Singh’s “The Song of Scorpions,”, starring Khan, Golshifteh Farahani and Indian cinema legend Waheeda Rehman, is playing as a special presentation at the Singapore International Film Festival, part of the Singapore Media Festival. Singh’s previous film “Qissa: The Tale of a Lonely Ghost” also starred Khan.
“As with all film directors, I suppose, I have a few film scripts juggling in my head. I await the one that keeps flying in my imagination while the others steadily fall away,” Singh told Variety. “At the moment, that one seems to be my next film with Irrfan Khan. It will be my third film with him, a kind of conclusive trilogy bringing to some resolution, I hope, the themes that have been haunting me since “Qissa” and have continued to pursue me with “The Song of Scorpions.”
The film is about a man who grew up in the tradition of the Krishna-Lila, a ritual performance, where men play as women. Here, the man realizes that he likes to play at being a woman in his everyday life too. For the moment, the film is titled “Lasya – The Gentle Dance”.
“Scorpions” premiered at Locarno in August and has been on the global festival circuit since. Singh was appalled by the rape of a young woman in a moving bus in New Delhi in 2012. “I was haunted by the gruesome inhumanity of that violation,” says Singh. “It was about a year later, while still completing “Qissa,” that I started dreaming about that violation again and, then, one night, “The Song of Scorpions,” from the first image to the last, came to me in a nightmare.
“What I still remember are flickering images of light so bright and dry that it was like salt in the eyes. Rippling vistas of burning sand and, strangely, a shawl made of tattered rags of purple and green and blood red wavering in the wind. And within all that rage and glare of fire and sand, a singing voice as gentle and calming as the first drizzle in a desert. I awoke breathless with the whole story of the film racing through me. Because of imagery and the clash of different realities in my nightmare, the story quite organically started unfolding as a folktale when I started writing it.”
Aside from Khan, Singh managed a major personnel coup, casting Iranian actress Farahani and pulling Rehman out of semi-retirement. Though “Scorpions” is an Indian subject set in India, the film is a France-Switzerland-Singapore co-production, with no Indian finance.
“We approached numerous film companies in India, but they usually had very different ideas about how the film should be made,” says Singh. “They all had impossible suggestions about songs and dances and they would also tell me how I should take the shots and how the actors should perform and how the music should be more mainstream. I soon understood that I would lose my freedom to make the film the way I envisioned it with an Indian producer.”
Sales agent, The Match Factory is currently securing distribution deals in Europe, the U.S., South East Asia and India. “Scorpions” is scheduled to release in Europe in March 2018, followed by India and other territories.