Finally ‘Haq’ Delivered To ‘Saada Haq’
There are very few films that manage to create a history even before they are released. Punjabi film Saada Haq is one such film
After facing several rejections, cuts, objections, approvals, the film, that was originally slated for a October 2012 release, is finally set to see the light of the day on May 10. The film, based on the dark days of terrorism in Punjab, has finally got a nod from the Supreme Court and is slated for the nationwide release in coming days. The only condition the court has put up is asking the Censor Board to consider whether the “U” certificate granted to the film can be changed to “A”.
The Punjabi film, Sadda Haq, written and produced by Kuljinder Sidhu, is inspired from the true incidents which led to the creation of terrorists in Punjab and the actual portrayal of the Khalistan movement in India in the 1990s. The plot follows a Canadian researcher who travels to the country to interview the Khalistan militants lodged in the various jails of the state. Through the interviews their tragic lives are revealed, detailing their hardships, the violence and rape that plagued their families at the hands of the police and government machinery.
The film that has already been declared a major hit in the overseas market, including the United States, the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, faced a ban from the Punjab and Haryana governments on the eve of its release. Justifying the ban, the Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal said that movie glorified the Khalistan movement and its leaders thereby posing a threat to the peace and harmony in the state. “It is our priority to maintain peace and communal harmony in the state… we don’t want that the movie should vitiate the communal atmosphere of the state,” Badal said.
It may be recalled that the state of Punjab had witnessed great turbulence during the period of 1980-90’s when a demand of a separate state ‘Khalistan’ was raised by the radical Sikh groups. The movement, the brain child of Sant Jarnail Singh Bhindranwala, had led to the killing of several Sikh youths, in fake encounters by the Punjab police. Later, following the intervention of human rights commission, several other NGOs’ enquiries were conducted into the matter. Many police officers, including Punjab DGP Sumedh Singh Saini, are facing charges for crimes such as torture, murder/extra-judicial killings.
Ironically, while the Punjab government led by the Shiromani Akali Dal had banned the film, terming it prone to the revival of terrorism in the state, the Sikhs’ paramount representative body, Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee, had approved the film following the objection from the Censor Board of Film Certification.
The Censor Board had refused the certification to Sadda Haq after its producer Kuljinder Sidhu, who plays the lead role in the film of a hockey player-turned-militant, rejected its suggestion of deleting 20 scenes which apparently sympathise with the movement. “The movie has huge anti-India sentiment and we wanted some scenes deleted,” a board member had said. However, with a strong backing from the SGPC, the Film Certification Appellate Tribunal overturned the censor board’s decision to ban it.
The song Baghi (rebel), a promotional song for the film Saada Haq, sung by Jazzy B, has generated a lot of controversies. The song that has already gone viral on the internet, following a promotional video released on YouTube, controversially clubs Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh and freedom fighter Bhagat Singh, with militants like Jarnail Singh Bhindranwale and Balwant Singh Rajoana.
The song Baghi (rebel), appears to glorify the militants, but the producers say it simply talks about rebels and does not link or equate any of them. “Guru Gobind Singhji was a rebel at that time. If we talk about today’s rebels, yes Rajoana is a rebel. It’s a song by Jazzy B to promote the movie and we agree with him. We are saying the Sikh community has had rebels from the Guru’s time till the present,” explained producer Kuljinder Sidhu. Balwant Singh Rajoana is on death row at a Patiala jail for the 1995 assassination of former Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh. Bhindranwale was a militant leader who had holed up with his supporters and arms in Amritsar’s Golden Temple in 1984 and fought a pitched battle from there with security forces, till he was killed.
However, following the ban from the Punjab government, SGPC took a U-turn, terming their decision of approving ‘Saada Haq’ a grave mistake. SGPC Chief Avtaar Singh Makkar, believed to be under fire from the SAD, said that the SGPC had committed a “mistake” by supporting the film and its director to get it cleared from the Censor Board. He said they never knew that the film could emerge as a major challenge to the law and order situation in the state. Makkar added that they have even decided that the Sikh organisation would not issue any letter to film-makers in support in the future.
Right from the beginning the film producer Kuljinder Singh Sidhu, whose elder brother Goldie joined the militant ranks and was gunned down by security forces in 1992, has maintained that there was nothing wrong in a movie projecting the viewpoint of a militant when films about criminals, such as Bandit Queen and Once Upon a Time in Mumbai, were allowed.
“From what I have observed, by and large the reason (for militancy) was that people felt injustice was being done to Punjab by successive central governments… I wanted to depict how politicians exploited the situation, gave issues a communal colour and used the policy of divide and rule between communities,” Sidhu said.
Unable to meet the Punjab Chief Minister Parkash Singh Badal and Deputy Chief Minister Sukhbir Singh Badal, the producers knocked at the doors of the apex court. Refusing to take a hurried decision on the ban, a bench comprising Chief Justice Altamas Kabir, Justice Anil R Dave and Justice Vikramajit Sen along with senior counsel Fali Nariman, Rajiv Dhawan, and Additional Solicitor General Rebecca John watched the film, before giving it a go ahead, but with an A certification.
Speaking about the ruling Sidhu said: “We are all overjoyed. Ever since the verdict came, we have been flooded with the congratulatory messages from the well-wishers across the globe. This verdict is a proof that freedom of expression still prevails in our country. This is a landmark judgment which will motivate film-makers across the globe to pick up new subjects for their films.
Meanwhile, according to the trade analysts and film critics, the film is a massive hit in the UK, where it has already generated £ 229,447 [Rs 1.89 crore] till now.
The NRIs’ (following pro-Khalistan ideology) based in Canada, the US and Australia, where the film has been released and amassed huge earnings at the box office, are not only supporting the content but propagating it through all the available mediums. The movie clips are uploaded on Facebook for the people back in India to watch. Special screenings are organised for the people on a daily basis and organisations such as Sikhs for Justice (SFJ) have begun an international crusade in the US and Canada to propagate their cause through the medium of the movie. It is a known fact that despite the end of terrorism in the state the pro- Khalistan feelings have not faded out. The support(though silent) is visible everywhere in the form of images of Jarnail Singh Bhindrawale printed on the T-shirts and back of vehicles on the roads frequently.
The support for the movie gained all the more momentum following the anguish as a result of the rejection of death row clemency petition of Devinder Pal Singh Bhullar, a convict in car bomb blast in Delhi, by the Supreme Court. The unjustified delay (around 30 years) in providing justice to the 1984 riots is already a constant source of anger for the people.
Though the state is divided among two sections already over Saada Haq, one being led by the Sikh groups supporting the movie and the other by the Hindu organisations opposing the movie, the state government is going to have a tough time in maintaining the law and order situation besides the peaceful screening of the film that has generated so much interest.
By Parwinder Sandhu