Date: 9/13/2003


............`Hawayein`: Anti-Sikh riots on screen

Kashmir and Pakistan make successful subjects on the silver screen, but writer, director and actor Ammtoje Mann has chosen another theme for his new movie. Hawayein is all about the brutal hate that swept the streets of Delhi and its neighbourhood following the assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. The movie is released worldwide.

Ammtoje Mann, feeling restricted to portray "empty anti-Pakistan rhetoric", has crafted Hawayein which he says depicts Punjab's unrest, the 1984 anti-Sikh carnage, its trigger, and its aftermath in multi-dimensional ways.

The film, Mann told newspersons, also shows circumstances that forced some Sikhs to go for the gun, but at the same time it does demarcate terrorists from victims of injustice.

The film brochure shows a much criticised remark of then newly-installed Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi on the anti-Sikh violence that broke out after his mother's assassination and the movie, Mann said, has one character representing several politicians accused of stirring anti-Sikh passions after October 31, 1984.

But the timing of the movie release in the capital ahead of November Assembly elections in Delhi is a mere co-incidence, he claimed.

"We also received several proposals from different groupings and political parties about their support, but we rejected them all because we did not want to give any political colour to our work which is based on extensive research." Hawayein also touches upon police role in restive Punjab.

"The movie cannot be said to have achieved its objective without a character resembling Punjab Police chief K P S Gill," he added while claiming the film has split apart numerous strands entwining together the trouble in the state, Operation Blue Star, Mrs Gandhi's assassination, the anti-Sikh massacre and gross human rights violations in Punjab.

Mann has based his movie on first-hand experience. "I have seen it myself how police would pick innocent youths in Punjab. In Delhi, I met a number of victims of the 1984 violence. And I think, not much has changed over the past 20 years," he said while drawing similarities between the anti-Sikh riots and last year's communal violence in Gujarat.

Hawayein covers a period from September 1984 to 1992, though trouble in Punjab began as early as 1978. "Operation Blue Star in June 1984 led to the assassination of Mrs Gandhi, but we cannot show the Golden Temple on sets. Nor have we shown the attack on the then Prime Minister. We have also avoided giving a specific identifying getup to the politician inciting anti-Sikh violence because that would have narrowed the entire subject of the movie," Mann said.

A burning tyre round the neck of a Sikh did invite little official cut, but otherwise the movie got the Censor Board's clearance to the surprise of producers Nippy Dhanoa, Baldev Bhatti, Babbu Mann and Amrinder Singh.

"It's doing a wonderful business overseas," claimed the director who puts the film budget at around Rs 25 crore.

However, he agrees it was a big risk. "We did take a huge amount of risk, but seeing the audience response we can say the film will do good business."

Hawayein is not completely devoid of Pakistan's role in fanning trouble in Punjab. "It does show -- but in a realistic way -- Pakistan's aims to carve a route to Kashmir through Khalistan," Ammtoje Mann said.

There are tinges of romance too in the film dealing with a serious subject. "It's not a romance story but a story with some romance." The movie is released in Delhi, parts of UP, Maharashtra, Chhattisgarh, Hyderabad and Rajasthan,and the rest of the world.