Panjabi films and thoughts

Rupinder Kaur
8 min readJan 4, 2021


Being a huge lover of the world of cinema, the biggest difference a film can do is leave you thinking. Being a Panjabi and that too a very proud Panjabi I have noticed not much has been written about Panjabi films so I decided to write about Panjabi films and some of my favourite films.

Panjab is a land filled with vast stories at each corner with a huge richness of literature from the past legacy with writers such as Gurdial Singh, Amrita Pritam, Kartar Singh Duggal, Manjit Kaur Tiwana to name a few. I hope more filmmakers make use of the huge literary treasure but also history that we have.

Returning to Panjabi cinema, it started with the silent film Daughters of Today in 1928 and further success was found with Pind Di Kudi featuring young Noor Jehan. The partition of Panjab changed many things and it took a while for things to settle once again.

Satluj De Kande became the first major success in 1964 and was the first Panjabi film to get an National Film Award. Following the success of Nanak Naam Jahaz Hai more Hindi actors of Panjabi origin worked in Panjabi films such as Nanak Dukhiya Sab Sansar, Man Jeete Jag Jeet and Dukh Bhanjan Tera Naam. Further success was found with Ucha Dar Babe Nanak Da, Long Da Lishkara, Chan Pardesee and Marhi Da Deeva.

The 2000’s entered a trend of featurning NRI based storylines, depicting nostalgic and romancised Panjab. In the last few years there have been films about the actual stories, history of Panjab and more directors, writers are creating experimental films.

Below are films that I have loved over the past few years and felt they really brought something new to Panjabi cinema showcasing the potential of Panjabi films.

Chann Pardesee (1981)

Chan Pardesee directed by Chitrarth Singh and featured Raj Babbar, Rama Vij, Amrish Puri, Kulbhushan Kharbanda and Om Puri in lead. A film which looks at family feud, relationships in such a mature manner. A film really ahead of its time.

Marhi Da Deeva (1989)

Marhi Da Deeva directed by Surinder Singh based on Gurdial Singh’s novel Marhi Da Deeva (1964) also known as the first Dalit novel in Panjabi. This film is my most, most favourite Panjabi film with Deepti Naval and Raj Babbar in lead. The story, the emotions, the music transport you into a different world. A must, must watch from me.

Shaheed-E-Mohabbat Boota Singh (1999)

Shaheed-E-Mohabbat Boota Singh, directed by Manoj Punj was based on the real-life love story of Boota Singh and Zainab featuring Gurdas Maan and Divya Dutta in the lead roles. If you loved Gadar: Ek Prem Katha (2001) then do watch this film as it is based on the real-life story which inspired Gadar.

Shaheed Udham Singh (1999)

Shaheed Uddham Singh is directed by Chitrarth Singh. Raj Babbar played the role of Shaheed Udham Singh. The film had many cameo appearances by many actors from Hindi Film industry including Shatrughan Sinha, Juhi Chawla and Amrish Puri. Another great historical Panjabi film. Interestingly in this film Sham Kaushal, the father of Vicky Kaushal, was the Action Director and his son Vicky Kaushal is playing Shaheed Udham Singh in the upcoming Hindi film Sardar Udham Singh directed by Shoojit Sircar.

Khamosh Pani (2003)

Khamosh Pani, is directed by Sabiha Sumar with Kiran Kher in lead. It is the journey of Veero becoming Ayesha and everything that was left in between. This film looks at the trauma of partition, the thousands of women who on either side of the border adopted a new identity. In this film Veero becomes Ayesha in Pakistan but ultimately becomes a kafir in the eyes of her son. She ends her life by jumping into the same well which she had avoided for the last 30 years; the same well where thousands of women jumped to save their family’s honour.

Des Hoya Pardes (2004)

Des Hoya Pardes, directed by Manoj Punj and featuring Gurdas Maan, Juhi Chawla, Divya Dutta and Anup Soni. This film is about when all of sudden you become an outsider in your own country and your own country becomes unsafe for you. Des Hoya Pardes looks at the after effects of the assassination of Indira Gandhi and how so many innocent boys and men become victms of fake encounters.

Waris Shah: Ishq Daa Waaris (2006)

Another amazing Panjabi film directed by Manoj Punj featuring Gurdas Maan, Juhi Chawla and Divya Dutta in lead. This film is about Panjab’s most well renowned poet and legend Waris Shah during the times when he wrote his epic Heer.

