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31st October will bring out truth about 1984 riots, says director

The film on the anti-Sikh riots features Soha Ali Khan and Vir Das in the lead.


A poster of 31st October


31st October — a film based on the anti-Sikh riots after the 1984 assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi — is ready for release after the hassles with the censor board. The film is touted as revealing the truth behind the anti-Sikh riots. 31st October features Soha Ali Khan and Vir Das in the lead.

The 1984 riots created a unilateral impression in India about the riots that followed the assassination of Indira Gandhi by her two Sikh bodyguards, but the film's director Harry Sachdeva says 31st October will bring other aspects of the riots before the viewers. 

Asked why he decided to make a film on this controversial subject, Sachdeva said: "We all have been hearing about the 1984 riots. The aim behind making this film is to bring out the truth of riots. Till now no film has been made on this subject. So, I am glad that I will present this kind of a film to the audience for the first time."

Usually the films based on true events require a lot of hard work. Something similar was done during the production of 31st October.

"We met the widows of the 1984 riots during our visit to the widows' colony in Delhi. They told us their stories. We met the journalists who covered the riots. Our goal is to show the reality of the riots to everyone. Today's youth should know the truth. We want to give a positive message through it." 

The film has been screened at various international film festivals like Vancouver International Film Festival and Toronto Film Festival, among others. The kind of response it has got is quite encouraging, says Sachdeva. 

"Research related to the film took 16 to 18 months. It was not easy to meet the people who witnessed and survived the 1984 riots. A lot of these people have fled the country. A lot of them have died. We met journalists of that time and gathered all the facts. The script was written in six months. The film's shooting took almost a year," Sachdeva said. 

The film has been tagged by many as against the Congress party, but Sachdeva says 31st October is not at all an anti-Congress film. 

He said: "This film is the story of a night. What happened after the assassination of Indira Gandhi? How a Sikh family in the attacks protects itself, the film tells that story." 

Making a film like this is not easy. Sachdeva said: "When we built the film's set in Ludhiana, it was broken in the night. Post that, we asked for police protection and then completed the shooting of the film. People don't know the whole truth about the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, when Sikhs were said to have been attacked by Hindus. Sachdeva says it is not the whole truth as many Hindus also saved the Sikhs during the riots."

"We met Hindus who saved various Sikhs that night. We even got in touch with those who have shifted to Canada and the US through e-mail," Sachdeva added.

Anand Prakash, who has co-produced the film, said that the censor board feared that the release of the film might lead to much controversy. 

"That's why they asked us to make 40 cuts in the film. After a long deadlock, the film finally got approved with nine cuts. We felt from the beginning that we will not delete those scenes from the movie that will end its impact," Prakash said. 

"People somehow have this fear that the film is against Congress. However, it is not. We have showed truth in the film about 1984 riots. 

"I really loved Soha's work in Rang De Basanti and that's the main reason why she is a part of our film. When Soha read the story of the film, she got emotional and quickly said yes," Prakash said. 

The film has been shot extensively in Ludhiana, Delhi and Mumbai. 

Though the film's subject is controversial and there is a possibility that after its release 31st October may yet face controversy, Prakash said: "We do not fear controversies. That will continue to happen. Even if we do a good job, then also people would criticise us."

"People want to see movies based on true events. Such films have a class. The movie may be released on October 3 or 7. Hopefully the release of the film will change people's perception about the 1984 riots," Prakash added.