Months after Bollywood flick Udta Punjab, a film highlighting the drug menace in Punjab, created ruffles across the country for the right as well as for wrong reasons, another film Journey of Punjab 2016 is all set for release by November end. Made on a limited budget, the Punjabi flick may not evoke the same response as Udta Punjab, but behind the camera, it holds the pain, grief, loss and trauma of a family that lost its 37-year-old son due to smack addiction.
Gurbinder Singh, a promising young kabaddi player and coach got addicted to smack and died on October 30, 2014. Two years later, his uncle Surjeet Singh Sidhu, 59, a college principal has put in all his resources to produce this film highlighting how Punjab’s youth is falling prey to drugs.
Speaking to The Indian Express, Sidhu says how his brother’s son, earning well till 2010 and working as a kabaddi coach in his own college fell prey to drugs.
Principal at BKS College, Muhar of Ferozepur, Sidhu says, “He was tall, young lad who enjoyed the game of kabaddi since childhood. He went on to play various tournaments in England and Canada and was a gold medallist in kabaddi at PU India Inter University tournament. We really don’t know what went wrong till we got the signs. He started arriving home late, unknown people knocked the doors late night and money was vanishing from the house. One day, we found smack kept in his clothes and he confessed of taking drugs.”
The family got him admitted at de-addiction center in Tarn Taran but a month later he was back to drugs. This continued for four years. His
condition worsened after he fell sick due to Hepatitis C. “In the end, he always said one thing, please save me, I don’t want to die,” says Sidhu, who was emotionally attached to his nephew since childhood.
The film has been made by Red Arts Theatre Group, an initiative of alumni of Punjabi University, Patiala, which first came up with a street play ‘Aakhir Kadon Tak’ (Till when will this continue?) and staged it across schools and colleges in Punjab. It was only after Sidhu agreed to put in his money that the group started working on a film last year. Sidhu would play a character of a drug dealer in the film.
But it’s not the negatives that the film has focused on, says director Balraj Sagar and writer Jagdeep Deep. “Udta Punjab was commercial. It never
highlighted what a rural Punjabi household goes through when it loses a son to drugs. We know we won’t sell but a family can sit together and watch our film. Udta Punjab never reached most of rural audience, we are aiming them,” they say.
The film has four Punjabi youths in lead characters who portray Punjab in different shades.
All set to hit some 50 screens mostly single screens on November 25, Sidhu says putting in resources was never easy. “I took help from all friends and relatives, convinced artistes to work for a cause. We shot across Bathinda to reduce costs. But this had to be done,” says Sidhu.