Diljit Dosanjh talks Jogi and anti-Sikh riots: ‘The right word is genocide’

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Jogi actor and singer Diljit Dosanjh opens up about the 1984 anti-Sikh riots and the importance of telling the toughest stories through film.

The anti-Sikh riots of 1984 are among the darkest periods in modern Indian history; a period of immense violence, discrimination and fragility. Estimates of the death toll from the riots in the Sikh community range between 3,350 and 8,000 people in the violence that followed the assassination of Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards in 1984.

This week, Netflix released a film titled Jogi starring Dosanjh and directed by Ali Abbas Zafar, which tells the story of a Sikh college student caught in the middle of a riot. Dosanjh and Zafar understand the importance of a film like Jogi all too well, as is evident in the lead actor’s call for the riots to be recognized as “genocide”.

Diljit Dosanjh opens up about the movie Jogi

Dosanjh told the Press Trust of India that the 1984 anti-Sikh riots should be remembered in history as “genocide” rather than independent riots.

“We shouldn’t call it a riot, the right word is genocide.” When there is a two-sided struggle between people, then it is a rebellion. I think it should be called genocide. It’s not like it happened to one or a few people. I know it happened collectively, with all of us.” – Diljit Dosanjh, via PTI

Dosanjh added: “If I talk about some incidents, it will be personal. In the film, we talk about it collectively. I’ve been hearing about it since I was born and we still live with it. We all heard a lot of stories and couldn’t believe that something like this could happen in life. But anything can happen.”

“This is not a new story. This movie [Jogi] they also talk about the same things we grew up with. Whatever happened is here for everyone. We have always sent a positive message…cinema is a medium where we make cheerful and entertaining films. But we should also make films on such subjects from history.” – Diljit Dosanjh, via Koimoi

Director Jogi Ali Abbas Zafar recently sat down with Telegraph India and shared Dosanjh’s initial reaction to the film. Zafar said, “When he heard the story, he was silent for a while. He did not ask any questions because he was aware that these cases happened to people.

“He and I were born around the same time as the riots. We weren’t alive at that time…we were too young. But we heard stories of people who suffered. There are many such stories which are set in the fictional story of Jogi. He could identify with them.” – Ali Abbas Zafar, via Telegraph India

The veteran filmmaker added, “I didn’t have to make any effort to convince [Dosanjh to join the film]. He comes from a place where he knows how much responsibility he has for this film, how much he is responsible for the people who went through this experience.”

The director explains the importance of Jogi’s story

Zafar further stated how important a film like Jogi is to the modern Indian film industry, which is dominated by fantasy and superhero stories.

“When you read or research any tragedy in the history of the world — whether it’s the First and Second World Wars, the partition of the country or the 1984 riots — there are some horrific stories,” he said.

“At that time one tends to question human instinct… how can things change so drastically and so quickly? How can a person who was your friend suddenly turn into an enemy? – Ali Abbas Zafar, via Telegraph India

Set in such violent and historical times, Yogi aims to “make people understand that in the midst of so much chaos, you can still find people who hold humanity together, no matter where they come from or what their identity is.”

“Cases like what you will see in Jogi have actually happened. We gathered all this information and weaved a fictional story around it. But the core of the film is the idea that one should not abandon love and hope. Everyone who came on board to make this movie worked on just that. When people walk away from the film, we hope they feel that no matter what happens, love will win in the end.” – Ali Abbas Zafar, via Telegraph India

Zafar would also acknowledge that Dosanjh is at the heart, not of the story, but of the film’s development and progression, resulting in the final finished product we can stream on Netflix today.

“Yogi is a story about finding hope in the midst of chaos. From there the germ of the film was born. We were lucky that Diljit (Dosanjh) came on board because there is no one better than him to bring this story together. Today Jogi is Jogi because of him.” – Ali Abbas Zafar, via Telegraph India

By Tom Llewellyn – [email protected]

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