Controversial film Punjab 1984 celebrates its global launch in Surrey (w/ photos, video)

Published: June 11, 2014


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Diljit Dosanjh arrives at a press conference promoting the movie Punjab 1984, in Surrey on June 11, 2014. Wayne Leidenfrost/PNG


The highly anticipated Punjabi film, Punjab 1984 — based on events surrounding the Indian government’s brutal military attack on the state’s Golden Temple 30 years ago — celebrated its global launch in Surrey on Wednesday.

Star of the film and one of Punjab’s favourite actors, Diljit Dosanjh (of Jatt & Juliet fame), alongside fellow actor Rana Ranbir travelled from India to join film producer Manmord Singh Sidhu, also of Surrey-based White Hill Production, and local radio host Bali Deol for a question and answer with Surrey’s Sikh and Punjabi communities at Royal King Palace.

The film, which will be released worldwide at the end of the month, is timed with the 30th anniversary of the June 3, 1984 attack. But according to Sidhu, while the historical event is commonly known for the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, the movie aims to tell “the other side” of the story.

“Like what happened to normal families — we are trying to tell that story through cinema,” he said.

After the Golden Temple attack, the “human rights atrocities” continued across the Indian state of Punjab for ten years, with the Indian army and police torturing men, women and children and unlawfully imprisoning others.

“Amnesty International has documented thousands and thousands of cases of young men disappeared,” Deol told the crowd. “Often people who have been disappeared and never released and their fate remains unknown, their family and friends may never find out what has really happened to them.”

Punjab 1984 tells this “human story,” following the disappearance of one young man (played by Dosanjh), and a mother’s search for her son.

“People should remember those people who have been killed by military, by government by other people,” said Sidhu, adding that these personal and heart-wrenching stories aren’t often told through the historic outlook of the ‘‘80s era Punjab. “(People) need to know what exactly happened.”

Sidhu believes the storyline will resonate with Indian immigrants in Surrey and across Canada, as many of them suffered through the unrest and fled to North America as a result.

“They want to tell their kids what exactly happened to them,” said Sidhu. “Through cinema, I think they can tell their kids and the younger generation.”

For Pary Singh Dulai, director of Surrey’s Dashmesh Darbar gurdwara who was at the Wednesday launch, the film is a way for the diaspora to stay connected with their Punjabi roots.

“It’s important to maintain, to learn about history, about your community just to maintain an identity of what you went through,” said Dulai. “Especially for our next generation to kind of maintain their identity of knowing what the community went through and what are some of the ramifications we’re still feeling.”

While Sidhu admit the storyline is “a little bit risky,” considering other Punjabi films covering similar subjects, like Sadda Haq (which revolved around the Khalistan movement in the ‘90s), faced censorship bans in India, he believes Punjab 1984 won’t face any backlash because of its human element, as opposed to an “antigovernment” statement.

Punjab 1984 releases worldwide June 27 and will be screened at Surrey’s Strawberry Hill Cinemas and other Cineplex theatres across the Lower Mainland.

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