Shaheed Bhagat Singh on Celluloid

Jagmohan Singh

This is to bring to attention our concerns about the 5 films on Shaheed Bhagat Singh. After watching the films, it is clear that the films have committed a grave distortion of history. This distortion runs on two grounds.

Historical Distortion

This distortion follows a communal line in the film of Raj Kumar Santoshi by the following.

The glaring absence of Shaheed Ashfaqullah Khan: who was main planner in the Kakori train robbery with Ram Prasad Bismil and Chandrashekar Azad. As known to all Indians, Shaheed Ashfaqullah was martyred along with Ram Prasad Bismil. Upon his death, Shaheed Bhagat wrote the following message from Ram Prasad Bismil, which expresses the close association between them: ‘The British Government has said Shri Ashfaqulla Khan is my right hand .... I have proved that Muslim youth is equally patriotic and now no one should dare to say that Muslims cannot be believed. Dear Ashfaque ... You have saved my honour and that too of whole Muslim community. My request to the Indians is that to forge unity rising above religious sentiments’.

Shahid Bhagat Singh carried this message from Kakori from Ram Prasad Bismil. But this omission is an indication to the cunning way to falsify the historical principles which were the basis of freedom struggle. This had been missed in all the three films including Shahid-I-Azam. It is shocking that such a crucial protagonist in the film, which spends a lot of time on the Kakori incidence should not be shown or mentioned in the film at all.

Deliberately not showing the role of Justice Aga Haider: He was the only the Indian on the special tribunal in the Lahore Conspiracy Case. He resigned from the tribunal seeing the injustice meted out in the case and Shahid Bhagat Singh. The film does not show this at all, though it shows the case and Justice Haider sitting with the British judges. His crucial role has been completely deleted.

The Deol’s film shows Lala Lajpat Rai as the leader of the Gadar party, when it is well known that he had nothing to do with the revolutionary Gadar movement. The leaders of the Gadar movement were Lala Hardayal, Barkatullah and others. Lala Lajpat Rai was a Congress leader, who later on joined the Hindu Mahashaba. This is a complete falsification.

In the Deol’s film there are more historical distortions and they have not taken care of historical facts for example the Dussehra lighting with the bullets, which is a false event. They have shown Shaheed Bhagat Singh as a trigger happy young man. His stand toward terrorism, violence and his basic rejection of them has not been shown and is therefore misleading the masses. Most of the courts have been shown as imaginary, with the incorrect details and number of judges etc.

Cultural Distortion

Inventing new historical characters in the fiancée of Shaheed Bhagat Singh: It is widely known that Shaheed Bhagat Singh was never engage to be married. For the films to show him like this is propagation of falsehood about his personal life.

The Santoshi film shows the non existent ritual of the would be bride’s family bringing the bride to bridegroom Bhagat Singh’s home even before the engagement has been finalized and the couple meeting in dairy farms etc. This is incorrect according to the culture of the Punjab, along with being a false event

Reinforcing of caste and communal prejudices: The film throughout depicts Chandrashekhar Azad as being addressed as ‘Panditji’ by his otherwise socialist revolutionary colleagues. It is well known that he took on the Urdu pen name ‘Azad’ and his group of revolutionaries were committed to eschewing of caste and communalism. It is false to depict him being addressed as Panditji in most of the whole film, a deliberate attempt to reinforce his caste and communal identity, which he himself and his colleagues eschewed.

No attempts to show Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s stand on issues closest to him especially, his stand on the Dalit issue, on Communalism, anti-imperialism and his belief in the rule of the 90% for the 90%, i.e. socialism.

Not showing his qualities as a human being: Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s qualities and what moulded him as a human being have not been represented. He was the product of a composite culture, including Sufi, Arya Samaji and Sikh. Showing him as a fundamentalist Sikh is the biggest distortion in both the films, especially in the Deol’s film. It has to be reiterated that Shaheed Bhagat Singh was not the product of monoculture and the relevance of the composite culture should have been stated. Shaheed Bhagat Singh’s fervour for Urdu poetry in hundreds of his writings has not been shown at all, including his last Sufi poetry message to his brother, though the events have been allotted a lot of time in the films. If ever we miss Bhagat Singh in totality, we miss the composite culture, which created him.

I appeal to all Indians to save Shaheed Bhagat Singh from these distortions.

When we at the Shaheed Bhagat Singh Research Committee had forewarned the Information and Broadcasting Ministry and the Film Certification Board about these distortions, why were 11 days spent on 1 film and less than 1 on others? Why were these distorted versions approved? We would like an explanation to the public what were the principles applied in the certification of these films?

We appeal to the MPs, citizens and activists to evoke article 51A of the Indian constitution. This binds all Indians to perform the fundamental duty of maintaining and fighting for the principles for which the freedom struggle stood, namely democracy, social justice and secularism. These films have distorted these principles by deliberately hiding the composite nature of the struggle and changing facts. We must perform our constitutional duty by conserving these principles. We must come out in defence of our own fundamental duties.

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