Qissa, the Toronto festival favourite

Qissa revolves around a Punjabi girl raised as a boy by her father. It was unveiled at the Toronto Film Festival last year where it promptly picked up the prestigious Netpac award. Since then, the film has become a festival favorite. The director and the star-cast has received appreciation. The film has a German cinematographer, Sebastian Edschmid, got attracted to the film because of the scope of the non-descriptive Indian village “Anup asked me to read the script with an open mind and I ended up falling in love with the story, the. characters and the landscape,” says Sebastian, pointing out that the film is a combination of four different genres — historical drama, family drama, psychological drama and mystery thriller. “What a treasure trove for a cinematographer!” The film brings the issues in limelight, the refugees are facing even after the six decade have passed to the ironical partition. The film goes back to the partition era.

Qissa, the Toronto festival favourite
Qissa, the Toronto festival favourite

“The history of Europe in the 20th century is marked by expulsion and exodus. So the drama of this man and his people is a familiar one,” he explains. To get the authentic local flavor, he relied on first-hand experience, travelling extensively through Punjab with his eyes wide open. Explaining the hauntingly beautiful, dimly-lit frames and the carefully modulated tonalities, Sebastian elaborates: “Qissa is a serious drama which needed a darker, colour-reduced world. We avoided bright sunlight as much as possible, shooting the establishing shots early in the morning or in the blue hour.” He adds that the movement of the camera was another important issue: “It is a hovering movement, never rushed or abrupt. The camera never stops moving. There are no static shots in the film.” In the film, Sebastian has shot some stunning sequences using the widescreen. And to get the old fashioned, washed-out look of the ’70s, the cinematographer has relied on anamorphic lenses and tungsten light. Sebastian shares his experience “You were always surrounded by a lot of people-not just members of the cast and crew, but also hordes of spectators! This is often a blessing but not when you are attempting a wide-angle, shot of the deserted landscape. You will always have someone or the other walking into the frame!” he chuckles.

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