - who will essay, Nooran, the Scorpion Singer. At one point in the movie, she would find that her own life has been poisoned by the man she loves. And, she would then need a song to heal her herself!
But who will essay Nooran's lover? Singh is yet to get someone to sign on the dotted line. The buzz centres on Irrfan Khan. He is a gifted actor, who has enriched works like The Lunch Box, Maqbool (based on Shakespeare's Macbeth), Haider (Hamlet) and The Namesake (based on a Jhumpa Lahiri novel) as well as Hollywood films like Slumdog Millionaire, The Amazing Spider-Man and Life of Pi.
Mantra will, one is sure, be fascinating, narrating as it does the travails of the Scorpion Singer as she fights evil that comes crawling - and, well, walking.