Amritsar Junction — a tale of courage during Partition riots

Amritsar Junction — a tale of courage during Partition riots

Daughters of Jagjeet Singh, who was the stationmaster at the city railway station during the Partition, at the screening of Amritsar Junction in Amritsar. Tribune photo

Neha Saini

Tribune News Service

Amritsar, February 18

In the mid of the 1947 communal riots during the Partition of India, Amritsar was at the epicentre of cross-border train traffic. Among many shocking accounts of the Partition, the most horrifying ones are the stories of ghost trains arriving full of corpses at Lahore and Amritsar stations.

Jagjeet Singh

Amritsar Junction, a short film by Aditya Suhas Jambhale, is one such tale of stationmaster Jagjeet Singh’s life recalling a fateful night during the Partition riots.

A fictional representation inspired by true events, Amritsar Junction was screened during the Jivey literature festival at Mount Litera School here. The 27-minute film is powerful and emotional as it depicts events of a night at the Amritsar railway station when trains laden with bodies arrived from Lahore and stationmaster Jagjeet Singh struggled to find his sanity among hatred, revenge and humanity.

With talented Manav Vij playing the role of Jagjeet Singh, the film had been first narrated to Jambhale by Sarab Kaur Zavaleta, daughter of Jagjeet Singh, who is also the producer of Amritsar Junction. “I met Aditya in 2018 during the Cannes Film Festival and narrated events of stories of the Partition from my father’s life. I had a script and meeting him was serendipity. Aditya never visited Punjab and he did not know the culture or the painful past of the Partition. But when he narrated the story to his mother, she insisted that the story needed to be told to the entire world,” shared Sarab.

A New York-based filmmaker, Sarab wants to make a feature film based on her father’s experiences of the Partition. “It will be a historical film telling the story of the Partition through the eyes of a stationmaster.”

Youngest of the seven sisters, Sarab said she never heard her father talking about the Partition as it was too traumatic. “I was too young at that time and my elder sister Manbir Sondhi was the one who actually heard some stories from him. My father was in early 40s when the riots broke out after the Partition and we had to leave our ancestral home in Lahore and move to Amritsar. He used to speak good English and so he asked British officials to shift him to the Amritsar railway station as stationmaster,” she added. Jagjeet had rescued many people arriving across the border from trains.

“He saved many lives despite being caught between the individual struggle of hatred and revenge and watching people being brutally butchered. That’s the film is about – of choosing the right thing when your principles and beliefs are tested in the most unimaginable way,” she added.

The film was shot for two days in Goa where a small set was created to replicate the Amritsar railway station during 1947. Jambhale, whose earlier two short films — Aaba aiktaay naa? (Aaba are you listening?) and Kharvas — have won back-to-back national awards in 2018 and 2019, respectively, worked with a team of 170 persons to bring the story of stationmaster Jagjeet on screen. The film has been screened selectively at several prominent platforms. Jagjeet passed away in 1994.

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