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Review Punjabi

Cinestaan Curates: Mast Qalandar is a coming-of-age film that explores the quiet rebellion of a young boy

Release Date: 11 Apr 2021

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Sukhpreet Kahlon

Directed by Divij Roopchand, the short has been screened at several film festivals across the world

An evocative coming-of-age short film, Mast Qalandar explores the psyche of a young Sikh boy and his quiet rebellion against religious conventions.

On the cusp of his thirteenth birthday, Monty (Mohammad Samad) is focused on what he wants for his special day. His mother is trying to rustle up a treat for him only to be met with disinterest from her son because his mind is elsewhere. All he wants is a new hairdo but the choice is one that invites censure in his community. On the pretext of running an errand, Monty tries to find a pair of scissors for himself. 

Directed by Divij Roopchand, the title of the Punjabi-Hindi language film is the same as the popular Sufi song, which is among other things, a rebellious cry against the establishment. Channelling this spirit, the film examines the actions of a boy who wishes to break free from societal conventions. 

The performance of Samad as a child who wishes to make his own choices conveys the boy’s innocence and determination at the same time and is laudable. At every turn, he faces a hurdle but navigates his way around it, offering a glimpse into his character and desire to achieve his goal. The supporting cast includes Ekavali Khanna as the mother, Rajesh Tailang as the tailor master and Satish Gotham as the Sardar shopkeeper, who are all effective blockades to Monty executing his plan.

The music and cinematography are highlights of the film, which evoke the character's mindscape. The music is interwoven with the action seamlessly — the snipping of the scissors in the barbershop turning into hip hop beats, the walk from the tailor shop accompanied by joyous beats and his walk home accompanied by a song of freedom, all bring to life Monty’s own immersion in music and the power of art.

Mast Qalandar is Roopchand’s graduation film and has been screened at several film festivals across the world. It also won the Best Student Film Award at the Manchester International Film Festival, UK in March 2016 and the Jury Prize for Best Film at Flicks International Student Short Film Festival, Netherlands, 2016.

The film can be viewed on Vimeo.

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