Posted by: Singh Is King | Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Sixth River – A new Milestone in Sikh Films.

I am a keen admirer of Sikh artifacts, rare Kirtan CD’s and Film DVD’s and love to have their collection. The boom started with ‘Sahibzade’, the animation film, followed by another short animation, ‘Sunny, proud to be a Sikh’, the heart rending ‘Widow Colony’. And then came our first feature film ‘Kambdi Kalaai’. I was fascinated by this amazingly packaged film which dealt with the themes which are very close to Sikh hearts. It needs a rare courage indeed to call a spade a spade. How many of us can take a stand when it actually comes to it? And here, in this film, the young director Ish Amitoj Kaur said it loud and clear, which had been lying mute in her heart as well as in our hearts for a long time. Since the release of the film, I had been constantly reading articles on the film where ever they appeared but what caught my fascination recently was the front page of the Magazine ‘Kaurs’ which featured the said Director and its Title, “Sikhs In Cinema”.Cinema has a unique language, a language that everybody can relate to. It is difficult today to imagine the world without this entertainment medium. ‘Feast for the eyes and food for the thought’, that is what intelligent cine – goers look for. We all have our favorites and always set our minds to certain standards, lesser than which we would just reject. It’s just like, if we are a real ‘Banana Republic’ shopper, we won’t shop ‘Old Navy’. Similarly, if our minds are set on something like ‘Brave heart’, we will not be satisfied with ‘Flag of Our Fathers’.

It has often been observed that people proudly quote one or two films with Sikh characters like ‘The English Patient’ or ‘Inside Man’. That is our standard, and not a bad one at all indeed, after all, we get to say, we saw a Sikh being portrayed in a Hollywood film, however, in the process we forget about our small time filmmakers who try to do justice by making good quality films like ‘Amu’, ‘Widow Colony’, ‘The Rise Of Khalsa’ or for that matter ‘Kambdi Kalaai’ which had an actual Sikh Actor in the main lead for the first time. Rome was not built in a day, folks!

Let us have a look at the progress of Punjabi films in general. Trade reports say that last year’s Punjabi film (with Harbhajan Maan as hero) fetched more money than any other Hindi film in Indian theatres at that time. But we, here in America, on the contrary, are not giving adequate importance to Punjabi–our mother tongue, which can have deplorable consequences. If our kids don’t understand and respect Punjabi, how would we expect them to understand Gurbani and have love for their Guru?

No doubt, in Punjabi cinema there is an appreciable effort now-a – days to make good quality films, but they, too, unfortunately lack proper portrayal of a ‘Sikh’ or ‘Sikh way of life’—which is the crying need of the hour. The primordial Mannus, Gangus and Rangars continue to follows us everywhere, be it India, USA, France or Canada. The onus lies on us and us alone to come to lime light maintain our true stature and protect our rights.

Noor Nissan Films pioneered in this direction last year by giving us the well known feature film ‘Kambdi Kalaai’. The film, as claimed by the film makers reached over 15,000 households. It must have touched 100,000 hearts. Once again, with the same dedication for the community, they have announced their next venture, ‘Chhevan Dariya’, ‘The Sixth River’.

As there exists a vast vacuum of Films on the Sikh community or for the Sikh Community, there can be multifarious stories available for films. The most favorite amongst people is something on ‘Sikh History’. History, to most of the people denotes the days of the past, the bygone times of the Sikh wars or warriors. “However, there is always history in every moment— every present moment of the day is a chronicle for the next day and every man a hero, in his own stride when he contributes to the making of an ethos. ‘The Sixth River’ is going to be one such maiden effort, says Ish Amitoj Kaur, “to project the contemporary aspects of our lives”.

Somehow, the lack of good quality Punjabi films has led to lesser and lesser spectators going to theatres these days and that in turn has resulted in poor distribution of films. What one needs to do is to revive our audience by concentrating on good quality films, which is possible by not only giving them ‘what they want’, but as intelligent spectators ‘what they should want’. The second Online Sikhnet Film Festival is a good example of some thoughtful changes being sown by our youth in the area of ‘what the spectators should want?’ Good ‘Sikh theme’ films do have international appeal. But from where does one get money to make good films? There are three options: go to the Hollywood and tell them your story, or go to the Bollywood producers and tell them, “please, don’t portray us as buffoons” or spend Millions of Dollars to make our own films. The third option sounds really good to the ears but let’s be frank here, how many of us actually spent $10 on the tickets or DVDs of the films we already have in our Library leave alone dare an investment in a large scale film? That is an irony!

Does it worry Ish Amitoj Kaur, who is all set to direct her new film? “No, though stress is part of this journey that I have taken up,” she says, “but, more than anything else I believe that God entrusted this duty to me and I am sure that He will help me in my venture.”

The question here is that what should be our role as a community? Are we here just to express our feelings for the need of the hour? Do we want our next generation to see their community portrayed in the right context in media so that it infuses them with ‘chardi kala’? Do we really want these filmmakers to accomplish the community based task whole heartedly? If our concerns are genuine or merely a lip service? How many of us actually want from the core of our hearts to bring about a revolution by doing small things which would bring about a change in the larger scenario?


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