Punjab’s Living History: A Cinematic Journey through Attari Junction

by Manjari Singh

Embodying a key chapter of history, a potential Independence Day release is in the works for a movie on Attari Junction. The station of Attari, during the era of Partition, stood as the final threshold for those bidding adieu to their homes in search of new ones. It was this station that witnessed the chilling sight of ‘ghost trains,’ bearing corpses across its tracks. The station, with its 161-year history, once more came into spotlight in the 2000s with the resurrection of the Samjhauta Express between India and Pakistan, a 3km journey from the Attari station to Wagah, Lahore, completed within 30 minutes.

Today, the once bustling station stands mostly deserted, occasionally housing a goods train or two or abandoned ones.

Harpreet Sandhu, an artist known for documenting heritage structures and institutions, is on a mission to spotlight the history and legacy of the 161-year-old Attari station, now renamed as the Attari Sham Singh Railway Station in honor of the esteemed Sikh general. The initiation of the documentary film, “Attari Junction – A 161-year-old Historic Railway Station”, took place at the station, with Deputy Commissioner Amit Talwar and MP Gurjeet Aujla unveiling the inaugural shot.

Sandhu has previously brought the rich heritage of places like Khalsa College to life through books and short films. In this documentary, he aims to underline the historic architectural elements of the Attari railway station, an amalgamation of Indo-Islamic and Victorian styles. Sandhu states, “The station’s architectural grandeur and elegance from days gone by, its arches and elaborate facades, have rarely been highlighted in heritage documentaries. The film will also trace the station’s journey through the shifting sands of Punjab’s history.”

Under the guidance of the Sewa Sankalp Society, the film’s direction is being led by Sandhu. The screenplay is penned by Atul Tirkey, IRS, Deputy Commissioner Customs, Attari, with celebrated poet and Padma Shri awardee Dr. Surjit Patar having crafted the lyrics.

Sandhu notes that apart from the older populace, many locals are unaware of this rarely visited, culturally significant railway station that links the two nations. It sits at the very edge of the Indo-Pak border. “The film will highlight the intriguing history behind the final gate that led to Pakistan. Now locked, this gate symbolizes the hope of reviving the link between the people of the two countries,” he added.

With all required permissions for filming obtained from the Northern Railway, Land Customs, Attari, and BSF Frontier, the documentary’s screenplay was finished six months prior. Sandhu revealed plans to release the film in August, close to India’s Independence Day, thereby highlighting the necessity of such films to underscore Punjab’s vibrant culture, heritage, and history.

Manjari Singh

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