Controversy Strikes as Diljit Dosanjh's 'Punjab 95' Gets Pulled from Toronto Film Festival Premiere!

Controversy Strikes as Diljit Dosanjh's 'Punjab 95' Gets Pulled from Toronto Film Festival Premiere

‘Punjab 95’ Starring Diljit Dosanjh Removed from Toronto Film Festival Premiere Amid Political Controversy”


The anticipated world premiere of the much-anticipated film ‘Punjab 95’, starring the versatile Diljit Dosanjh, has taken an unexpected turn as its removed from Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) lineup. The film, which shines a light on the life and endeavours of Indian human rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra, has been embroiled in a whirlwind of controversy, raising questions about political influences and artistic freedom.


In the realm of cinema, where narratives intertwine with the threads of history, the highly anticipated ‘Punjab 95’ was poised to make an indelible mark on the prestigious Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) stage. Starring the charismatic Diljit Dosanjh and inspired by the remarkable journey of Indian human rights activist Jaswant Singh Khalra, the film’s impending world premiere in the Gala Presentations strand on September 11 held the promise of a cinematic triumph.


However, the stage was abruptly altered, leaving cinephiles and industry insiders in a state of bewilderment. The festival’s spotlight, which had initially shone brightly on ‘Punjab 95’, dimmed as the film was unceremoniously removed from the TIFF lineup. The removal of any mention of ‘Punjab 95’ from the festival’s official website has added an air of mystery to the situation, leaving enthusiasts to speculate about the underlying reasons for this unexpected manoeuvre. A festival spokesperson’s confirmation to Screen left questions unanswered, a vacuum of information that only intensified the intrigue surrounding the decision.


The journey of ‘Punjab 95’ to the precipice of its premiere had been a turbulent one, marked by hurdles and heartaches. The film’s path to certification was a protracted affair, spanning a painstaking six-month period. As the film’s creators navigated the intricate maze of approvals, the narrative underwent a metamorphosis, emerging with 21 strategic edits and a rebranded identity as “Punjab ’95.”


Yet, the allure of ‘Punjab 95’ was coupled with controversy, hinting at a storm brewing beneath the surface. Whispers of political forces at play circulated, shedding light on the intersection of art and power. However, delving into the depths of these influences remained a challenging endeavour, the specifics veiled in a shroud of secrecy.


The origin story of ‘Punjab 95’, is rooted in historical echoes that reverberated through time. The film’s canvas was etched with the tragic Sikh massacres of 1746, 1762, and 1984, forming a poignant backdrop to the struggles and sacrifices of the Sikh community. The film’s narrative, weaving together the events of 1984, brought forth the powerful saga of Jaswant Singh Khalra, who, in the face of adversity, dared to unravel the truth behind the mass cremations of unidentified bodies in Punjab.


The canvas of ‘Punjab 95’ extended beyond its storytelling prowess to encompass the broader tapestry of politics and identity. Canada, the stage upon which TIFF unfolded, boasted a substantial Sikh population, adding another layer of complexity to the narrative. The removal of ‘Punjab 95’ from the TIFF lineup appeared to resonate with larger forces at play, casting a spotlight on the delicate interplay between creative expression, diplomatic considerations, and societal narratives.


The saga of ‘Punjab 95’ took a legal turn as RSVP Movies, led by the visionary producer Ronnie Screwvala, lodged an appeal against the Central Board of Film Certification’s (CBFC) decision. The film, poised to delve into the annals of history with the likes of Arjun Rampal and Suvinder Vicky in prominent roles, encapsulated the spirit of exploration, aiming to dissect and understand the past.


While ‘Punjab 95’ may have been removed from the TIFF lineup, its journey is far from over. The clash of artistry and politics, the quest for truth amidst controversy, and the perseverance of creators and activists alike continue to fuel the narrative. As legal battles unfold and the complex dance of power and creativity plays out, the story of ‘Punjab 95’ remains a poignant reminder of the resilience of the human spirit and the intricate web of forces that shape our narratives.


Creating films centred around historical events holds a paramount significance in our world, and ‘Punjab 95’ stands as a poignant example of this importance. These cinematic narratives serve as powerful vessels that ferry the past into the present, bridging gaps in knowledge and allowing generations to access and understand pivotal moments that have shaped our collective journey. By showcasing ‘Punjab 95’ to a global audience, we not only preserve the lesser-known history of Jaswant Singh Khalra’s heroic endeavours but also empower artistic freedom.


Filmmakers become storytellers, breathing life into forgotten tales, shedding light on unsung heroes, and challenging us to reflect upon the lesson’s history has to offer. Through the lens of artistic expression, ‘Punjab 95’ becomes a mirror reflecting our past, a guiding light for our present, and a compass pointing towards a more informed and enlightened future. The release of ‘Punjab 95’ is not merely about entertainment; it’s about honouring history, preserving memory and fostering a deeper understanding of our shared human experience. – “History is not just a record of the past, but a guide for the future.”


The initially reported on Screen.


Check out Desi Rush’s article on the film Punjab 95

Punjab '95': Diljit Dosanjh plays Human Rights Activist Jaswant Singh Khalra in Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) 2023 Premiere