The youngest member of The Winter of Love

Hardeep Singh Mangat, the youngest of the cast in ‘The Winter of Love’ (formally A Quiet Desperation) fitted in perfectly – at the time of the shoot, Hardeep was in his late teen’s – tall and charming – a child in a man’s body. Playing the role of Sonu Singh, Paji’s youngest child, Sonu Singh is left with the responsibilities of caring for a mentally disturbed elder sister after the death of their father. Their world is turned upside down and further complicated by the arrival of their uncle, Shammi Singh, played by Shiv Grewal.Hardeep’s route into acting was through community theatre which he was involved in from his early teen’s where in appeared in a play at the National Theatre, A Indian Summer by Harwant Bains, qualifying for a runner up in a competition run by the National.

A versatile and natural actor, Hardeep was un-phased by the tumultuous activity around him. Delivering a very natural talent, Hardeep delivered a poignant performance of a teenage unable to cope with adversity.

Although Hardeep is no longer acting, his contribution to The Winter of Love remains exemplary.

Mamta Anand from the cast The Winter of Love

Manta Anand’s quiet portrayal of Banger’s wife in ‘The Winter of Love’ (formerly ‘A Quiet Desperation’) reveals the loneliness and sorrow in a woman who has put everything into a marriage but finds herself rejected.In love with Banger, Mamta explores effectively the pitiful nature of the character’s need to be wanted by an uncaring husband. In the brief scenes that she has, Mamta manages to encapsulate an experience that is common for so many women, and she effectively transcends race.

Mamta has appeared in a number of productions produced by Falcon Films, in a few she has played the lead and created memorable performances. In Restless Sky, she played a homeless woman, living on memories. In Talking About Suicide, Mamta played the role of a depressed and battered woman on the verge of suicide.

A versatile actress with great depth, Mamta has appeared on stage and television. Her television appearances include Casualty, Waking The Dead, The Bill, 15 Stories High, Kismet Road and Dilly Down Town.

A regular artist with the Asian fringe theatre, Mamta has created many memorable roles ranging from a battered wife to supreme comedy. Productions include at the Lyric Hammersmith, When Amar met Jay. With RIFCO, she played the role of Shanti in Bollywood – Yet Another Love Story and she also appeared in RIFCO’s production of The Deranged Marriage. She has also worked extensively in Punjabi theatre as well as been involved in productions with Kali Theatre.

Recently, Mamta has ventured out in directing for community theatre with productions based at Watermans in Brentford.

Shekhar Bassi from the cast The Winter of Love

Shekhar Bassi plays the villainous character of Banger in ‘The Winter of Love’ (formerly ‘A Quiet Desperation’). The character is fashioned on the real life ‘Banger’ of Southall. The name is actually pronounced as ‘Bungur’ as is a well known Punjabi surname.Banger’s character soon took on the ‘shadow’ in the film. A family friend, unknown to all, has been abusing the mentally unstable Preeti in

As the film develops, we come to see Banger manipulating the family members for his own sexual gratification. Played with a quiet sinisterism by Shekhar Bassi, the darkness of the character envelopes the film.

Shekhar also came on prior to shooting as script editor and helped with developing aspects of the story. Being a low budget arthouse feature, the script had to be modified to meet with the low budget demands of the production. Shekhar along with his brother Shalinder Bassi were great asset in making sure that the production did not fail.

The duo has been writing since 1996 and has to their credit the theatre play ‘Chemistry’ along with a feature script based on a short story by Rabindranath Tagore, ‘Kabuliwalla'(1998). Other credits include Dress Code, Blazing Bras, Come Home, Six Points to Living, Indian Summer, Charmed Offensive and much more.

Pravesh Kumar from the cast The Winter of Love

Since the completion of The Winter of Love (formerly ‘A Quiet Desperation’), many of the actors who appeared in the film have gone on to create amazing projects.Pravesh played the part of Anil in The Winter of Love who pays a high price for love. Although a brief appearance in the film, Anil’s character is central to the development of Preeti’s character which culminates in tragedy.

Pravesh Kumar, who appears as a memory for one of the key protagonists in the film, Preeti, played by Gurpreet Bhatti, has since created a successful theatre company, RIFCO who have in the past produced box office sensation with productions such as Bollywood 2000 and Deranged Marriage.

Here is an extract of an interview with Pravesh which appeared in BBC Berkshire:

“Pravesh Kumar is a successful theatre director from Slough. He is head of RIFCO, the resident company at the new theatre venue in the town, the West Wing. What makes this all the more remarkable is that there was no theatre there when he was young.

Where did you grow up?

