Asian Film Archive Collection
A Retrospective of Rajendra Gour's Short Films
Date: 25 Aug 2007, Sat
Time: 2pm
Venue: Gallery Theatre, National Museum of Singapore   

Screening to be followed by a QnA session with the filmmaker, facilitated by Karen Chan, Archivist (Asian Film Archive) and Zhang Wenjie, Programmer, National Museum of Singapore

A Labour of Love - The Housewife Dir: Rajendra Gour 1978 / Singapore / 18 min / PG English
This short film examines the role of the Asian woman, in particular the role of the housewife, within the realm of the home and the family. It features the boundless work that a housewife has to accomplish in a day in order to run a household, and to care for her husband and children. The film is an early feminist take on the misconception of the non-economic value of the stay-at-home mother and wife, whose contribution to society is often underrated. 

My Child My Child Dir: Rajendra Gour 1979 / Singapore / 13 min / PG English
The film begins with a woman reflecting about her role as a person and as a mother. Her love and the sacrifices she has made for her children are evident and she has many happy memories of her time spent with them.

Eyes Dir: Rajendra Gour 1967 / Singapore / 6 min / PG English
This is an experimental film that explores the pain and suffering in the world caused by a lack of understanding amongst mankind. All of this is viewed through the “eyes” of the people of the world.

Sunshine Singapore Dir: Rajendra Gour 1968-72 / Singapore / 8 min / PG No dialogue
This silent film features the sights of sunny Singapore set to music. The film captures the hopes of the young filmmaker and the beauty of a young nation, tempered by the familiarity of daily life.

Introduction by Zhang Wenjie

When the 67-year-old Rajendra Gour signed up as a volunteer with the Asian Film Archive in 2006, the Archive made an important discovery – that Gour was a filmmaker and may have made some of Singapore’s earliest independent short films. With Gour’s surviving 16mm film prints safely preserved, the Archive embarked on making known the work of an astute and gifted Singapore filmmaker whose accomplishments have been unnoticed for nearly thirty years.

Originally from India, Gour came to Singapore in 1964 to work as a film editor at Radio and Television Singapore (RTS) after graduating with a major in film editing from the renowned Film Institute of India, now known as the Film and Television Institute of India.

Gour envisioned making artistic films on his own terms, and after saving up enough money for equipment and film stock, he purchased a 16 mm film camera and taught himself how to use it. The first film he made with it is a black and white short called Mr. Tender Heart. Completed in 1965, it was shot in a studio and was shown in London at the Commonwealth Film Festival. Unfortunately, no copies of the film exist today.

Two years later, Gour made an experimental short film called Eyes. Created against the backdrop of the Vietnam War and the turmoil of social and political upheavals during the 1960s, Eyes (1967) is a blistering critique of intolerance and possibly the first local anti-war film ever made. Only eight minutes from the film’s original twenty minutes survives today, but even in its truncated form, the film still retains a hypnotic power and a potent rage at the injustice perpetuated by man. Gour’s imagination as a filmmaker is evident in the inventive juxtaposition of stock footage with simple but effective optical effects to portray a person collapsing under the unbearable strain of the senseless violence and suffering in the world. One of the most memorable sequences in the film is a point-of-view shot of a man running up a flight of stairs and jumping off a building to commit suicide. Gour achieved this remarkable shot by tethering his camera to a rope and throwing it down from the top of Selegie House. Eyes was screened at the old Cultural Centre (renamed the Drama Centre in 1980) at Fort Canning Park and won a bronze medal at the Malta International Film Festival.

Gour’s next film is Sunshine Singapore (1968-72), an eight-minute short film that chronicled the sights and landscape of Singapore from sunrise to sunset. Gour’s ingenuity as an editor is most evident in this film - with just music and a montage of shots of the city and its people, he managed to create an evocative and lyrical portrait of a young nation coming to terms with progress and the hustle bustle of modern urban living. In the film, Gour used images of the sun’s rays as a recurring motif, which seems to suggest that Singapore’s omnipresent sunshine is what defines and unites us. And with the deft editing of military drills together with the relentless march of pedestrians and shoppers, the film takes a sly dig at our mercenary and almost single-minded pursuit of commerce and industry.

Following Sunshine Singapore, Gour made A Labour of Love - The Housewife (1978) and My Child My Child (1979). This time, the subject of his films is his family, and what resulted are two beautifully intimate and poetic films about the joy and wonder of parenthood. The films showed Gour and his wife coping with the struggles and reality of being new parents of two young children in 1970s Singapore. Shot almost like a cross between an educational film and a home movie, what elevates the films above the norm is the pure and unrestrained love for his family that permeates every frame. Delightfully put together with lightness and naturalism, the films had moments of such tenderness and beauty that it simply takes the breath away.

For anyone who grew up in Singapore during the 1960s and 70s, seeing Gour’s short films for the first time feels like homecoming, and the experience is similar to the wonder of discovering our childhood photographs we never knew existed. Through Gour’s films, we see a part of Singapore that has disappeared through the passage of time, and at the same time, how many of our hopes and dreams have remained unchanged today.

Shown together for the very first time at the 4th Singapore Short Cuts, this showcase of Rajendra Gour’s four short films is a long overdue retrospective of one of Singapore’s earliest and best independent filmmaker. A Labour of Love - The Housewife, My Child My Child, Eyes and Sunshine Singapore are part of the Asian Film Archive Collection. Images are used with the kind permission of Asian Film Archive.

This showcase is screened via a transfer from the only available original VHS copy to Digi-Beta, courtesy of the National Archives of Singapore. Given the fragile condition of the surviving film prints, funding is currently being sourced by the Asian Film Archive to restore the prints of these four films so that these works may be preserved for posterity and audiences may again have the pleasure of watching these films in their intended cinematic glory. To find out how you can support the archival work of these films or any other Singapore films that you are aware of, please email info@asianfilmarchive.org. 

Rajendra Gour was born in 1940 in the small town of Dhariwal in Punjab, India. He started writing poems, stories and articles in Hindi and English at the age of fifteen. After his graduation from the Film Institute of India, he came to Singapore in 1964 to work as a senior film editor at Radio and Television Singapore (RTS).

Gour envisioned making artistic films on his own terms. Having saved up enough money for equipment and film stock, he purchased a 16 mm film camera and taught himself how to use it.

His first film, Mr. Tender Heart was completed in 1965 and was shown at the Commonwealth Film Festival, London. He then made three more films, each costing about S$5,000. Eyes (1967) was screened at the Malta International Film Festival and awarded a bronze medal. A Labour of Love - The Housewife (1977) also received a bronze award at the International Film Festival organised by the American Photographic Society's Motion Picture Division. Gour wrote an original story and shooting script for Cathay Kris Production and the theatrical feature was made in 1970.

Over the years, Gour has worked with the Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) as an Executive Producer (Advertising and Promotions), CEPTA Television (South East Asia) as a Senior Producer in the Adult Education Films, and in the Ministry of Defence as a film editor and cinematographer. He has also worked as a Community Centre Manager with the People’s Association, and was a part-time lecturer on film production at Ngee Ann Polytechnic. Before retiring, Gour completed his Masters in Mass Communication at Leicester University, UK. He is currently working as a volunteer with organisations such as Swami Home for Elders and has written three books on social concerns.

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