The first Punjabi art-house film is a melodrama about feudalism based on a popular novel, also adapted to the stage, by Gurdial Singh. The story chronicles the shift from feudal sharecropping to capitalist farming over two generations of the region’s rural elite. Hero Jagsir, the son of the sharecropper Thola, is treated as a brother by landlord Dharam Singh. The landlord’s son, however, does not continue this family tradition. As Jagsir’s mother belongs to a nomad caste (preventing the son, by custom, from ever marrying), the hero’s love for the bride of the impotent barber Nika is fraught with problems. Symbolically, the building of Jagsir’s father’s tomb (also a means of marking out the land that rightfully belongs to the family) and then of his own tomb precedes Jagsir’s physical deterioration and death. Insightful links between masculinity and land ownership provide a good example of how melodrama can address difficult political realities.
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