Though the debutant feature film director lived in Delhi throughout his growing up years, his roots lay in his native state, Punjab

National Award winning Punjabi film “Anhey Ghorey Da Daan” (“Alms for the Blind Horse”) focusing on the lives of villagers battling the realities of industrial development is releasing in Delhi, Mumbai, Jalandhar and Ludhiana on August 10.

It has been made by Gurvinder Singh, who specialises in documentary films. He graduated in film direction at Film and Television Institute of India, Pune, in 2001. His documentaries include “Legs Above My Feet” and “Kavalam”.

Though the debutant feature film director lived in Delhi throughout his growing up years, his roots lay in his native State. And he wanted to use the creative medium of cinema to highlight how lower caste farmers in Punjab were being oppressed.

Gurvinder, who acknowledges the immeasurable contribution of late cinema doyen Mani Kaul in moulding his cinematic sensibilities, says the late filmmaker was instrumental in teaching him what cinema was all about.

“Mani was my mentor who taught me the basics of filmmaking. I had the privileged of working under him. National Film Development Corporation had requested Mani Kaul to be the creative producer of this Punjabi film. Unfortunately he was dogged with ill-health and was bed-ridden. Even then I would seek suggestions from him. Indeed it is very sad that he could not live long to watch the film’s screening.”

Noting that his directorial venture was based on Prof. Gurdial Singh’s novel, Gurvinder says though the book is set in 1970s it points out some relevant issues like migration, alienation of lower caste and zamindars indulging in bullying are still contemporaneous.

“My film talks about the trial and tribulations of a Dalit family. I deliberately chose to use the village of Sivian near Bhatinda because I was familiar with the place as I had made a documentary on folk ballads there. Instead of regular actors from films and theatre, I took villagers as my actors. As non-actors they could express themselves. I did not want any actor because he would not have been able to play the part of a villager with conviction. For me the character’s face was more important. Secondly I could not take any actor because he would not have looked like a lower caste.”

On the need to director his debut film in Punjabi, Gurvinder says: “What is the harm of making a film in one’s mother tongue? If filmmakers like me do not make a film in Punjabi then it would signal death of the language. I do not want to be part of the rat race of Hindi films. How would Punjabi literature survive? I have friends in Bollywood but am not working on any Hindi film.”

The filmmaker is not even willing to dub his film into Hindi. He argues that each language has its own aesthetics and the moment he dubs “Anhey Ghorey Da Daan” into Hindi, it will lose its charm and individuality.

Gurvinder is making another Punjabi film that has Operation Bluestar as background. He insists that his film does not talk about the Operation but it portrays how people were affected by it.

“I was in Delhi when the Operation Bluestar was launched. After the assassination of Indira Gandhi, when riotous mobs were killing Sikhs, my Hindu neighbour gave me shelter. From the window I could see our gurdwara being burnt. The anti-Sikh riots left a deep impression on me. ”