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ARDAAS (Punjabi) - A heartfelt amalgamation of many social subplots with a strong religious and preachy tone demanding respect, without offering the much expected entertainment. (Review By Bobby Sing)

14 Mar, 2016 | Indian Regional language Gems (Other Than Hindi) / Inspired Movies (Alphabetical) / A / Movie Reviews / 2016 Releases

Beginning with the film’s pre-release hype, it’s not often that you get to see a trailer which simply tells you nothing about the film or gives no clues about its actual storyline but you do get to see some impressive, meaningful sequences giving the relevant social messages by all brilliant performers. As a matter of fact, that was exactly the impact of ARDAAS’s trailer before the release and that is precisely the impact after watching the film too giving you a fair idea.
Focusing on its main character of Gurpreet Singh (a teacher, leaving his house to join a school situated in another village), the film commences with a typical religious feel generated through a devotional track and then some well-chosen quotes from the Sacred Gurbani give you a clear indication that this is surely not going to be anything usual raising the expectation levels. However, what you get served within the next couple of hours is not any specific storyline but a heartfelt amalgamation of many social subplots or short stories raising many relevant questions about our sick social system and personal choices made without taking any stand.
The film introduces you to a wide range of characters living in a particular village and tries to put in everything ranging from comedy, romance, action to emotion, religion and spirituality in its more than two hours of (a bit long) duration. Stressing on the present crumbling structure of Punjab, it tries to incorporate multiple social issues including female foeticide, farmers suicides, drug peddling, drug addiction, liquor business, improper school education, common ambition of youngsters to becomes a singer, irresponsible parenting, religion followed as a mere ritual and caste discrimination widely visible in the region in its various forms. Here though reading about these TEN meaningful issues might seem to be a great idea, but it isn’t easy to justify each one of them in a script giving them sufficient mileage in individual sequences roping in a huge supporting cast.
Thankfully ARDAAS manages to do so in a fairly appreciable manner if not in an exceptionally great style as required. And for this its writer-director Gippy surely deserves praises from the viewers as well as the industry with much love and respect. In fact his contribution to the film becomes even more important considering the point that before ARDAAS he was widely considered as a singer turned actor who could sing and perform decently on screen, especially in romantic comedies. But post ARDAAS, the man is sure to gain huge respect as a creative personality who knows much more about his art other than just singing and acting. Precisely the reason, why you hear a huge applause when he makes his screen appearance in the film (towards the end) as a turbaned Sikh. Here another person who truly deserves a big mention enhancing Gippy’s vision is his DOP Baljit Singh (a renowned director himself) who plays a major role in bringing Gippy’s dream onto the screen with impressive frames and lighting adding a lot into the film’s overall impact.
Talking about ARDAAS as a whole, there is a constant religious as well as preachy tone in its narration that gets intentionally broken with the appropriately placed comedy sequence bringing back the lighter feel. The director keeps using the flashbacks at different occasions, but since one does wish to know the real story behind its main protagonist Gurpreet, nobody feels irritated or less interested. Revealing the actual picture, ARDAAS is not any ‘masterpiece’ film presented with a highly polished vision or almost perfect execution, offering an in-depth description of several crucial issues. The film impresses majorly due to its message oriented writing and beautiful performances, that in reality lift up the narration to a much higher level demanding respect, despite having quite less to offer in terms of entertainment.
The Performances
Leading from the front, Gurpreet Singh comes up with a performance which will never allow anyone to address him as a mere comedian from here onwards in the Punjabi film industry. He makes you intensely feel for his own losses in life and delivers a career best act displaying a wide range that needs to be applauded wholeheartedly. Both BN and Sardar prove themselves as the respected veterans of Punjabi cinema through their flawless acts and Ranbir makes a big contribution in the dialogues along with playing a crucial emotional role of a postman. Ammy once again gives you an indication that here is yet another great actor in the making and so does Karamjit proving his hidden, unexplored talent using a fabulous accent. Playing the female counterparts both Mandy & Mehar underplay their given roles with elegance, Harinder, Isha and Zora play it fine as supporting cast, but the one name that truly wins your heart through his authentic dialogue delivery and innocent act is the child artist Mithu, who completely steals the show in his well-written, individual scenes so adorably.
