Diljit Dosanjh-starrer Jogi released last Friday to critical acclaim and praise from viewers. The film, which tells a fictional story set around the anti-Sikh violence in Delhi in 1984, has been applauded for its realism and sensitivity as well as Diljit’s performance.
The film’s director Ali Abbas Zafar says the film would have been impossible without its leading man. In conversation with Hindustan Times, Ali talks about Diljit, the genesis of Jogi, and the challenges of making it.
Most of the films around 1984 riots have been made in Punjabi cinema and consequently set in Punjab, even though it was Delhi that saw large-scale violence against the Sikh community that year. Ali, who studied in Delhi University and lived in the city, talks about the choice of setting Jogi in the national capital.
“Actually, the epicentre was very much Delhi. Our story is set in the three days after October 31 (the assassination of PM Indira Gandhi). You pick up any research and you will find out what happened in those three days. My co-writer Sukhmani Sadana is a Sikh so she had a lot of stories from her family and close associates. That is how we began writing the story,” he says.
Jogi can be a difficult film to watch because of its bold depiction of communal violence. It never gets gory but does get uncomfortable. Talking about balancing the brutality of the event and the sensitivity needed to portray it,
Ali says, “When you pick up subjects like this, you have to bring forward your sensitive side. In any piece of art that is done around something that is a murder of humanity, things like the World Wars, Partition, ’84, you need to be sensible enough to create an atmosphere where people feel the emotions rather than look for the visuals.
Even in Jogi, our first idea was to create an atmosphere where people understand what happened to a community. It’s very psychological. It is visual but it has to hit you deep in your gut and you feel within those 15 minutes how drastically the situation has changed. The storytelling is for the emotion and not voyeuristic.”