Punjabi short film is a voice against repression



A Chicago-based producer’s short film which has won several awards and been screened in cities around the world, is returning to the U.S. at the end of August.

“Ossey Paindey” (On The Beaten Path), produced by Indermohan Singh Chhabra with a script by Anmol Kaur, has won two awards in Haryana, and been screened at the Kent Film Festival in Kent, England, China, and South Korea, as well as in New York, Michigan, and Illinois. This critically acclaimed Punjabi short film is returning to the U.S. for the Grand IndieWise Convention Aug. 24-27, in Miami, Florida.

Earlier this year, it was screened at the Sikh Religious Society gurdwara in Palatine, Ill. Not only has it won awards, but also people’s hearts. Produced and co-directed by Chhabra, who also acts in it, the film, is set in 1980s Punjab when a violent insurgency was ongoing. Chhabra has previously produced a cable TV show titled “Sikh TV” in the Chicago area for many years. He has also produced another short film, ‘One Hour of Time.” He has also worked in ‘Microkosmos’, a short film directed by Richard Cohen.

Indermohan Singh Chhabra

“It is a matter of great pride for Punjabi community to receive these awards in Haryana, I give the credit of the huge success of the film to our production team, Jugli Shugli, and Sandal Kaur,” Chhabra is quoted saying in a press release.

The film exposes many facets of the psychology of the powerful and the powerless and raises a voice against repression, mental and physical coercion, and tries to rouse the community to get involved in finding a solutions. The disparity in rule of law for the ruler and the ruled has been beautifully captured in the film.

Set in the 1980s during the insurgency in Punjab, the film deals with the social upheaval. The film starts with a beautiful song “No one is a stranger, no one is my enemy, I get along with everyone” featuring Chhabra walking through the village the story is set in. The rustic setting is true to life with very realistic character portrayals. It brings to the fore, the everyday fact that the oppressed were punished brutally simply for disagreeing on politics. Even as the police promise not to harm the young men, they are able to inflict injury that goes even deeper. It shows that oppression was and is still a tool used by the political heavyweights to keep the public in check. And yet the blame cannot be placed purely on the heavyweights.

The simple fact that rebellion against a democracy should only be conducted through the polling booth, and that as soon as arms are raised to rebel, the disagreement becomes punishable. None the less the line gets muddied because everyone is under suspicion and everyone is punished- causing further disenfranchisement which breeds further disenchantment with the government. What purpose does involuntary vasectomy serve other than to cause emotional harm to the young disenfranchised boys? Yet the police use that tool to make a point and to set an example for future dissidents.

In this writer’s mind, at the end of the day, when disenfranchisement is met with brutal oppression, public outcry and rebellion becomes the hallmark of that city, state or country, and ends the ‘democratic’ status of that country. Blending the theme of dissidence with today’s reality serves to put on notice the ruling class of every country to uphold democracy by listening to the problems of the common man, not by oppressing the voice of dissent which is the hallmark of any thriving democracy.



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