Storyline: Set in post-colonial India, Qissa tells the story of Umber Singh, a Sikh, who is forced to flee his village due to ethnic cleansing at the time of partition in 1947. He has three daughters and migrates to Punjab, India.  

Yet when his fourth daughter is born, he raises her as a boy, Kanwar Singh, who in times becomes a truck driver. However, when Kanwar Singh is married to a girl, Neeli, a girl of lower caste, the family is faced with the truth of their identities; where individual ambitions and destinies collide in a struggle with eternity.

Review: Embellished with magnificent performances and enchanting
visuals, Qissa is an exquisitely crafted cinematic essay that is at once captivating and disquieting.
    
It blends a firmly realistic mode of storytelling with broad sweeps of the surreal to deliver a deeply affecting and haunting portrait of lives despoiled as much by history as by human foibles.
    
The Name of a River was an evocative, multi-layered tale of a man and a woman crossing the river between India and Bangladesh.
    
In Qissa, a Punjabi film releasing nationwide with English subtitles, the director shifts his focus to the other flank of the Partition narrative but articulates similar concerns in a significantly more direct and dark manner.
    
The basic storyline of Qissa is simple enough, but the treatment of the tangled material and its multiple metaphoric extensions are infinitely more complex.
    
Qissa centres on Umber Singh (Irrfan Khan), who is both a victim and a perpetrator of brutalities unleashed by the division of the subcontinent in 1947.
    
Ejected from his home by communal violence, he painstakingly rebuilds his life with his wife, Meher (Tisca Chopra), and their three daughters on the Indian side of the border.
    
But the emotionally scarred Umber is unable to live down the bitter past. With every act of desperation that he commits to regain control of his destiny, he pushes himself and his family deeper into a psychological quagmire.     

Umber craves for a son to carry the family legacy forward but the fourth child that his wife bears him is also a girl. He takes a snap decision to pass the newborn off as a boy and names 'him' Kanwar.
    
The delusion inevitably leads to distressing consequences. Kanwar (Tillotama Shome) is trained to hunt and drive even as she grapples to suppress the obvious physical offshoots of womanhood.
    
The improbable ruse is sustained until a gypsy girl Neeli (Rasika Dugal) enters Kanwar's life and ends up becoming Umber's daughter-in-law.
    
The betrothal sets in motion a chain of events that the new couple can barely comprehend in the face of the oppressive patriarch's continuing and increasing insensitivity.     

The themes of gender dynamics, challenged filial loyalty and twisted personal identities open out by the end of the film into a much larger space where legends and hazy memories impinge upon reality in appalling ways.
    
While it is Umber Singh's increasing despair that drives the Qissa narrative, the three pivotal women in the drama - Meher, Kanwar and Neeli - provide the essential points of view through which the events are perceived.     

Qissa is made particularly remarkable by Singh's ability to see and process a seminal historical watershed with equanimity and repose despite the fact that the flashpoints in his 'tale of a lonely ghost' often border on the outrageous.
    
Both Irrfan and Tillotama have extremely difficult roles. The former has to evoke sympathy for a figure that is essentially reprehensible; the latter must convincingly pull off a tightrope walk between being a girl and a boy. Both bring an impressive degree of finesse to bear upon their performances.
    
No less impressive is Rasika Dugal, who moves from the untamed to the baffled to the eventually empathetic with minimal effort.

Film: Qissa
Director: Anup Singh
Cast: Irrfan Khan, Tillotama Shome, Tisca Chopra, Rasika Dugal

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