“I grew up in Slough, my mother’s still there, and I work there every day at the West Wing, which is part of Arbour Vale School.”

That’s a new venue for Slough, isn’t it?
“Yes, it’s the only new venue we’ve had for 20 years, so it’s wonderful to have a space now where we can put on professional work, and receive other touring work from around the country. It’s about time. We did have something in the early ’80s which closed down. We can now develop our arts scene, which is way behind any other city or town. We’re going to do a great deal of work with the community… It’s a studio space, which is about 250 seats.”

With no theatres in Slough, how did you get interested in the arts?
“At the Westgate School in Cippenham. We had a strong focus at the time on drama, which seems to have changed now. Then I went onto Langley College (now East Berkshire college), I was the only non-white student on the performing arts course. Also I worked at the cinema. Then I got into the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts in Wandsworth, an acting degree for three years. Before the end of the course I was offered the lead in a show at Stratford East, ‘Moti Roti’. That launched my acting career, which went on until 1998. “

You can read the interview in full here.

Dev Sagoo from the cast The Winter of Love

Dev Sagoo’s rendition of the central villainous character of ‘Paji’ in ‘The Winter of Love’ (formerly ‘A Quiet Desperation’) is gripping highlighting the common features of a man who fulfils his duty through control and manipulation.

His centre of attention is his young daughter ‘Preeti’ who is mentally unstable and looked after him. Despite Preeti’s mental state, she finds love and independence which sits uncomfortably with the character of Paji.

The relationship comes to a head when Preeti plans to leave with her lover but is violently stopped by Paji and his accomplice Banger, played by Shakher Bassi. This leads Preeti into a spiral that creates an inability to think for herself, relying entirely on her controlling father.

Dev works the character’s with depth and a cold control, calming plotting to ‘do away with the boy’.

Dev Sagoo is a highly respected British Asian actor who has been part of great productions from the late ‘70’s and onwards. His credits include; In the Field (2005); Beautiful People (1999); My Son the Fanatic (1997); “Turning World” (1997) “Between the Lines” 1993; Prime Suspect 2 and much more.

Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti from the cast The Winter of Love

Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s rendition of Preeti’s character in ‘The Winter of Love’ (formerly ‘A Quiet Desperation’) is deeply moving and original.Playing the part of Preeti, Gurpreet brought to light the struggles of a young woman wanting to live her own life. She live Anil who is played by Pravesh Kumar in The Winter of Love pay a high price for love. Although a brief appearance in the film, Anil’s character is central to the development of Preeti’s character which culminates in tragedy.

Filmed entirely on location, The Winter of Love tells the story of a family in turmoil after the death of Paji, Preeti’s father. The return of Shammi, Preeti’s uncle, unlocks a plethora of ghosts.

Since the completion of the film many of the actors who appeared in the film have gone on to create amazing projects and Gurpreet has since established herself as a highly skilled playwright for the British stage.

Her play Bhezti, which caused much controversy and joins the ranks of many well crafted plays by British Asian playwrights, went on to ask probing and difficult questions as is the role of any writer.

Gurpreet went on to win the Susan Smith Blackburn Prize for Bhezti. The US-based award is made annually to the best English language play by a woman and is worth $10,000.

At the time of winning the prize, BBC Midlands covered the story and wrote that:

“Critics have marked out Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti as a playwright to watch – be it as a fresh, original or provocative voice in British theatre.

Bhezti is Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s second play. Born in Watford, she has mixed acting with writing and has two plays plus work on scripts for Crossroads and East Enders to her name. “

Read here for the full article.

Shiv Grewal from the cast The Winter of Love

Shiv Grewal’s rendition of Shammi in ‘The Winter of Love’ (formerly ‘A Quiet Desperation’) takes the viewer into a difficult world of a lonely man.Estranged from his brother and his family, Shammi finds himself on the outside, living a life as a drunk and destitute. The character of Shammi epitomises the question of what is a good person. Here we see an unkempt man, living in his car and sleeping with prostitutes who end up being the saviour of his niece, Preeti. Played with a reserve seldom seen, Shiv Grewal gives a performance of depth epitomising despair.

Shiv Grewal is an established British actor, working on stage, film and television and often on radio playing key roles with depth and conviction.

His most recent production playing the part of Afzal in “The Last Enemy” (2007) is shot at the Castel Film Studios, Bucharest, Romania and in London. Parts of it were shot near the Battersea Power Station. The film is currently in post-production.

Shiv has been involved in British Asian theatre for some years now and has appeared in a number of productions. Bringing his vast experience to the production of The Winter of Love, Shiv’s professionalism helped propel this low budget/no budget feature into some shape.

