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Range Road 290 and Punjabi Cinema - A sincere, courageous, and worth supporting attempt to break the set repetitive pattern of Punjabi films. (Notes By Bobby Sing)

17 Jan, 2023 | Just In / Movie Reviews / 2023 Releases

Post the first decade of the new millennium, Punjabi Cinema gradually rediscovered its lost ground and started coming up with blockbusters that got duly noticed by cinema makers all over India and abroad. The positive trend majorly kept working in the next few years, but then it soon got trapped in the ease of making similar films, wishing to repeat the earlier successes merely focusing on comedies. Towards the end of the second decade, the repetitive Punjabi films started getting criticism much more than praise and flops became the obvious outcome of more than 90% of films. 
Just at that crucial point, the entire world got brutally hit by the unexpected wave of Covid, and movie watching never remained the same with theatres closing and 
remaining empty even after life came back to normal in 2022.
At this important junction of existence, though OTT platforms gained the most, cinema in the South still bounced back with great earners at the box office, but it wasn’t the same for Hindi and Punjabi cinema in particular. In straight words, while Hindi cinema is still struggling, Punjabi Cinema and filmmakers are utterly confused and uncertain like never before with even the films of saleable stars with huge fan followings finding no ticket buyers in the theatres. Besides, there is a big number of completed films lying in the cans, either getting released directly on OTT or waiting for the situation to get better for a theatrical release. And this includes a scary mix of both small and big ventures with a known and reputed star cast.
In this uncertain scenario comes a Punjabi film, unusually titled Range Road 290, entirely shot in Calgary (Canada) during the severe restrictions of Covid with a limited crew of actors and technicians.
With its title pointing towards the lonely roads headed towards the villages abroad, Range Road 290 successfully manages to get a decent theatrical release in Punjab despite being a low-profile film, which is nothing short of an achievement in the present tough era.
At the same time, it also deserves to be called a breakthrough film in Punjabi cinema as it dares to deny the typical and rotten pattern followed by Punjabi filmmakers in more than one way.
Stating the details, cinema in Punjabi faced major criticism for blindly and thoughtlessly making comedy after comedy in a foolish manner in the last many years. The fixed mindset even resulted in intense dramas and love stories beginning with a comic tone in their first half playing it safe.
Second, these unexciting films almost entirely revolved around (suddenly) singers-turned-heroes (don’t read actors), forcing themselves onto the viewers, because of which many trained and reputed actors got ignored, remaining deprived of their deserving limelight. Besides, the films featuring these singers in the lead, had to have many forced unrequired songs (as item numbers to be precise) hampering the overall impact and quality of Punjabi cinema.
Third, the blindly followed pattern of making comedies, also became the reason for the same faces appearing in the supporting cast, getting repeated in every next film, generating a feeling of having seen before, seriously killing the charm of watching something fresh and new.
Last but not the least, though almost no one mentioned it in their articles and reviews (in the last decade or so), the weakest aspect of Punjabi cinema remained the background score, the most casually handled department of these new-age films. In straight words, one would find it hard to discover even a few names to quote as directors, who have something specific in mind related to the background score of their films. Otherwise, it is mostly considered as a 'filler requirement’, which can easily be done by any specialist studio or individual as one of the last post-production works.
Such is this casual attitude towards the BGM of a film that even the biggies have the typical comical sounds added to the very first scene on the screen, irrespective of the film being a comedy, thriller, war movie, emotional drama, tragedy, or love story.
Coming back to Range Road 290, the crime thriller bravely conceived and directed by Satinder Kassoana courageously defies every single feature/pattern mentioned above as a revolting movie. And that is what makes it an important film deserving our appreciation and support for the growth of Punjabi cinema.
To begin with.....
One - It is a focused, hardcore crime thriller revolving around drug peddling, gang rivalry, betrayal, and vengeance with no parallel comedy plot or comic undercurrent of any kind, added just for the sake of it. The film follows a non-linear format, which is itself a rarity in Punjabi cinema (perhaps the first), beginning with a brutal scene, boldly declaring that we are not going to offer you any usual Punjabi film, playing it safe, made with a visible scare of failure.  

