‘I watch Gangs of Wasseypur every year’: Filmmaker Anmol Sidhu

Sidhu reflects on the process of making his recent film Jaggi, how doing theatre changed his notion of masculinity, and more.
Director Anmol Sidhu
Director Anmol Sidhu

Some films tell their stories with a cool poise and a glossy sheen, while others are true to life and unfiltered. Anmol Sidhu’s Jaggi belongs to the latter category. Released recently on Mubi, the film is filled with raw, visceral energy. It tells the scathing story of a teenager who is repeatedly assaulted by his school seniors for his impotence. Anmol studies the toxic effects of masculinity and how it has been impacting young boys in rural Punjab.

It is inspired by some real-life stories that left an impact on the filmmaker. An incident narrated to him by a friend studying at a boarding school disturbed him the most. “He told me that a kid in Class 8 was repeatedly raped by his seniors. The kid later attempted self-harm and also stopped coming to school,” Anmol says. He recalls how his notions on masculinity were also influenced by what he saw his seniors do to the juniors in school.

Finally, it was when he started doing theatre that his worldview changed. “We lived with the trans community for a while, and that made me understand gender,” he says. “Earlier, I did not think much about these things, but then I realised that addressing anyone with disrespectful names can have an effect on their psyche.”

Anmol’s gaze in the film is empathetic, vulnerable, and at the same time filled with rage, as he employs long takes with minimal cuts to portray the action unfolding on screen. “I like watching such films myself,” he says while talking about the unhurried nature of his filmmaking. “Long takes give a feeling of watching a play, where you are witnessing something without any disturbance.”

Influences

He also credits Romanian filmmaker Cristian Mungiu’s 2007 film 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days as a major influence for the style of Jaggi. Moreover, it was the presenter of the film, Anurag Kashyap, who indirectly inspired him to make it. “First of all, I watch Gangs of Wasseypur (2012) at least once every year. I just love Anurag sir’s films,” he says.

Initially, Jaggi was planned to be a short film of over 40 minutes. However, during the Covid lockdown, the financier backed out, causing a major hurdle. This gave Anmol more time to understand the nuances of writing a screenplay as he developed the story further. He still did not have proper equipment and camera to shoot the film. “During that time, I came across some videos of Anurag sir where he talked about how films can be shot even on phones,” says Anmol, who has also edited the film. “I kept watching many of his videos on indie filmmaking which pushed me to make this film.”

Along with his team of actors, Anmol got a camera but did not know how to use it. “We took help from a wedding photographer who shot some scenes in the film. Eventually, we learnt the basics of the camera from him and started to operate it ourselves,” he reflects. Ramnish Chaudhary, who plays the titular role of Jaggi, also checked the continuity while shooting and was involved in recording the foley sounds along with co-actor Harmandeep Singh. “We discovered in the middle of shooting that we were putting the pin of our microphone in the wrong plug all along,” Anmol says with a smile. “It was all trial and error, and we were all learning along the way.”

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