(Spoilers Ahead)
Interestingly the best sequences of the films are the ones featuring Gurpreet and Mithu together, followed by BN’s emotional outburst remembering his son, Gurpreet’s sequence in the hospital and his sudden encounter with the spirit of his dead wife and (unborn) daughter saving him from a silly disaster. However I seriously wished this last particular scene was dealt with much more stay and emphasis to make a stronger everlasting effect on the viewers, as it was indeed a novel thought brought forward by the writer-director.
A worth publicizing hidden merit
Mentioning a hidden merit, ARDAAS has been co-produced by none other than the famous and ‘much criticized’ singer-rapper-composer Badshah making a very confident move and that too neither featuring in the film in any manner nor using his ‘professionally known’ name in the credits. Unarguably a notable example set for the entire current generation following a deceptive lifestyle.
So I would personally like to thank & congratulate Aditya Singh aka Badshah for this courageous and thoughtful move that should truly be an eye-opener for many.
The Downers
Coming to the major downers, with more than three known musical names in its key team, I honestly expected a much better soundtrack giving more emphasis to the traditional content matching the theme. But sadly there is nothing path-breaking, highly melodious or out of routine offered in its songs (apart from some appreciable lyrics). Besides in a sensible film like ARDAAS, it was painful to see many unrequired songs added as usual, including the supposedly Sufi track sung by Kanwal making a visibly forced cameo leaving no impact of any kind, whatsoever.
Tackling more than required issues and independent subplots together, the film doesn’t have an escalating pace and keeps moving on the same track with random message oriented sequences coming one after the other heading towards a predictable climax. As a result you never feel any kind of crescendo in its second half and it all ends on an open note without offering the much desired spirited peak.
In the technical department, the background score keeps trying too many things in its various sequences without maintaining any kind of consistent feel or linkage. At times it becomes too loud and melodramatic but thankfully delivers when it was required the most, in the finale. Yet ARDAAS once again made me realize that the background score mostly turns out to be a highly neglected part of a project in Punjabi Cinema, often handled too casually or inefficiently.
Anyway coming to the most avoidable part of the film, if you are making such a noble project focusing on the core issues of Punjab following a serious vision then abrupt brand promotion of already established music company & their owners in a deliberately added sequence not only looks cheap but quite illogical & irresponsible too as per my personal opinion. Hence that should have been strictly avoided and refused.
The religiously conflicting inclusions
Lastly reaching the most important part of the review, I would like to disclose some major contradictions in the film that is supposed to be an enlightening religious-spiritual project giving many valuable life-teaching lessons to the viewers believing in Gurbani and Sikhism. So here are a few honest points that might turn out to be offensive to many due to their own conflicting understanding of the sect and its various concepts.
Firstly, it can be simply ignored if this kind of mistake was made by a Hindi or any other regional language film in India, but how can a Punjabi film, made by the people of Punjab themselves, using many life teaching quotes from Gurbani, make the mistake of saying SASSRI KAAL instead of SAT SRI AKAL in its few sequences. Here even if you are ready with the much obvious justification that this is how it’s actually spoken in real life, then it even becomes more important for the makers to add a sequence teaching the right way of saying it to the audience as a part of their ‘educating’ film or mission.
But contradicting their own projected vision, it was pretty strange to see that no-body in the entire team (right till the dubbing), even thought of correcting the pronunciation of ‘Sat Sri Akal’ in the film ironically titled ARDAAS (that in reality ends with these three words only when read as a daily ritual in Gurdwaras)
Secondly, a 6-7 years old kid girl in the film is shown writing letters to the GOD calling him ‘Satnam Waheguru’ and then on the constant encouragement of Gurpreet, the postman Ranbir writes a return letter to the girl as an answer from the GOD named the same. Now as per an emotional sub-plot of a Punjabi film this seems to be very fine and touchy. But when you include this interaction in a film titled ARDAAS using the exact words ‘Satnam Waheguru’ in particular, then it all becomes highly misleading and contradictory to the faith in question i.e. Sikhism, giving an utterly wrong message to the kids watching the film taking it as something authentic.
Now why it is contradicting?
That’s because there is no concept of someone sitting up there as GOD in Sikhism. Further, neither these words ‘Satnam Waheguru’ are referred to any person listening to our prayers, nor the 10 Gurus in Sikh history along with the 11th Guru (The Divine Granth) are looked upon as GODS as per the Sikh Code of Conduct in particular. The exact word used to refer them all is GURU and not GOD (having a whole different depth in spiritual terms)
However it’s the sad irony of this faith that most of the families here teach their innocent kids with the words that Guru Nanak or Guru Gobind Singh is their GOD, also introducing them to some pictures which are not even authentically accepted and are just a mere personal depiction of an exceptionally talented painter famous worldwide.
