If you’re looking for a movie you and your friends can watch and have a discussion over because you all drew different meanings from it, Qhissa is the movie to watch. Even though different people would interpret it in varying days, its cinematic brilliance is still kept intact.
The film is directed by a foreign crew and Tanzanian-born director and is one of its kind in the cinematic world of India. Funny enough, until NFDC and foreign producers could bail him out, Anup Singh was struggling to get this film off the block.
Umber Singh, an alpha male has to run from Pakistan in the company of his wife Mehar who is now pregnant with their third child during the partition. However, witnessing his whole life getting uprooted and a political upheaval aren’t the only things he has to worry about. He is sullen about his wife not bearing him a son. He wants to die in peace after moving to Punjab, India and living a prosperous life but the only hindrance to his dreams is his inability to bear a make heir.
Once Mehar gets pregnant again, Umber wants to be allowed into the labour room so he can make certain that his wife delivers a baby boy. However, his luck runs out and fate has it that he should have another girl and Mehar names her baby girl Kanwar. Singh makes the vow to ensure the child is raised as a boy.
Part two of this tale is created around the insatiable desire of Umber for a male heir and the eventual struggle Kanwar has with a sexuality she doesn’t understand. Umber has no apologies to give to anyone but makes Kanwar’s life hell on earth when he marries her off to Neeli, a gypsy girl. This becomes the starting point of a narrative with multiple layers that transports viewers to the supernatural and real life.
Not many Indian curators would have dared such a plot in the past. This is what makes Qissa such an essential film when it comes to thematic representation. It is a lonely world that’s mainly rocked by Umber’s picture of masculinity and also how his choices have had an impact on the people around him. It is said that it’s about a partition that lies within the partition. Women and children were the greatest losers in the Indo-Pak division even though they were the main victims.
For instance, Mehar has to ensure suffering where she was initially in Pakistan and had to swallow it again in India with her family. Umber’s behaviour and his masochism gave her sleepless nights even in the life they began in India. However, she was never alone while fighting for survival, her daughters were present too.
For one who seeks to understand Kanwar’s fight to maintain the supremacy over other women that she has to maintain in her father’s eyes, the movie is a must-watch.