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Explained: Why Diljit Dosanjh's 'Punjab '95' Won't Be Premiering at TIFF

Diljit Dosanjh's 'Punjab '95' was earlier scheduled for its premiere as a gala representation at TIFF 2023.

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Diljit Dosanjh's upcoming biographical drama, Punjab '95, which was earlier scheduled to make its premiere as a gala representation at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) 2023, has reportedly been removed from the lineup.

Helmed by Honey Trehan, the film is based on the life of human rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra and "uncovers the murderous corruption during Punjab’s period of insurgency".

Why was Punjab '95 removed from the lineup? What does TIFF have to say about the changes? And why is Diljit Dosanjh's film creating a buzz? The Quint explains.

Explained: Why Diljit Dosanjh's 'Punjab '95' Won't Be Premiering at TIFF

  1. 1. Why 'Punjab '95' Won't be Premiered at TIFF?

    Diljit Dosanjh's 'Punjab '95' was earlier scheduled for its premiere as a gala representation at TIFF 2023.

    Diljit Dosanjh and Geetika Vidya Ohlyan in a still from the film.

    (Photo Courtesy: Instagram)

    The news of the film's removal was first confirmed by TIFF's customer relations via X (formerly known as Twitter) on 13 August.

    In response to an X user's query (the post has now been deleted) about Punjab '95, TIFF responded, "Hello Belle, We can confirm that the filmmaking team of Punjab 95 made the decision to withdraw from the TIFF 2023 lineup."

    Take a look at the post here:

    However, the film's makers and its production house, RSVP, are yet to comment on the same. 

    Meanwhile, a source told Variety that "there are political forces at play" that have contributed to the film's removal from TIFF. As per reports, Canada has the second-largest Sikh population in the world after India.

    The official website for the festival no longer has any mention of Dosanjh's film, either.

    Expand
  2. 2. What Makes Diljit Dosanjh's Film Controversial?

    Diljit Dosanjh's 'Punjab '95' was earlier scheduled for its premiere as a gala representation at TIFF 2023.

    Arjun Rampal in a still from Punjab '95.

    (Photo Courtesy: Instagram)

    Punjab '95 was earlier titled Ghallughara, which is a historic term used to refer to the massacre of Sikhs in 1746, 1762, and 1984. As per reports, the film's certification process in India took over six months.

    • In late 2022, the makers applied for the film's certification at India’s Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).

    • However, in 2023, the CBFC reportedly granted an 'A' certificate to the film and suggested 21 cuts, including a change of title to Punjab '95.

    • As per reports, RSVP Films' Ronnie Screwvala had appealed to the Bombay High Court under Section 5C of the Cinematograph Act against the CBFC's demands.

    In the appeal, the makers challenged the demanded cuts on the grounds of violation of Article 19 (1)(a) of the Constitution of India. Although the film was cleared by the CBFC with 21 cuts and a change of title, the Bombay High Court's decision on the same is still pending.
    • According to a report by the Hindustan Times, the CBFC demanded 21 cuts over certain parts and dialogues of the film that were "provocative and communal" in nature.

    • The Censor Board further reportedly stated that the film could "affect India's sovereignty as well as its relations with foreign states".

    Punjab '95 is written by Tehran, Niren Bhatt, and Utsav Maitra and stars Dosanjh as human rights activist Jaswant Singh Kalra. The film also features Arjun Rampal, Suvinder Vicky, and Varun Badola in pivotal roles.

    Expand
  3. 3. Who Was Jaswant Singh Khalra?

    Diljit Dosanjh's 'Punjab '95' was earlier scheduled for its premiere as a gala representation at TIFF 2023.

    (L to R): Jaswant Singh Kalra; Diljit Dosanjh as Jaswant Singh Khalra in Punjab '95.

    (Photo Courtesy: Twitter)

    Jaswant Singh Khalra was a prominent Sikh human rights activist who gained international recognition for his research concerning 25,000 illegal killings and cremations reportedly involving the Punjab police during the insurgency period in Punjab from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s.

    • In June 1984, many in the Sikh community were outraged by the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's order to conduct an army operation against militants at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, a sacred site for Sikhs.

    • The operation later came to be known as Operation Blue Star.

    • After Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguard in October 1984, it sparked anti-Sikh riots throughout northern India.

    • At the time, Khalra reportedly investigated the alleged fake encounters of Sikh youth and the cremation of thousands of unidentified bodies in Punjab.

    According to Ishtiaq Ahmed's book 'The Politics of Religion in South and Southeast Asia', Khalra also claimed in his research that the Punjab police executed about 2,000 police officers who refused to cooperate during the insurgency.
    • Before his disappearance, Khalra was last seen in September 1995, washing his car in Amritsar.

