'Toba Tek Singh' portrays human's ongoing quest

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Mumbai : National Award-winning filmmaker Ketan Mehta and actor Pankaj Kapur, who have come together to make a short film "Toba Tek Singh," based on an eponymous short story penned by Saadat Hasan Manto, say the film celebrates the ongoing quest of belonging of a human being.

The story was written in 1955, themed around the India and Pakistan partition of 1947.

Asked how he sees a reflection of reality in the story in the context of socio-political change that India is going through, Mehta told IANS here: "In the end of the film, we have used a song of Baba Bulleh Shah, 'Bullah ki jaana main kaun?' That's what I believe it is... 'Toba Tek Singh' is an open-ended quest and human statement..."

Pankaj added: "Where is Toba Tek Singh? Is he in India? Is he in Pakistan? Is he within you? Or is he living inside me? It is an ongoing quest, and an idea to find out the sense of belonging.

"It is interesting how the audience can see two parts of the story. From its outer layer, it talks about the partition of two countries, India and Pakistan. In between the lines, it talks about the struggle of a man who is searching the answer of 'Who am I'?"

What was the intriguing factor of the story which motivated Mehta to turn the short story into a film?

"This is a great story not only on partition, but it is also a human story. I read the story during my college days and the story stayed with me for the longest time. The story questions who is mad, and who is not mad... Are the people outside of the asylums mad, or the ones that are inside mad?" Mehta said.

Pankaj said that when he heard the script, he felt the story not only holds a strong relevance in present times, but he also felt compelled to tell it.

"The core thought is how people look at others who are different than us. How do we look at other individuals who think differently? This thought is very close to my heart. For me, it was important to be a part of this story more than anything else, so that if not immediately, after 15 years, people will watch the film and say that this story is worth watching."

The film is being shown on OTT platform ZEE5, as a part of ZEE5 Film Festival.

Pankaj said the medium is irrelevant.

"Whether it is releasing in the form of a feature film, short film, theatrical release or a digital film, it did not bother me."

As for Mehta, he says he employs a different cinematic language when he tells a story and it depends upon the medium he chooses to tell it in.