In short there is no form of GOD to be prayed to or worshipped as per the Sikh faith and it’s all about an universal formless power guiding the existence that considers every being on earth as equals.
Anyway coming back to our topic of ‘the kid-girl’s perception’ as shown in the film, it would have been perfectly fine and appreciably conceived too, had they done it without using the religious words ‘Satnam Waheguru’. Because the moment you use these two specific words, the kids watching the film are bound to get hundreds of new vague ideas considering it the truth, beginning their own undisclosed journey on a wrong path.
Here for many this particular point might not be relevant enough to be considered. But for me it certainly is, since till the moment I was not rightly guided by my respected teachers, I too as a kid used to go to the Gurdwara with a list of things to be demanded from The Waheguru, who was supposed to be living in that clean-attractive building as his official home. And since I personally kept on dreaming with these funny illusions till long, I don’t wish the kids watching the film begin thinking the same, getting inspired from such avoidable insertions in a project titled ARDAAS (meaning prayer).
Moving ahead to the most burning or rather hurting part of the write-up, a particular well-written sequence in the film gives a highly relevant message about the caste discrimination in our society. The scene conveys that a Sikh has neither got any different caste or gotr (clan -traditional divisions in people), but believes in an equal social existence for all as taught and guided by the Gurus.
Now for once, please go through all the names mentioned in my review above and kindly notice that I have deliberately written only their first names without using the castes (surnames) in particular. This was intentionally done as that was only the core message given by the film in one of its key scenes which was evidently the best part of its impressive and widely appreciated trailer too.
However, again contradicting their own liberal vision, when I see the film’s posters, titles and credits then unfortunately I don’t find the message being followed by the makers themselves so openly and boldly. Consequently, we have GREWAL, DEO, SHARMA, VIRK, SOHI, TAKHAR, BHULLAR, VIJ, RANDHAWA & more clearly and boldly mentioned all over in the publicity material…… which are nothing but the same caste references that the film teaches you to get rid of as per the message of Sikhism.
In other words, here nobody seems to be interested in the saying ‘Practice What You Preach’. Here at one end the writer, director, actors and the entire team is proudly giving you the message of ‘No Caste Divisions in Sikh faith’, and on the other they themselves are not ready to write off their own surnames (caste representation) and keep sticking to them in the entire publicity material presenting the issue like a big JOKE.
Anyhow leaving the decision on this sick misrepresentation of the message to the intelligent readers, I would like to reveal another shameful truth about the Sikh Caste Divisions. And the truth is that though Sikhism is said to be the ‘most modern sect’ formed just a few centuries back with much liberal thought process free of all discriminations………….. the inner fact is that the word CASTE today plays a big decisive role in this sect and Sikhism has hugely wide divisions in the name of castes that are mentioned with great pride and honour in Punjab as well as in Punjabis living all over the globe, openly disobeying the clear guidance of their own Gurus.
To give you a fair idea the biggest ‘Khaayi’ (a visible ugly division) between Sikhs is of JATTS and BHAPAAS, wherein both consider each other to be some inferior beings following a sick, narrow and questionable mindset. In fact such is this wide open divide between the two, that just more than a decade back there used to be comedy audio-video albums (like Chhankata & more) in which the Jatt writers-performers openly made fun of Bhappa community projecting them as some funny creatures wearing printed clothes and Pagdis cracking silly jokes.
But why we are going back to the 90s when even one of the most famous Punjabi films that revived a dying industry in 2012 also did the same? Yes, I am talking about the cult JATT & JULIET which also has the same shameful references focusing on a father-son duo as a comic side plot added to generate some silly laughs.
For the ones who are not actually aware of this conflicting truth, there is such a deep and proud association of people of Punjab with their respective castes that you cannot even dream of writing their names without including it. To prove my point just take a look at the social networks like Facebook. See who all are praising ARDAAS appreciating it whole heartedly and then re-check their profile names. You will find the surnames mentioned in most of the cases leaving the few well-aware, not really interested in such unrequired tags.