    • A decade later, six police officers were convicted and sentenced to imprisonment in 2005 for Khalra's abduction and murder.

    After a comprehensive investigation, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Supreme Court observed that the Punjab police did kill several youths under the guise of being militants.

    (With inputs from Variety, Screen, ET Canada, and Hindustan Times)

    (At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

    Expand

Why 'Punjab '95' Won't be Premiered at TIFF?

Diljit Dosanjh's 'Punjab '95' was earlier scheduled for its premiere as a gala representation at TIFF 2023.

Diljit Dosanjh and Geetika Vidya Ohlyan in a still from the film.

(Photo Courtesy: Instagram)

The news of the film's removal was first confirmed by TIFF's customer relations via X (formerly known as Twitter) on 13 August.

In response to an X user's query (the post has now been deleted) about Punjab '95, TIFF responded, "Hello Belle, We can confirm that the filmmaking team of Punjab 95 made the decision to withdraw from the TIFF 2023 lineup."

Take a look at the post here:

However, the film's makers and its production house, RSVP, are yet to comment on the same. 

Meanwhile, a source told Variety that "there are political forces at play" that have contributed to the film's removal from TIFF. As per reports, Canada has the second-largest Sikh population in the world after India.

The official website for the festival no longer has any mention of Dosanjh's film, either.

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What Makes Diljit Dosanjh's Film Controversial?

Diljit Dosanjh's 'Punjab '95' was earlier scheduled for its premiere as a gala representation at TIFF 2023.

Arjun Rampal in a still from Punjab '95.

(Photo Courtesy: Instagram)

Punjab '95 was earlier titled Ghallughara, which is a historic term used to refer to the massacre of Sikhs in 1746, 1762, and 1984. As per reports, the film's certification process in India took over six months.

  • In late 2022, the makers applied for the film's certification at India’s Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).

  • However, in 2023, the CBFC reportedly granted an 'A' certificate to the film and suggested 21 cuts, including a change of title to Punjab '95.

  • As per reports, RSVP Films' Ronnie Screwvala had appealed to the Bombay High Court under Section 5C of the Cinematograph Act against the CBFC's demands.

In the appeal, the makers challenged the demanded cuts on the grounds of violation of Article 19 (1)(a) of the Constitution of India. Although the film was cleared by the CBFC with 21 cuts and a change of title, the Bombay High Court's decision on the same is still pending.
  • According to a report by the Hindustan Times, the CBFC demanded 21 cuts over certain parts and dialogues of the film that were "provocative and communal" in nature.

  • The Censor Board further reportedly stated that the film could "affect India's sovereignty as well as its relations with foreign states".

Punjab '95 is written by Tehran, Niren Bhatt, and Utsav Maitra and stars Dosanjh as human rights activist Jaswant Singh Kalra. The film also features Arjun Rampal, Suvinder Vicky, and Varun Badola in pivotal roles.

0

Who Was Jaswant Singh Khalra?

Diljit Dosanjh's 'Punjab '95' was earlier scheduled for its premiere as a gala representation at TIFF 2023.

(L to R): Jaswant Singh Kalra; Diljit Dosanjh as Jaswant Singh Khalra in Punjab '95.

(Photo Courtesy: Twitter)

Jaswant Singh Khalra was a prominent Sikh human rights activist who gained international recognition for his research concerning 25,000 illegal killings and cremations reportedly involving the Punjab police during the insurgency period in Punjab from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s.

  • In June 1984, many in the Sikh community were outraged by the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi's order to conduct an army operation against militants at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, a sacred site for Sikhs.

  • The operation later came to be known as Operation Blue Star.

  • After Gandhi was assassinated by her Sikh bodyguard in October 1984, it sparked anti-Sikh riots throughout northern India.

  • At the time, Khalra reportedly investigated the alleged fake encounters of Sikh youth and the cremation of thousands of unidentified bodies in Punjab.

According to Ishtiaq Ahmed's book 'The Politics of Religion in South and Southeast Asia', Khalra also claimed in his research that the Punjab police executed about 2,000 police officers who refused to cooperate during the insurgency.
  • Before his disappearance, Khalra was last seen in September 1995, washing his car in Amritsar.

  • A decade later, six police officers were convicted and sentenced to imprisonment in 2005 for Khalra's abduction and murder.

After a comprehensive investigation, the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) and the Supreme Court observed that the Punjab police did kill several youths under the guise of being militants.

(With inputs from Variety, Screen, ET Canada, and Hindustan Times)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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