“Losing a loved one, specially one’s parents isn’t an anguish you get over with. Somehow a part of your memory, lingers in the moments spent relishing with them. You submerge yourself in a false euphoria, the lament doesn’t go and you become used to it. We miss all the great things that will never be.”
24min | Movie, Drama | 2020
Review, Valerie Grove
Pankh begins by introducing its central character as he begins the deeply personal journey that unfolds over the course of the film. The next scene takes us into the immediately disorienting and visceral violence of a boxing match but this is brief as it quickly becomes apparent that we are on a film-set and the real actor involved, Wasil Tanweer – is going to be Pankh’s protagonist and storyteller. We discover that he is a very well-known actor but there is a huge disconnection between how his successful life appears to others and how it actually feels to him.
This short independent film is one of the latest additions to the Alchemiya library and it packs much more than the literal punch of that early scene. Indicating the parameters of what is to come, the scene is as disturbing for its emotional intensity as it is for its physical reality.
Pankh means ‘wing’, but this is a shortened version of the film’s original title, Pankh- toota hoon, Magar parwaaz rakhta hoon meaning I am like a broken wing but I still have the strength to fly. The film follows the difficult journey of the actor as he returns to the scene of a family tragedy from his childhood. Pankh is not only performed by Wasil Tanweer but written and directed by him too. The film was inspired by real events that are outlined direct to camera before the journey depicted in the film gets under way. However, it never seems entirely clear what is fact and what is fiction and this creates a very effective sense of the dissociation inherent in such a fundamental exploration of the past.
Wasil’s character and his story are partly revealed from old family photographs and clips from home movies. We learn more from his own narration and from conversations he has with his uncle and other relatives when he returns to the family farm. As his journey progresses it mirrors those photographs of the family holidays he carries with him, leading eventually to a boarding house near the exact location where the tragedy took place all those years before. We watch as the actor, deep in his own solitude, returns slowly towards the scene he has come to confront and we are aware that we are watching a journey through trauma taken alone at great psychological and spiritual risk.
These may loosely be the facts of the story but this film dispenses with the conventional means of telling a tragic tale. Its primary goal is to communicate the emotional dissonance that results from traumatic loss and the repercussions of this throughout the life of the individual affected. The film avoids the futility of attempting to articulate these feelings in words. Instead the enormity of the experience that the actor is finally facing is conveyed with raw emotional expression and sudden and discordant shifts in sight and sound. It is impossible not to be affected by this and it makes Pankh a sometimes disturbing and difficult film to watch.
In his own introduction to this film Wasil Tanweer said:
“Losing a loved one, especially one’s parents, isn’t an anguish you get over with. Somehow a part of your memory lingers in the moments you relished spending with them. You submerge yourself in a false euphoria, the lament doesn’t go and you become used to it. We miss all the great things that will never be. The nostalgia hits you too often, with the brain conceiving scenarios which could not have occurred; only if! And that is when you get a profound feeling of instability. Such a chaotic period makes you or simply breaks you. For me escaping certain chaotic memories couldn’t ever have become an option. In the midst of unwinding myself from the grief, I continued wrestling for my share of inner peace. The truth is that we as humans do not get over grief. There is no total sense of completion. Just as love goes on, so does grief. This film depicts certain unuttered feelings, it relates to the common grief we all share. It’s an ode from a broken heart!”
Pankh is a deeply honest and empathetic story about living with the consequences of trauma and loss, making it recognisable and at times cathartic. There is also a lot of beauty in travelling with Wasil through the different landscapes and locations with each stop giving space to think and reflect on why we are at this place and what is important. The film stayed with me. For several days afterwards certain scenes would drift back into my mind and even now I can still hear echoes.