In an industry synonymous with slapstick comedy and loud gangster films, where very few directors have managed to bring forth something meaningful, Anmol Sidhu's directorial debut 'Jaggi', which will have its world premiere at 2022 Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles (IFFLA), and will also be screened at the New Delhi Film Festival comes as quite a shocker.
In this MBA and MCA degree holder's feature debut, rural Punjab's famous fertile farmlands belie dark family secrets, bleak cycles of exploitation, and a vacuous rotation of fallacy and superstition.
No one realises this better than Jaggi, the son of a policeman whose impotence is relentlessly misinterpreted by his peers at his high school. Jaggi must be gay, these schoolboys concoct, and thus has the right to be assaulted. When Jaggi finds himself in a relationship, can he break out of this cycle of abuse?
"I saw several such incidents during my school years. Some things find a permanent place in your memory. When something similar occurred in a village near mine, I knew it was time to work on this theme," Sidhu tells IANS.
Interestingly, during the Covid-19 pandemic-induced lockdowns, Sidhu and his friend Dhruv Bakshi, raised money through crowd-funding and bought a camera.
"And we started shooting. Everybody worked for free as there were no funds to pay anyone," he smiles.
Stressing that it was important for him to make the film in Punjabi as it is a tale from that region, he rues that most Punjabi films tend to stay away from realism and prefer to portray a world that does not exist.
"How long can we escape? If you look at the data, 90 per cent of films made here are comedies or about gang wars. This industry is driven only by profit. Very few people want to address anything serious, so rather than telling their own stories, directors here prefer tales which people want to see."
Sidhu, who was part of a theatre group in Chandigarh for three years, started working as a dubbing artist to make short films and documentaries. 'Jaggi' was initially conceived as a short film and he revisited the script during the lockdowns, rewriting it into a feature-length.
"That process was very fruitful. I could explore many more nuances and add layers," he says.
Pleased with the fact that the movie will have its world premiere at IFFLA, the filmmaker says, "As an independent director, it is extremely important that your film gets prestigious platforms. I am delighted that it would be seen among many fine films."
Looking forward to the film's screenings at more festivals, Sidhu is currently researching and writing his next movie.