Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Widow Colony (2005) - Review



The 29th death anniversary of Indira Gandhi [November 19, 1917 - October 31, 1984] yet again sparks off horrid memories of the 1984 Sikh massacre carried out in the National Capital. As I watch The Widow ColonyI'm reminded of all the stories I'd heard about the killings as a kid, the details of which were obviously kept away. 

The 73-minute documentary, directed by Harpreet Kaur, is a stirring account of the survivors of the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom - the story of their survival, of their pain of witnessing their loved ones succumb to death, of their fight for justice, even 29 years after. The film exposes shocking details of the events that transpired in the course of three days, from October 31 to November 2 in Delhi and other cities that year, events that took place unabashedly in broad daylight, events that took place in the presence and knowledge of the government and the law enforcement agencies and yet all played oblivion, events that will go down in the history of democratic India as indescribably shameful and inhuman.

The documentary which has screened and won at various film festivals abroad, gets its title from a Sikh settlement colony in Delhi - Tilak Vihar, that's now home to the widows (from Tilak Vihar and nearby localities) of the '84 event. 

Indira Gandhi's assassination (triggered by Operation Blue Star) on October 31, 1984, by her two Sikh bodyguards set the stage for these ''organized, deliberate'' mass killings of the Sikhs. The mayhem continued three days. Thousands of Sikhs were killed. Media and govt reported figures were way below.

It's sad how most of our generation, which actively raises its voice on various everyday issues, seems totally unaware of this event. If they must read about India's partition, they must as much read about this. Apparently the government doesn't want its people to know, to read about this shameful episode. Neither have too many filmmakers touched this subject. One film that brought it up was the critically-acclaimed Amu in 2005, which again not many are aware of. [I have reviewed it here]. Shonali Bose, the director had a tough time releasing it. Eventually the film was released on DVD in 2008, after a lot of cuts and censors, with the Board explaining its A rating with "why should young people know a history that is best buried and forgotten."