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The truth is out there

From the 1980s till early 1990s, Punjab was burning in the ashes of what has been recorded as its worst period of loss, tragedy and anarchy. Days seemed like endless nights as the colour of Punjabi soil took on a red hue after mixing with the blood of its own youth, heartlessly wrenching away the warmth of blanket of belongingness that roots provide.

chandigarh Updated: May 11, 2013 09:21 IST
Lovedeep Kaur Sidhu

From the 1980s till early 1990s, Punjab was burning in the ashes of what has been recorded as its worst period of loss, tragedy and anarchy. Days seemed like endless nights as the colour of Punjabi soil took on a red hue after mixing with the blood of its own youth, heartlessly wrenching away the warmth of blanket of belongingness that roots provide.


For those who want to know all that had gone wrong and for those who feel the need to reprise this chapter of history to review the lessons learnt — Sadda Haq is a must watch.

The Punjabi film that was banned a day before its official release on April 5 saw the light of day in theatres across Punjab on Friday, where it opened to packed house inside and police vigil outside. Admirably, it was mostly students who were eager to relook at Punjab’s past from the point of view of the film’s makers.

Sadda Haq begins with the quest of Sharon Gill (played by Dhriti Saharan) to learn about the state’s dark days. Sharon is a student from Canada who is on a short visit to Punjab to research on the topic of her thesis for PhD – minorities at war. Cues lead her to a man named Kartar Singh Baaz, a former hockey player and now termed a ‘terrorist’, who is lodged in Tihar Jail, Delhi. Amidst thunderous applause by the audience, co-producer and lead actor Kuljinder Sidhu makes his entry on screen as Baaz, as he makes a court appearance. Henceforth begins a series of events that take the viewers into flashback as Baaz recalls his transformation from a simple village boy to a radical out to clean the system.

Director Mandeep Benipal is surefooted in his sense of timing and succeeds in striking a fine balance between the precarious past and present, as the story unfolds in the alley of conversation between Baaz and Sharon.

As a young student, Baaz makes the mistake of giving his AK 47-carrying cousin a lift on his scooter and gets spotted by a police informer in the guise of milkman. Baaz and his family’s lives turn a nightmare as the police, lent infinite power by the bosses, including DIG JPS Randhawa, unleashes its dread. With his father dead owing to police atrocity, Baaz is now a staunch enemy of the police force and the system. With no one to call his own, he joins a growing force of extremists who have decided to ‘snatch’ what belongs to the state, including its waters, which have been diverted to other states through the SYL canal.

On the run, Baaz takes up arms and sets out to take revenge, is caught and subjected to unspeakable third-degree torture by the police. But, by now he is man of steely resolve and unshakeable morale. There is reference to Randhawa’s men doing their dirty job without qualms, which includes destroying families, raping women and killing children – all in the name of swiping radicals off the face of Punjab. In the meanwhile, the terror and unjust actions of the police have managed to move some of its own men, including Zorawar Singh, who decide to support their own consciousness than the government.

By now, Baaz, along with like-minded radicals, successfully digs a tunnel and escapes prison to finish one final task — to assassinate the home minister responsible for ordering the police to do the dirty work. The filmmakers’ handling of the issue is objective, which includes the mention of some ‘radicals’ going astray and bringing shame to a students’ movement that was not meant to spread terror. Rishi Singh’s cinematography deserves credit, as does the quality of print. Music by Jatinder Shah, however little, makes for an appropriate background score. There are more new faces than old, whose work is equally credible, though Kuljinder Singh Sidhu undoubtedly scores over all others as Baaz – with an uncanny resemblance to the character of Balwant Singh Rajoana, prime accused convicted for the assassination of Beant Singh in 1995.

A chilling reminder of the consequences of clamping down on minorities, Sadda Haq slacks in the second half, only to rise to a goose bumps-inducing climax. For all those who believe mindless comedy is what Pollywood is worthy of, Sadda Haq makes a point like an accomplished lawyer.