His portrayal of Shammi’s character brought out the quiet desperation of the character and pin-pointed the defiance within bringing in these striking elements onto the screen – that of an outsider.

The Winter of Love and its film language

In ‘The Winter of Love’ (formerly ‘A Quiet Desperation’), film language or creating its own internal language was a key driving force in making the film.Upon reflection, the DOP commented that we had entered the realms of European film making – albeit some clumsy moments, the film’s ambitions to a certain extent were met.

By using a non-linear structure, which at the time of filming was just coming to the notice of audiences, the film tried to make a difference in how low budget films were structured. In hindsight, it might have been easier to go with a conventional structure as the theme of the language was alienation and the outsider, a tall order by any means.

The language of the film really came together on the editing table, where we were challenged to work with a limited amount of material. In total we had shot about 7 hours of footage, working with a ratio of 10 to 1, or is it 1 to 10 – I don’t recall which way it’s meant to be read, anyhow, for every shot we could only shoot ten takes or we would have run out of film stock. Phew!

With Shammi’s character along side that of Preeti, the language of the outsider was quickly established – this was then depicted through shots of lone skies in various colours/moods/shades and close shots of the bodies of the characters which further alienated them from the whole.

For me to decipher the language of the film is a difficult matter as I believe the film uses cyclical motions to travel with each character as the story develops and returns to the present – so the anchor was always the present and rested within the character of Shammi, played by Shiv Grewal; he is the outsider, who once upon a time was on the inside but had the ability to step away, learn about the world and return – it was about showing a broken man unable to maintain himself being and by default becoming the saviour; attaining redemption.

The Winter of Love and The Use of Colour

In ‘The Winter of Love’ (formerly ‘A Quiet Desperation’), the use of colour and choices were paramount to establishing character and the mood of the story.By choosing to make the film primarily in winter and parts of it shot in early summer, the colour and mood were set. Locating the film in Southall also meant a deep influence in the colour tones – ranging from bright pinks through to rustic colours of autumn and winter.

The art direction by Amarjeet Kaur Nandhra meant bringing in her sensibility for the interior scenes of the film. Preeti’s bedroom became a key scene where a particular orange and yellow were used to create a golden light around the character.

Using Vermeer’s work, the Dutch painter as a starting point, the colours came together very easily – warm lights highlighting the character and not the scene meant that the focus of the story was maintained and enhanced. In both the bedroom scenes and the bath scenes, warm tones were used to help with developing sympathy for Preeti’s character.

Working on low budget meant accepting locations as they were – white walls!! These became a nightmare for the DOP along with the Art Department – adding colour to such spaces became a challenge but we gradually learnt to work with white walls using them to our advantage and at times creating an austere and melancholic mood. This of course was developed into a major theme and became a central character thread throughout the film.

Koutaiba Al-Janabi, Cinematographer of The Winter of Love

Renowned Cinematographer Koutaiba Al-Janabi’s contribution to the independent film, The Winter of Love, was uncompromising. Highly experienced of working on low budget productions and supporting new film makers, meant that filming of The Winter of Love was possible. Below is an extract of an interview with Koutaiba Al-Janabi conducted by Charlie Sen.

What is your background?

I was born in Baghdad, and studied at the Budapest film school and later moved to London. I have worked on short films, documentaries, and I have made a few features, and The Winter of Love (formerly A Quiet Desperation) is one of these low/no-budget feature films that I worked on.

How did you come to work on The Winter of Love?

A few years ago I met Shakila Taranum Maan with a ready script and she was looking for a Director of Photography to work with her. Ruhul Amin (another Filmmaker), from the Bangladeshi community introduced us and we started to work together. At that time I was in the middle of filming with Leon Herbert, shown in many cinemas in London. That too was a no/low-budget film, titled Emotional Backgammon. Shakila saw my work, I saw her work and I felt she came from the East, so did I, and I spent before many, many years in Eastern Europe always working with European subjects and I felt that this was a real opportunity for me to work with someone from the East.

I talked together with Shakila about our backgrounds, how we like colour; how we like the people. And so through these conversations a relationship started between us. From that moment I advised Shakila to explore the history of art and we started to study the old painters and advised her to see the work of the Dutch master, Johannes Vermeer to establish the mood and the relationship of the Preeti, who lived mostly in her bedroom. We started to work with the scenes in the house, for the colour of the location. We had some difficulties, as there was very little money involved. We went to the location a few times, we set up the scenes.

The film is based in Southall, a very well known multicultural area in London. We visited the area many times. Shakila took me to around the area; we worked a lot to prepare this film.

So what kind of look did you go for? What was your and your director’s design?

