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Brave, talented Film-maker

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

One of the starkest films that was screened at the recently concluded Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) was director Teenaa Kaur Pasricha’s ‘1984, When the Sun Didn’t Rise’. The documentary depicts the plight of the Sikh widows whose husbands were massacred in the riots that followed the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards that year. Teenaa, who belong to the Sikh community, was just a child living in Ajmer, Rajasthan when the riots took place but members of her family including an uncle were humiliated and traumatised during that awful period. The fact that an entire community could be victimised, haunted her during her growing up years and she decided to discover the reality for herself. So, for a considerable period Teenaa filmed the widows of Delhi’s Widow Colony and their offspring, relying on their personal testimony of those horrific days between October 31 and November 3, 1984. She also bravely interviewed a politician, one of the main accused in the massacre, and gave him a space in the film, even though, as she says, he initially put the State machinery on her trail. What did she discover? “We are living in precarious times. Violence happens all over the world, but when you deny that a part of your history, then it is bound to be repeated as happened subsequently in Godhra, Kasganj and numerous other places,” says Pasricha. The filmmaker says that while the Sikh widows were certainly compensated monetarily, they were left out of the mainstream for a number of reasons including their own lack of education and now feel like castaways. But there’s a bright side too. Teenaa feels that by spending her time and resources (she has funded most of the film from her own finances) “I’ve become a better human being by standing up for truth and justice”. And she also discovered a number of stories of people whose lives were saved from the rampaging mobs by their neighbours and communities, a ray of light amid the encircling gloom of that time.

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