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A healing riot



Shashi Kumar.

SASHI KUMAR'S Kaya Taran has finally happened this Friday, and in this season of riot-based films, the director is happy about the chrysalis filmmakers, distributors and audiences have gone through vis-a-vis the subject. Based on the 1984 Sikh riots, the film bridges the gap between activism and healing - a gap always widened by mainstream cinema - by moving beyond the violent part to touch the conscience of the people. Sashi calls it a conscious effort.

"Violence has been exploited in all its forms in the commercial cinema. Here the effort is to touch the conscience."

In a country that boasts of free press and cinematic liberties, it is strange that filmmakers take decades to comment on flagrant violations of human rights and values. "It is true, particularly in the case of the 1984 riots. Though in the commercial format, Kashmir, Assam, Mumbai riots, all have been framed. You don't find anything about 1984 even in literature, perhaps with the honourable exception of Amitava Ghosh. All around, the effort has been to sweep the issue under the carpet. As for my case, the concept was with me since the `90s but being a journalist I could not find an entry point into the medium."

The 2002-Gujarat riots, however, proved the decisive point, and Sashi started working on the "cathartic exercise."

The film stars Seema Biswas and Angad Bedi in the lead roles, with a notable performance by Neelambari Bhattacharya, great- granddaughter of EMS Namboodiripad, as the young Sikh protagonist.

"In Seema I found a great actor who could wrap herself in the character. She wanted to play a nun's role and my film provided her the opportunity. For Angad's character, I was a bit apprehensive, as I was looking for somebody who could look a bit nervous and vulnerable. The best performance, however, has come from Neelambari. She didn't give a single opportunity for retake."

Sringar Films has released the film in four theatres in Mumbai and one each in Delhi and Cochin. "In the next round they are planning to release it in Kolkata and Chandigarh. I would like the film to be released in smaller towns as well, but for now it is a far cry," says Sashi Kumar.

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