Putting in bluntly, they all are actually praising a film that is clearly pointing towards no caste system in Sikhism and yet are using the same proudly in their profile names, redefining the word hypocrisy.  So I am really keen to see, how many of them actually get rid of these caste references from their profiles realizing this big mistake post watching ARDAAS - conveying the basic message of Sikhism with ‘No Caste Divisions”
Drawing your attention to another bizarre practice of putting and taking off the turban & beard for a screen role, many Sikhs and Sikh organisations get really upset when Bollywood actors do the same in their films wearing the fake make up of a Sikh character. However when it comes to their own singer-cum-heroes in Punjabi films they don’t really seem to have any problem when these people start growing the beard and become a turbaned Sikh in one film teaching Sikhism and then get clean shaven with shorn hair in their very next playing a romantic lead. Nobody seems to be objecting this in Punjab and Punjabi films, whereas they all consider it as an insulting issue when it comes to Bollywood and the Hindi film heroes in particular. Now if this is not hypocrisy being practiced openly then I truly don’t know what it actually is?
Incidentally this also reminds me of a highly absurd as well as funny real life instance when one of my friends was involved in the promotion of Punjabi-Hindi film called I AM SIKH released in 2011. Puneet Issar was the director of this film, also playing the key role of a Sikh police officer in it, featured prominently in all the pre-release promotion and film’s official trailers. Now when the interview was scheduled to be shot, the actors came and my friend was highly shocked to see Puneet Issar arriving in his original appearance of a bald man. Imagine he was there to promote his film I AM SIKH in which he himself had played the role of a Sikh officer, but the man was there for a promotional interview talking about his vision on Sikhism as a bald and clean shaven man without any hesitation or regret at all.
My friend called me up for suggestions and I replied, “You can do nothing my friend, just take off the standies kept in the backdrop saying I AM SIKH and shoot the interview………. Plus while shooting just keep humming one song that goes, “Golmaal Hai Bhai Sab Golmaal Hai”.
He laughed out loud and went ahead with the shoot.
The Inspirational source of ARDAAS.
Frankly I don’t think many viewers would have cracked this inspirational source of ARDAAS. But giving you an opportunity to guess, just try to think where in a famous Hindi cult classic you have seen the following story progression directed by a reputed name.
An unknown man applies for a servant’s job in a house that has many members, not having any smooth relationships with each other, caught in their own individual problems of life. The man gets the job, starts living with the family and begins teaching new precious lessons to each one of them in the film’s various segments solving their undisclosed personal issues with an amazing ease. As the time passes, the family goes through a significant positive change and the members become more cheerful and respectful to each other. They start having a dialogue and good times return to the house due to that one unknown man who was just a stranger to all only a few months back. Towards the end, the mystery man suddenly disappears and we are told that he is now gone to be the member of another troubled family who needs his specialized services.
Guessed the film? Yes it was Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s BAWARCHI featuring Rajesh Khanna as the mystery man changing the people around.
Now just visualise the man as a teacher instead of a servant, the home as a small village and the members of that one household as various families living in the village having their own problems. A teacher joins the local school, starts dealing with every key member of the village individually and tries to give them new insight of life bringing in the much needed positive change. Add a respectable religious-spiritual preachy tone to the film and incorporate all the major social issues faced by the people of Punjab as its various sub-plots played by reputed actors to the best of their ability.
That makes BAWARCHI into ARDAAS to be precise.
Having said that, the mention of this inspiration angle is not to degrade the film in any manner but to make you aware that the basic structure of our Punjabi Cinema still somehow remains largely dependent upon the Hindi films only unfortunately. (However that’s a completely different tale that even BAWARCHI had its original inspiration taken from a Bengali and English film) .
Summing the long write up, Yes, Gippy has quite intelligently adapted the basic format of Hrishi Da’s film roping in some important social issues and a talented cast-ensemble giving their best to the project. As a result ARDAAS turns out to be a rare, praiseworthy, clean, message oriented film surprisingly coming from a singer turned actor revealing another facet of his creative personality to all. The film no doubt works as a whole with many well enacted, emotionally moving sequences making a solid impact, but with the message of Sikhism (imparted through extensive use of Gurbani) not being followed by the makers themselves, I am not able to rate it as any great visionary film or a trend setter.
ARDAAS surely demands respect for its concept and lessons taught, but I wish these lessons were given by setting a personal example too and not just as a pure theoretical presentation to be forgotten later.
With a hope that my honest expressions would lead to some serious introspection by all readers proudly using the castes in their names, I would love to see what Gippy announces his next as the writer-director.
Rating : 3 / 5 (The film loses its major marks because of the message being preached but not followed by the team itself)

ARDAAS Punjabi Movie Review By Bobby Sing at bobbytalkscinema.com
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14 Mar 2016 / Comment ( 0 )
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