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On Cloud Nine

navaniat sirPunjabi film director Navaniat Singh is all set with his ninth release Jindua. Singh made his directorial debut with the Punjabi film Tera Mera Ki Rishta in 2009, which featured Jimmy Sheirgill. The duo is back with their seventh collaboration, in Jindua. Singh spoke to Rohini Nag Madnani about his film and much more

Take us through the journey of Jindua.

My last release was Shareek, which also featured Jimmy Sheirgill. The film was very heavy in terms of content and had an extremely serious subject. It left me and my team emotionally drained. After Shareek, we wanted to make a light-hearted romantic comedy and that’s how we thought of making this film.

Jindua follows three protagonists, the first being Jimmy’s (Sheirgill) character who represents illegal immigrants who travel to Canada from India. Young people from Punjab often travel to Canada with big dreams but are confronted with a completely opposite reality. When they land up there, they usually destroy their Indian passports, making them citizens of no country. They are exploited and have to work long hours for a pittance. They live in poor conditions but their families back home believe otherwise.

Neeru Bajwa’s character represents the second generation, who is born and raised overseas and are torn between their parents’ insistence on following their own culture and the culture of the country they are born in. Lastly, Sargun’s (Mehta) character represents youngsters who travel on a student’s visa. The film is about how these three realities collide.

IMG_4235The trailers have drawn a good response from the audience. What can they expect from the film?

The film will neither make them laugh out loud nor cry their hearts out. It will leave them with a smile. There is no one main protagonist in the film as it shifts focus from one character to the other. It is mainly about the three characters and their journeys. There is also a special character, a dog, who represents loyalty and how loyalties change in the story with the shift of the dog from one character to another. The film is filled with good performances, well-scripted situations and is a pleasant journey of 2 hours and 14 minutes. Since it presents three perspectives of Punjab’s youth, I am sure everyone will have something to relate to.

Lately, not many Punjabi films have done well at the box office. According to you, what is
the reason?

Unlike Hindi cinema and other regional cinema, Punjabi filmmakers follow other successful films. So, if a comedy film is a hit, everyone starts making comedy. We have a rich culture backed by rich literature and if we tap into that, our films will definitely do well.

As a director, which genres do you want to tap into?

I have always tried to do something different with the kind of films I make and have never followed a formula or pattern. Having said that, I do want to make a period, war film, which has never been attempted in Punjabi cinema.

sdasWhen your film doesn’t do well, does it change your perception of the kind of subjects you choose?

Not only as a director but as a person, one should never let failure change your perception of things. I believe that when things are not working out, you have to hold yourself back and introspect. I work with the same set of people and, as a team, we try and find out where we went wrong. But a Punjabi filmmaker faces a lot of problems. Usually, a director in other film industries does not have to worry about their second or third release but, in Punjabi films, a filmmaker has to face the same problems he did while making his first film.

What problems?

First, to find producers and, second, our industry does not have a big pool of actors. We have limited actors who have a limited shelf life. The audience is evolving and, with it, we too should evolve as filmmakers. Unfortunately, our financers and producers tend to follow a set formula. So, if a particular genre is working, they want to make films of that genre. Too much of a good thing is never good; similarly, we cannot keep presenting the same genre to our audience.

You work with the same team of technicians. How important is it to share a rapport with the people you work with?

It is very important to have a team you can rely on. The people I work with started their careers with me and each of our films is a team effort. A bond like that makes it very easy to communicate and be open about ideas. We stand by each other even when the film doesn’t work. This is rare because people are usually given to playing the blame game.

IMG_1354Your collaboration with your writer Dheeraj Rattan goes back a long way. How does this writer-director duo reinvent their equation with each film?

While working as a director-writer duo, one has to remember not to play the blame game. Usually, when a film fails, the director and writer blame each other and when a film does well, both parties want to take the credit. I am grateful that Dheeraj and I don’t have that kind of equation and we don’t let success or failure get in the way of our working relationship and our friendship. It is also very important for a director to fully trust his writer and it is a director’s responsibility to do justice to the writer’s narrative and visually comprehend it.

Jimmy and you have collaborated on a number of films. How has this actor-director jodi evolved over the years?

The most important factor in our equation is respect and trust. If I narrate something to him and he doesn’t like it, he bluntly tells me that it is not working for him and that we should work on something different. He trusts my decisions as a director and I trust him to do justice to the film. Our rapport has matured so much over time. He has acted in most of the films I have directed and produced. He is one of the few actors who have such a marvellous calibre when it comes to portraying a character with conviction.

160628 025There was news of you directing a Hindi film for Chitrangda Singh’s production house. What’s the progress on that front?

Chitrangda’s film is not happening but I am making a Hindi film soon. It is an altogether different film and subject. It is too early to talk about it as things are yet to be finalised. I will make a Hindi film, for sure, but I will not compromise my career in Punjabi cinema to make a Hindi film.

What’s next for you?

I am working on two Punjabi films, both of which are in the scripting stage. One is a light-hearted romantic comedy and the other is a biopic.


Rohini Nag
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As on April 29th, 2017
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