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New Film Portrays Sikh Massacres


The Indian Express, New Delhi, Aug. 29, 2003

Nearly 19 years after Operation Bluestar and the assassination of Indira Gandhi, there comes a film that wants the viewers to think, debate and question the ravaged past of Punjab. Hawayein [winds] is directed by Ammtoje Mann, who has to his credit a string of music videos including Punjabi popstar Babbu Maan's Dil Tan Pagal Hai. Incidentally, the popstar has made his acting debut in the film. Coming in the wake of Aparna Sen's award-winning Mr. and Mrs. Iyer, Hawayein is, however, nothing like Sen's sensitive rendition of communal violence. Extensively shot in Chandigarh (which is passed of as Delhi for many reels) and the interiors of Punjab, Hawayein takes a gory and melodramatic look at the 1984 riots and the militancy in Punjab.

Director Mann defends his violent riot scenes claiming, 'I have portrayed the hard facts. We all know that scores of Sikhs were killed with burning tyres so why can't we show it? I've dramatised violence and projected it without any frills so that people hate it. I don't want to glamourise violence unlike so many Bollywood films.' Mann is also quick to point out that he acquired the Censor Board's certification without any glitch. 'The Censor board officials told me that they were thinking of banning the film because of the riot scenes, but once they saw the second half they had no qualms. This story has to be told,' says Mann. It took Mann three years to write the script. He has based the film on stories narrated by the families of the victims, newspaper clippings and a thorough recce around Delhi, Kanpur and Punjab. 'Iss khaufnaak hawa mein mere pandrah dost kurbaan ho gaye (I lost fifteen friends in this scary wind),' he says.

All set for an all-India release on Aug. 29, the film has already been shown in Canada, United Kingdom and United States. Mann claims politician R.K. Dhawan was greeted with black flags three days ago in Canada by a group of Indians who had seen the film. 'My overseas distributor told me this news and my phone hasn't stopped ringing after this. N.R.I.s have really liked the film.' Mann has played safe by not naming any particular political party or politicians. 'Our endeavour is not to point fingers at individuals. We want the world to debate on what happened in Punjab between 1984 - 1992 so that hate crimes like these don't repeat. We don't want more violence. Why should Gujarat and Kashmir burn like Punjab?' he asks.