What kind of film can we make that will attract the masses, yield entertainment and generate cash? Shall we go for the fusion experience? You know the one with a catchy chant-along-a-tune with a cross-cultural racial theme. While we are on this subject lets 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.Personally I can only remember one movie where a Sikh took a lead role. Interestingly, the family consisted of mixed Sikh and Hindu faiths. This representation seems to have a habit of repeating itself. Is Bollywood suggesting that this integration of Sikhs and Hindus is a norm? For example, movies feature the lead girls father with a turban but the offspring is Hindu and by the end, the relationship is religiously sanctified at a Hindu ceremony.
Critics may say that when watching Bollywood movies the viewer has to buy into the surreal/melodramatic fantasy. I believe we need a perspective that shows who Sikhs really are. We need to ensure that historic references and storylines images are not distorted.Gaddar was clearly offensive.I will admit on sheer entertainment value Bollywood provides a mix of melodrama, action and romance. However, I am confident that there are audiences that wish to see a reflection and perspective on social reality. It would be great is Bollywood movies could respect the language and religious conviction of any religion it features.Currently, Bollywood movies certainly contain outside (foreign to India) shoots (footage). One minute you will find yourself in Glasgow, the next minute the lead girl will be standing within trip distance of Indian Ocean on a cliff edge in the Maldives. Let us also not forget the proceeding wedding reception dance with Sikhs Dholling the night away behind the lead actor. For the final scene you will find the happy couple dancing on the snowcaps of a Swiss mountaintop. The scenery may have changed but the old formula seems to stay the same. We need a change but I am 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 disabled. What an embarrassing list!
How can we do this? Firstly, idolising actors must stop. Secondly, let us support short movies and social movies that show talents of great filmmakers. As Sikhs we also have a role to play to develop our own documentaries, short-films, animation and stories. We should also feature international communities (see Mistaken Identity). I am sure we have the money, just look at what we can build! I believe we need a greater presence and feature in the media to educate who we are. We have a great religion and we have the financial power to fund worthy movies. Remember if it was not for Sikhs we would have all be ethnically cleansed and the free India movement just would not have happened.Next time you watch a Hindi movie and see the poor portrayal of a Sikh ask the question, Why is this happening? then shout aloud Get real! Let us unite fuel and make movies with stories that show who we really are not what Bollywood wants us to be.