THE 2022 Indian Film Festival Los Angeles (IFFLA) has announced the winners of its 20th annual edition which featured a festive return to theatrical screenings and presentations. Jaggi, Chandigarh-based theater actor and debut filmmaker Anmol Sidhu received the inaugural Uma da Cunha Award for Best First Feature Film, as well as the People’s Choice Award for Best Feature Film. Sidhu’s Jaggi follows a schoolboy in rural Punjab who faces toxic masculinity and sexual abuse despite being assumed to be a gay man.
Uma da Cunha, founding member of IFFLA, supporter of independent Indian cinema and emerging voices, speaking about her selection of Sidhu’s, said, “Few independent films in India are made in the Punjabi language and even fewer find their way into festivals to reach a wider audience. This film should be seen in an environment where sexual issues tend not to be discussed openly.
“Jaggi is a story about themes that no one talks about, that desperately need attention, told with vulnerability by a team of novice filmmakers. What more can we programmers ask for? Stories come to us, captivate us , move our audience and now allow their creators to pursue their narrative activism from their separate corners of the world,” said Programming Director Ritesh Mehta.
Jaggi first started out as a short film and it took several draft scripts and storyboards before it took shape as a feature film project.
“This story takes place in a rural area of Punjab and is very close to my heart as it is inspired by real incidents which I have personally witnessed. As I have lived most of my life in a village, I fully understand the trauma of sexual abuse, in this case, a young schoolboy.Bullying, harassment, sexual abuse and molestation…are unfortunate but common issues, a harsh reality in rural areas of Punjab. even now, it is a subject that is not talked about often, that is not broached by parents, teachers and friends, and even if it is discussed, it is mostly with humor. As an artist and as a human being, I have always found it very disturbing, which is why I always wanted to make a film that addresses this issue because it is on many levels,” says Anmol Sidhu, 27. , a theater actor at the Alankar Theater for many years now. n, which the film Jaggi highlights, adds Sidhu, who wrote and directed the film, is both social and individual.
Almost three years ago, Sidhu came across letters written by a young man who lived about 30 km from his home in Kauloke in the Bathinda district. He suffered from erectile dysfunction and was ridiculed and shamed for his condition and also harassed as he was assumed to be gay and was forced into marriage by his parents. Since then Sidhu has been working on weaving a story around it and it took him about a year and a half to complete the script and then about a year to direct. “We started filming in 2020, and because of the lockdown, we faced a lot of challenges. We took a six-month hiatus because the film needed a makeover, and set up a makeshift studio to speed up the pace of work,” says Sidhu, who admits he’s not a filmmaker by training, theater and world cinema. helped him to understand the art of cinema.
Through Jaggi, played by actor Ramnish Chaudhary, Sidhu adds, he wants to change the perspective of society, so that those who are abused can have a voice and stand up for themselves.
“I hope my film can create a difference in society, open channels of communication between parents and children, make teachers more sensitive and aware of the needs of students beyond the classroom and also society, which creates so many obstacles for young people.” The journey to bring ‘Jaggi’ to life was a painstaking process, as producers in Punjab did not want to be associated with this sensitive topic, but producers Dhruv Bakshi and Pardeep Taina stepped forward to make the project possible, bringing their support not only with funds, but also creative expertise.
“The actors are from Alankar and everyone felt so moved by the story and they decided not to charge anything and it’s a collaborative effort of everyone named in this presentation. I’m very happy that our efforts have been recognized. And to quote the great Bertolt Brecht, “If art reflects life, it does so with special mirrors.”