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‘San-84 Justice’ brings back grim memories of 1984 anti-Sikh riots

The 78-minute Hindi-Punjabi film 'San-84 Justice' views the anti-Sikh riots that erupted after the assassination of the late former PM Indira Gandhi

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The 78-minute-long Hindi-Punjabi film ‘San-84 Justice’ views the anti-Sikh riots that erupted after the assassination of the late former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi through the lens of a lower middle-class family caught in the vortex of the violence.

Speaking about the film after a screening here on Monday, writer-director Sandeep Kumar Rana said that he had grown up in a neighbourhood where people lived through the trauma and had been personally impacted by it. The memories that refused to die inspired him to make the movie.

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He said: “I grew up in an area that was represented by Sajjan Kumar, the former Congress MP who has been sentenced to a jail term for his role in the 1984 Sikh massacre. I remember a Sikh gentleman who lost his mind because of a lethal attack on him. For years, he would keep sitting for hours on the street with a board that read ‘Radio Singer – Yahan har tarah ke gaane gaaye jaate hain’. Our producers Mujeeb-ul Hassan and Jitesh Kumar were in London for the premiere of their film ‘Side A & Side B’ and they met some Sikhs who were victims of the 1984 massacres. Listening to them, they decided to make a film on this subject.”

The film revolves around the family of a rice merchant, Gurfateh Singh, played by the actor Vipin Sharma. He, his wife, three sons and brother, were leading a regular life till Operation Bluestar happened at the Golden Temple and then Mrs Gandhi was assassinated on October 31, 1984. The following day, the violence spiralled out of control.

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These seismic events, and the ways they affected the lives of ordinary people, form the core of the storyline of the haunting film, which was shot on a shoestring budget just before the second wave of the pandemic. Talking about the dark film, the director said, “The screenplay makes the audience bond with members of the family of Gurfateh Singh. The audience wants them to live, but that does not happen. The film is about a real event and the real world.”

Rana’s earlier work as writer and director have included the satirical comedy ‘Camp Decent’ and ‘Auzaar’, which has travelled to a number of film festivals. ‘San-84 Justice’, he said, apart from being released theatrically on Tuesday, November 2, would also be streamed on an OTT platform. He added: “Our objective is to reach the maximum number of people, but not provoke any adverse sentiments in any particular community.”

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The film, however, does bring to life a particularly painful moment that India would like to forget.

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