first considered writing this article I thought hard about developing a
title that would be both pertinent and bring out the main focus of my
issue with Bollywood and their representation of Sikhs roles. The ones I
toyed with were: Sikh’s in Bollywood, Sikh actors and their associated
roles and Bollywood Portray of Sikhs. It was from this last headline and
analysis of the history of Bollywood cinema that finalised my view that
the role of Sikhs in Bollywood has instead been one of betrayal.
are an average 2% of the population of India and 2% worldwide. They’re
ideals are based on service, defending the defenceless, equality,
humbleness and respecting other religions. Sikhs can be found in many
different fields of industry.
However, consider the average portrayal of a Sikh in a Bollywood movie.
Often their images are linked to storylines that involve, hotel door
staff, construction, transportation, military/police, alcohol, highly
short-tempered, the object of humour and coarsely spoken Punjabi.
I personally can only remember one movie where a Sikh was shown as a lead.
Interestingly, the family consisted of mixed Sikh and Hindu faiths. This
is representation seems to have a habit of repeating itself. Is Bollywood
suggesting that this integration of Sikhs and Hindu’s is a norm? Or, is
there a more sinister campaign!? For example, one often ‘sees’ the lead
girl’s father with a turban but the offspring is Hindu and the
relationship is then finally religiously sanctified at a Hindu ceremony.
Was the Sikh parent in turban one of the first born from a Hindu family –
In the past this apparently happened. Notice the names of family members
of Dil Wale Dulhanya Le Jayege.
issue is not with any religion, we have to respect each other. Indeed,
critics may say that when watching Bollywood movies the viewer should ‘buy
in’ to the Bollywood fantasy. I disagree as some aspect of positive
realism and role modelling needs to be in place. We need a perspective
that shows who Sikhs really are. We need to ensure that historic
references and storylines images are also not distorted.
One movie I found personally offensive was Gaddar and the role of the
Sikh. In particular with its image and end of story ideal’s distortion.
However, it was still ‘viewed’ as a successful movie?
Standing inline to see a the latest Sci-Fi flick at the local Multiplex it
was interesting to view the US dominated movie posters standing with equal
placement next to Bollywood’s latest offerings. The audiences for the
Bollywood items were mixed, Sikhs, Muslims and Hindus. One chap next to me
asked me what I’d come to see. Then he passionately explained his interest
in Bollywood. ‘I love the songs’ he said. ‘You don’t get them in English
was not the time to tell him about my issues. But it did get me thinking
about why I have such an issue. I’ll admit on sheer entertainment value
Bollywood provides a mix of melodrama, action and romance. However, I’m
confident that there are audiences that want to see a reflection and
perspective on social reality. It would be great to get a Bollywood movies
that that respects language and respects the religious conviction of any
religion that it features.
Currently, Bollywood movies certainly contain outside (foreign to India)
shoots (footage). One minute you’ll find yourself in Glasgow, the next
minute the lead girl will be standing on a cliff edge near the sea in the
Maldives. Lets please not forget the following wedding reception dance
with Sikhs Dholling the night away behind the lead actor. The final scene
may find the happy couple dancing and standing on mountain edges in
The scenery may have changed but the old formula seems to stay the same.
We need a change but I’m afraid too many people continue to endorse the
industry. We need to stand-up and complain against the violence, poor
treatment of servants, portrayal of caste, the image of subdued women,
inter-Indian racism and very negative discriminatory humour against the
can we do this? I guess one way is to consider the points in this article
and when you do ‘flock’ to see actors, please don’t idolise. Ask them
about what they can do to improve the image of the industry.
Finally, you could support short movies and social Indian movies that show
talents of great filmmakers.
As Sikhs we also have a role to play to develop our own short
documentaries that can be featured for international communities. I’m sure
we have the money, just look at what we can build! Remember the Oscar
winning movie about the ‘rumble in the jungle’ featuring the Muhammad Ali
and George Foreman fight in Zaire. I believe if we had a greater presence
and feature in the media we can help educate who we are. We ARE NOT Bin
Laden’s and have nothing to do with his regime!! I have to admit that
maybe I should have said this statement to a group of young girls, when
one in particular looked at me and muttered, ‘Bin Laden’ under her breath.
It’s all too easy to ignore people. We have a great religion. Remember if
it wasn’t for Sikhs we would have all be ethnically cleansed and the ‘free
India’ movement just won’t have happened.
Do, let’s make some movies with stories that show who we really are not
what Bollywood wants us to be. Next time you watch a Hindi movie and see
the poor portrayal of a Sikh ask yourself the question, ‘Why’ then shout
out ‘Get real’!