Heaven on Earth (2008)

Heaven on Earth is a Canadian Panjabi film directed by Deepa Metha featuring Preity Zinda in lead along with Vansh Bhardwaj. The film released in India dubbed into Hindi under the title Videsh. In this film A young Panjabi woman finds herself in an abusive arranged marriage with Canadian man. The way Mehta intertwined the folk tale of Shesh Naag, the struggles of being an immigrant, exceptions, internalised misogyny was amazing. Tackling the issue of domestic violence with great sensitivity.

Anhe Ghore Da Daan (2011)

Anhe Ghore Da Daan — Donation of a Blind Horse is directed by Gurvinder Singh, based on the 1976 novel of the same name by Gurdial Singh. It featured Samuel John, experimental Panjabi theatre actor as one of the lead protagonists. The film looks at the issues of marginalised lower caste in Panjab with Landlords. This film really brought something new to Panjabi cinema bringing an art house, experimental film. It was also the first Panjabi film to have travelled to numerous international film festivals including the 68th Venice International Film Festival.

Sikander (2013)

Sikander is directed by Jatinder Mauhar featuring Kartar Cheema and Gul Panag in lead. This film explored two rival groups of students looking at educational institutions and the role of youth in politics. For the first time I felt in a Panjabi film there was a character that I could relate too and that was Gul Panag as Beant Kaur. This film left me wanting more which Sikander 2 did not give.

Punjab 1984 (2014)

Punjab 1984 is directed by Anurag Singh featuring Diljit Dosanjh and Kirron Kher in lead.

This is one of Diljit Dosanjh’s finest performances. The film looks at the dark period during the Insurgency in Panjab. This film tells the fictional account of the many, many mothers that had missing sons during this period and so many that remained missing.

Qissa (2015)

Qissa, is directed by Anup Singh featuring Irrfan Khan, Tisca Chopra, Tillotama Shome and Rasika Dugal in lead. This film is set in post-partition Panjab, in Qissa the partition is not about external violence, but the problems within. It is a film that weaves together layers of partition, gender identity politics, trauma memory and violence issues. A hard watch, but it is a must watch Panjabi film.

Chauthi Koot (2015)

Chauthi Koot — Fourth Direction is directed by Gurvinder Singh and based on the short stories The Fourth Direction and I am Feeling Fine by Waryam Singh Sandhu. Set in the 80’s going back and forth between the two stories, tied with the experiences of the common man caught between the state military on one hand and the Khalistani separatist movement on the other. Again this film by Gurvinder Singh is a visually moving film that is a must watch and the train shots were my favourite.

Qissa Panjab (2015)

Qissa Panjab is directed by Jatinder Mauhar featuring a cast of highly talented performance based actors- Preet Bhullar, Kul Sidhu, Dheeraj Kumar, Jagjeet Sandhu, Aman Dhaliwal, Harshjot Kaur. There are six stories running parallel yet their lives intermingle. It looks at the drug addiction in Panjab to the highly patriarchal society. Panjab isn’t painted in a cliched beautiful picture in this film Panjab is shown real with its dirt exposed.

Shareek (2015)

Shareek, directed by Navaniat Singh featuring Jimmy Shergil, Mahie Gill, Guggu Gill and Mukul Dev in lead. This film explores a family feud between two families over a piece of land — the living reality of many Panjabi families. For me this film is Jimmy Shergils best performance in a Panjabi film.

Sajjan Singh Rangroot (2018)

Sajjan Singh Rangroot, directed by Pankaj Batra featuring Diljit Dosanjh in lead with a supporting cast of talented actors, Zorawar Singh, Jagjeet Sandhu and Dheeraj Kumar. This film made me super emotional as an important part of my own history was never taught to me in school despite doing both GCSE and Alevel History. Only from watching this film and my own research I came to discover how many Sikh soldiers were part of the British army, fighting a war that was never theirs.

Amaanat (2019)

Amaanat is directed by Royal Singh, starring Dheeraj Kumar and Neha Pawar in lead. When I started to watch this film I felt like I knew where the story was going but I was wrong. This film wasn’t like any typical Panjabi film, it’s about a mother in search of her son and her dealing with an abusive marriage and when she does eventually find love her past comes in front of her and she decides to sacrifice that love.

Other notable films that I have watched are Dharti (2011), Mirza- The Untold Story (2012), Angrej (2015), Eh Janam Tumhare Lekhe (2015), Ardas (2016), The Black Prince (2017), Qismat (2018), Daana Pani (2018), Rab Da Radio 1&2 (2018,2019), Guddiyan Patole (2019).

The future of Panjabi films gives me hope that producers, directors, writers will be more willing to experiment and explore Panjab in different ways but also re-connect with the literature and arts of Panjab to truly showcase the potential of Panjabi ciemna to the world.