Two - Range Road 290 has not got any singer-turned-hero playing the lead and there is not even a cameo by any such figure, deliberately added to get some instant attention. The director denies taking any such support for the film and that says a lot about the team’s conviction behind their vision. As a matter of fact, the script doesn’t have any larger-than-life, positive hero too and it is entirely about the conflicts between all grey characters who don’t think twice before pressing the trigger of their guns.
The powerful lead is played by a renowned name in Punjabi theatre and cinema, Harsharan Singh, who wilfully took a break in his rising career, just because he was not being offered meaty roles in the repetitive writing by the frequently repeated writers in the Punjabi film industry. For the record, if someone makes thorough research, then he/she will be surprised to find, how the same people have been writing almost all the films in Punjabi cinema for the last many years – one of the key reasons for everything looking repetitive and seen before.
Here Range Road 290 has been written, edited, and directed by Satinder Kassoana along with Harsharan playing the key role, who instantly makes an impact with his very first line said in a deep baritone voice, calmly rendering the bold dialogues. And it’s the unconventional format fearlessly explored by Satinder, that reveals why Harsharan agreed to do this project, after the intentional long break taken, even after featuring in critically acclaimed and National Award-winning films like Khoon and Punjab 1984.
Three - It is a songless commercial Punjabi film (again a rarity), keeping its focus on the interactions between the characters and carefully drafted sequences of clashes. The no-song feature supports the narrative but I still felt a theme song kind of track running in the backdrop might have helped in raising the entertaining tension.
Four - Range Road 290 also overcomes the barrier of the repetitive supporting cast. Not being a comedy is also a factor responsible for this feature. But more importantly, it has a cast with all fresh faces, confidently playing their assigned roles featuring, Amanindar Dhillon, Arshdeep Purba, Pipan Kumar, and Satinder himself as the merciless boss. Apart from the Indian names, the film also has many actors from the west playing short roles as per the requirement, giving it an international feel.
Five - Punjabi cinema is not known for emphasizing on any innovative shot-taking, cinematography, editing, and background score (as often mentioned in my reviews). So, it is truly a pleasant surprise to see a Punjabi film considering the camera placement, movement, background score, and editing as three significant characters of the script. In other words, while it is novel to see the script divided into different chapters, it's nothing short of a relief to hear new sounds in the BGM of a Punjabi film setting aside the typical keyboard strings, tumbi notes, and dhol beats.
Six - The film has been shot abroad as it is all about the underworld, drug peddling, and youngsters involved in the nexus, representing the dark side of the west. The region and the locations, thus become the base of its narrative. So, it is not one of those cleverly planned projects shot abroad just to avail the offer of subsidy provided by some selective countries. Here again, adding an eye-opener, lately, Punjabi cinema has also suffered because of this ‘subsidy offer by the west’ resulting in many quickies written and conceived on feeble one-line plots, cunningly adding a foreign angle in the script.
The Downers

Skilfully made with limited resources, minimal characters, and a small crew of technicians, Range Road 290 never appears to be a film completed with so many restrictions. However, it does have pace issues and a novel format of non-linear storytelling divided into chapters, which will more appeal to young film enthusiasts open to such innovative storytelling. The script progression takes its time to bring in clarity and one gradually starts getting the relationship between different characters. In addition, some bold, never before kind of abusive phrases also might be offensive for a section of viewers.
Interestingly, many of these bold abuses in the film got muted or changed with different words as per the objections raised by the Censor Board in India. But the same abuses were recently allowed in the Hindi film KUTTEY even when they were exactly the same in both Punjabi and Hindi language. In lighter terms, perhaps for the Censor Board, the words sounded more harsh and meaningful in Punjabi than in Hindi. 
To be honest, while these drawbacks might be decisive for some viewers, the film seriously deserves our support, especially if we are among those who have been critically writing about the recent Punjabi movies casually made as pure business projects continuing the supply chain of exhibitors.
Range Road 290 might not be a perfect film receiving a roaring response at the box office. But it strongly displays the courage and vision of breaking the routine and outdated pattern of Punjabi cinema desperately waiting for a breakthrough. It is an important film as it sincerely tries to move ahead showing a new direction to Punjabi writers and directors, who have been more or less involved in filmmaking as some kind of uninteresting office work, forgetting its creative and innovative aspect capable of a lot of experimentation.
So, with Range Road 290, writer-director Satinder Kassoana has taken the first step and he is sure to come up with something much better as his next. But for that, we will have to support his current venture still in theatres, as here the producers and exhibitors only understand the language of footfall, box office success, and nothing else.
Hope this brings in the much-required conceptual and technical shift in Punjabi cinema taking it a few steps ahead. Looking forward to more from the writer-director in the coming future.
Bobby Sing

Tags : Range Road 290 and Punjabi Cinema - Movie Notes by Bobby Sing at bobbytalkscinema.com, Range Road 290 Review by Bobby Sing, New Punjabi Films Reviews by Bobby Sing, New Pollywood Movies Reviews by Bobby Sing, Harsharan Singh, Satinder Kassoana
17 Jan 2023 / Comment ( 0 )
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