The starting point was very strange – really it was the East, and the quality of the drama and the story. Plus – a very strange thing happened to me. Always I build the scene – when I first saw Shakila’s face it gave me a lot to move the story. Her face, she doesn’t know this, but Shakila was the starting point. Because I felt that in that period, definitely she worked on this script for many years, and I tried to get something from her face, her hands.

We felt about yellowish, golden colour, as this colour in my culture and her culture was dominant.

How was it shooting in a place like Southall?

I thank Shakila because she gave me the chance. Maybe she liked the first three days of the filming and she let me move on and I moved on – anybody came to Southall who have not been to India will be impressed with the colour, the people, with the shops. Somehow for me, I can feel the similarity with where I came from. I felt I knew the people. I knew them before. I can talk to anybody in the street, I can touch anybody on the street, and I can go to the shops. Somehow I feel this kind of tolerance and the people of Southall were very open to help. This is what helped me to show Southall

So how did you visualise the film?

The framing was open, although Shakila had a very strong visual style she was willing to look at different ways of imagery for the film. Also as it was low budget we understood that we had to treat the 35mm like a 16mm and so that is how it was. As I mentioned before, we didn’t prepare everything so much in advance and the situation was always moving and changing around us. And we have to be creative sometimes we have to be handheld; people sometimes don’t arrive on time. We jump to another scene. The light is no good, everything is changing and we must think very quickly, and this is something, which made the people very tired because we worked very hard. And the crew was very limited.

Being low budget, you must have had a very good team to work with – how were you able to sustain it?

I must thank two people, they worked very hard; Thomas Theakstone he was the Focus Puller and he was the Gaffer.

We got very good support from the producer, Manjeet. She gave us very good confidence and really supported us. Sometimes we did not really have permission to shoot, things like that. The lights we put it in the middle of the road! We made it in a crazy way, in a guerrilla filmmaking way. Manjeet was brought up in Southall and she had a relationship with the people, and this helped a lot.

As the film was made on 35 mm and we had huge equipment. Tom, and Gaffer Paul DeFriepas and I – I can’t remember all the rest of the people, we all worked very hard. And you can see the quality of the picture. We never let any scene go without lighting it well.

Were you able to get support from the industry?

With my relationship with Panavision, Shepperton and after Adrian Waterlow met with Shakila and read the script, they tried to encourage her and they gave her a very good deal which helped us a lot. We need to thank Adrian as he helped us to get the equipment, and Harry Rushton at Bucks Labs who helped us so much and really took the project to heart, he further helped us to get the footage from Fuji through Roger Sapsford. We got a few lights from Lee Lighting.

I am very proud of this film, and I hope somehow, somewhere the film gets some luck and is shown.

This was clearly a low budget film, how was it on a day to day basis?

This was a big thing, Shakila and Manjeet, they put this thing together and they tried. They got support from the crew and from me to realise this dream – it seems to me that the dreams of low-budget films in this country there are problems.

I think this was made five years ago carrying the subject about tolerance and personal struggles. And this is a big issue around us and always will be. And all the crew, actors worked beautifully, enthusiastically, everybody when they saw the film they realised the quality of the picture. I believe this film will never die because everybody put their heart in to this film.

This film was shot in very small rooms, small locations, Manjeet and Shakila’s friends, council flats and so on. Every location in this film carried the energy – and the human touch. We made two sets, the scene with Banger and his wife and she set up the shed where Shammi and his older brother drinks – but I think this was half a set as we used a really shed so in reality we only made one set. All the film was shot in real locations.

How was it being in Southall, as part of a community?

With this film I believe and we believed that we went into the heart of the community. I do believe that the East is East. And that is very clear when you go to a place like Southall.

We worked very hard to present the mood of the light, and working toward the colour of the Art Director, Amarjeet Kaur Nandhra, who had put in lots of effort.

As the DOP of this film, I am very proud of the night scenes, of the shadow scenes, abut the colouring of the film, the quality of the colour. And all this I think it is a little bit in the European style. It is not a Bollywood film, absolutely not. A Bollywood film you need money. Somehow we made a European film.

I think the film shows the struggle of the community. But the problem is with low budget film you need some support to survive, need some distributors for such a film to survive.

We showed the harshness, the difficulties, the suffering of the immigrant community. I think this film will show either the beginning or an end of this kind of film being made here in this country. I also think that this film shows the energy of the Asian community and all the community was very positive with us. And through all this – a kind of tolerance between the communities, and it was fantastic to work with the people in the heart of it.

What is your overall feeling of the project?

I think this is the best that I have touched, because of the atmosphere, the quality of the picture. This is when the Director of Photography can work and is able to voice their thoughts and have input. I feel that everything is there in this film.