The Actors in The Winter of Love


Examine for a moment an ordinary mind on an ordinary day. The mind receives a myriad impressions – trivial, fantastic, evanescent, or engraved with the sharpness of steel. From all sides they come, an incessant shower of innumerable atoms; and as they fall, as they shape themselves into the life of Monday or Tuesday, the accent falls differently from of old; the moment of importance came not here but there.
Virginia Woolf

It is often difficult to encapsulate the process of being on set and working with actors. Actors are wonderful creatures; deeply trustful and willing to take on anything thrown at them. Of course there are exceptions to this statement. I was fortunate to work with a group of actors who gave so much for so little; Shiv Grewal, Gurpreet Bhatti, Dev Sagoo, Shekhar Bassi, Pravesh Kumar, Hardeep Singh Mangat and Badi U Zaman. They would come on set – be completely aware of the difficulties vis-à-vis lack of funds and were thoroughly professional.

I used the quote from Virginia Woolf because I knew so little about what would be involved in working with a group of up to 50 to 60 people on a daily basis – and that they all looked to me for direction. The actors in particular I was very excited to work with. The Winter of Love (formally ‘A Quiet Desperation’) was my first feature film that had been solely financed by myself and my Producer. And the actors were fully aware of this and respected the production even more so because of the financial constraints.

When Virginia Woolf writes “the moment of importance came not here but there” I feel that this encapsulated much of what transpired during the shoot.

Shiv Grewal, playing the lead of Shammi returning to his brother’s funeral played by Dev Sagoo was a god send. He played it how I had imaged it – with restraint and an internal world that Shammi rarely stepped out of.

Some aspects of the characters trajectory weren’t developed fully and that was down to the writing and finally my direction – in hindsight this was due to not having enough experience of the needs of the character and what is truly required for them to come to a culmination of sorts which ever way life takes them. Shammi’s lost love (played by Anita Massi) alas was one such casualty – but the sequences of his memory of her whether at a brothel or on a rainy day on Southall Broadway, are my favourite in the film and Shiv plays this with great depth and a lacerated heart.

Dev Sagoo as the respectable but flawed elder brother as ‘Paji’ is at times frightening – when he discusses his daughter with his ‘helper’ Banger played by Shakher Bassi, he casually hints at ‘doing away with the boy’, who in this instance is played by Pravesh Kumar, Preeti’s love interest.

Preeti is of course played by the talented Gurpreet Bhatti. Gurpreet Bhatti was extraordinary whilst on set – her rendition of Preeti and her willingness to explore difficult moments – like the washing scenes in the bathroom – a cleaning ritual that Preeti developed after being abused by Banger – required great courage. She brought pathos and humour to an otherwise difficult character. The scenes between Dev (who plays her father in the film) show a young woman who just wants to ‘be happy’. Paji confronts her and tells her that she can’t survive in the outside world that she has a weak mind and that she uses bad language. When Preeti challenges him – he says that she uses words like ‘bollocks’ – this brings a smile to Preeti’s face and breaks the otherwise tense scene. Gurpreet’s interpretation of Preeti hit the mark.

Both Shiv and Gurpreet understood the element of time within the film’s structure and how I wanted to use it – their characters and in fact the entire film has a non-linear structure and it came naturally for the telling of this story. Preeti’s belief that Anil visits her at their favourite meeting places are dreamlike and Shammi seeing his lost love in swaying fabrics brought a melancholy to the scenes.

Shammi’s relationships with his brothers – Paji and Chacha Malli played by Badi U Zaman are that of distance. The sequence of washing Paji’s body in the funeral parlour where Shammi has to assist Sonu (played by Hardeep Singh Mangat), Paji’s son are played perfectly by Shiv. His brief drinking sessions with Chacha Malli (played by Badi U Zaman) are playful but melancholic – a trait that ensures Shammi’s ultimate fate; that of being alone.

Originally published in the AboutFilm Blog.

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