• Welcome to all New Sikh Philosophy Network Forums!
    Explore Sikh Sikhi Sikhism...
    Sign up Log in

What Is Punjab's Sixth River?


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
College Park, Maryland -

Photo: Ish Amitoj Kaur, writer producer and director of Chhevan Dariya, talks to youth after the first screening at the University of Maryland at College Park on Sunday evening

Ish Amitoj Kaur, in her second film, Chhevan Dariya, which was screened at the University of Maryland at College Park, tackles the two-pronged crisis in Punjab: The spread of drugs and alcohol, and the lack of leadership.

“Your white colleagues will tell you go and watch Schindler’s List or go and watch Gladiator or Braveheart. But you, as a community, what do you have to call your own and tell others this is my culture?” she began in the question-and-answer session following the screening. “This is a humble beginning in that direction.”

The 150-minute film was screened on Sunday evening before an audience of local sangat members. The question-and-answer session was sandwiched between two back-to-back showings.

“This film was made for you,” she addressed the youth in the audience. “What is the sixth river for you?”

Punjabis coined the term for the flow of alcohol and drugs in the region. The movie suggests that it is the Punjabis, in India and in the Diaspora, who have the will to make positive changes. Viewers had their own ideas.

“Your own roots, your own virsa,” one said.

“It’s your connection to your roots,” another said.

“Sixth river should be Gurbani from Guru Granth Sahib,” said Amrik Singh Nagi of Accokeek.

“Sixth River means what should be the guiding light,” he explained after the discussion. “If you look into history, the hard times in the 14th century, the light of Gurbani was there, those warriors who fought wars for Guru Gobind Singh, and all those people, they made those kinds of sacrifices that no one can do without the light from the Gurbani,” he explained after the discussion. “Sixth light is Gurbani, which we are going away from. If you look at modern-day problems, you can find all solutions, of each and every problem from Gurbani, if you go deep into that.”

Amrik Singh is one of those Sikhs who regularly goes back to Punjab to do seva. He financially assisted in building a girls’ college in Tibba.

“We need to collectively do more, not as individuals,” he said.

Ish Amitoj Kaur singled out one scene in the movie that pans a wall of portraits of historical Sikh figures such as Mai Bhago, Bhai Vir Singh and Bhagat Puran Singh. The last picture frame was empty.

Whose picture should be in the empty frame, she asked. “The empty frame is supposed to be you, us, all of us,” she said. “We don’t have a role model. We don’t have the chhevan dariya, like Bhai Vir Singh. That is the void; that is the vacuum we have. … That empty frame should haunt your minds.”

After the session, small groups continued their own discussions.

“It’s good that the film is making us aware of the problems,” said Harvinder Kaur of Silver Spring. “(But) what can we do for them (Punjabis)? She was hoping the film had provided some solutions, she said.

“The problem is political,” added Manjot Singh, her husband. “They (leaders) kill us and target the young people with drugs and alcohol. Most people (kids) here don’t understand that leadership can get that bad.”

Supreet Kaur, a graduate student at the University of Maryland, said that the film reminded her of a conference she attended in New York, called: Save Punjab.

“We talked about (these issues) in this film - the farmer suicides, drugs, alcohol,” she said. “We could see why.” Chhevan Dariya could be useful in youth workshops and camps to talk about these issues.

Whose picture should be in the empty frame?

“The leader is you,” she said. “It’s a mirror.”

“I would go to Punjab if I could get something (program) together,” she said.

But success would depend on “how they see me, as an outsider” or someone who understands their pain.

Born and raised in Simla, Ish Amitoj Kaur received a master’s degree in theatre form Punjab University in Chandigarh. After graduation, she did a fellowship at the National School of Drama in New Delhi.

She then moved to Bombay to assist on films, including Pinjar, Tera Mera Ki Rishta and Asa Nu Maan Watna Da Ish. She did some theatre on the side and worked on a project called Literacy India, which trained kids to become theatrical professionals. Most of the 2,000 kids were from the slums. Some went on to become actors in mainstream films, including one named Rahul who had a role in the Hindi box-office hit, 3 Idiots, she said.

After marriage, Ish Amitoj Kaur moved to Fremont, California, where her first production was a documentary for the United Sikhs advocacy group. She then produced and directed her first independent film, Kambdi Kalai. The 2006 film explores one man’s will to stay true to Sikh convictions. She described it as a “community oriented project.”

While doing theatre workshops in California, kids told her that they didn’t like Indian movies because they have repetitive stories and they are of lower quality than the Hollywood counterparts. The ideas, even some dialog came from the kids.

Ish Amitoj Kaur said she was moved by the kids and the sangat to do something meaningful.

“The Fremont sangat raised questions, they still do,” she said in an interview outside the theatre. “If I were in Bombay, I would have made commercial masaalaa films.” Her experience with Bollywood culture is that nothing has changed. It is very common to make fun of the Sikh identity and crack sardar jokes, she said.

Kambdi Kalai cost about $100,000. She financed alone, hoping that the money would “come back.” And it did. The movie was “huge success” worldwide, she said.

“The response from my first movie was my inspiration for Chhevan Dariya,” she said. And this time she received financial backing from supporters and investors.

The movie screened seven times to packed audiences in California, New York, New Jersey and Georgia before coming to Maryland. Although this showing did not draw as many people, Ish Amitoj Kaur was thankful to the students who organized the event for the greater Washington area.

“She has supporters here that funded the movie,” said Sunmit Singh, a former head of the Sikh Student Association at the university, which also helped with Kambdi Kalai. “(Chhevan Dariya) is a professional movie …based on Sikh issues. She made a good effort.”

What’s next?

“You don’t do it,” Ish Amitoj Kaur said. “He gets it done.”



  • IshAmitoj_2.gif
    34.8 KB · Reads: 336



📌 For all latest updates, follow the Official Sikh Philosophy Network Whatsapp Channel: