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Indian Activist Drama Punjab ’95 Removed from Toronto Film Festival

Date: 2023-08-16

Indian Activist Drama Punjab ’95 Removed from Toronto Film Festival

The feature drama that was set to receive its world premiere in the Gala Presentations of the Toronto Film Festival (TIFF) in September is confirmed to be no longer part of the programme. By: Theng Min Yee

Indian director Honey Trehan’s activist drama Punjab ’95 has been pulled out from the list of premiering films at TIFF. The festival stated that it would not give further comments on the reasons behind its withdrawal.

The drama is based on a true story about a renowned human-rights activist, Khalra, who discovered evidence of the abduction, murder, and cremation of more than 25,000 Sikhs by the police during the militancy period in Punjab from 1984 to 1994. Khalra disappeared in September 1995 and six Punjab police officers were convicted for his murder, a decade later. The lead role of Khalra is played by singer-actor Diljit Dosanjh.

For several months, the drama’s subject matter has incited censorship battles in India. Mumbai-based production company RSVP Movies applied for a censor certificate from India’s Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) in December 2022, but a decision was delayed for six months.

On July 4, the film received a certification with an A grade (restricted to adults aged 18+), accompanied by orders which demanded 21 cuts and alteration of dialogue. The CBFC stated that some parts of the film could spur violence, and potentially radicalise Sikh youth. The organisation also raised concerns of the film affecting the integrity of India and its relations with foreign states.

RSVP Movies, led by prominent producer Ronnie Screwvala, has filed an appeal with the Bombay High Court over the decision but it is understood that a verdict has yet to be reached.

The controversial film is the second feature of Indian director Honey Trehan after Netflix film Raat Akeli Hai in 2020. Its cast includes Bollywood star Arjun Rampal and Suvinder Vicky, who recently gained popularity through Netflix crime series Kohrra.

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