Sikhi Aaj Kal

I’ll admit…Bollywood movies were boycotted and banned in my household as far back as I can remember, so maybe these “religious sensitivity pre-screenings” are common…but the course of events surrounding this new movie is still quite strange…even for Bollywood’s standards. Last week, a new movie titled “Love Aaj Kal” was released, with Saif Ali Khan playing a Sikh as the lead male role. However, shortly before the release, the Punjab Cultural and Heritage Board objected to his portrayal of a Sikh.

Explaining their stand, Charan Singh Sapra, President of Punjabi Cultural And Heritage Board informed a tabloid, “We are objecting on the grounds that Saif is shown with a very trim beard.”

Long story short, after Khan’s formal apology and a paparazzi-filled press conference at Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara, Dadar – 15 seconds of a questionable scene was cut from the movie and Khan declared he would not portray a Sikh “incorrectly” again in future roles. All smiles, the Punjabi Cultural And Heritage Board gave the movie “two thumbs up” and the green light to proceed.

I guess I should be happy that an organization is concerned enough about the image of Sikhs to raise such a fuss…except for the fact that we’re talking about fantasy-land. My question is…where is the organization that cares about the Sikh image in real life?
This is where I’m supposed to dive in to the failures of the Akal Takht, SGPC, Akali Dal, and all the other historic institutions who seem to be tied up in other pressing issues rather than investing in meaningful parchar and programs to bring wavering Sikhs (especially youth) back to the Sikhi fold…but I’m not going to do that. Too often these institutions are made the scapegoat for all our community’s ills. And frankly, as a Sikh living in North America – I feel our camps, conferences, retreats, civil rights organizations, and educational & developmental institutions have filled the void to move the Panth forward.

Even with such effective institutions, we cannot under-estimate the influence that media and pop culture have on Sikh youth – all over the world, but especially in Punjab and India. This is where we fall short. We have not managed to effectively use these same tools to promote a positive image of Sikhi – both in terms of Sikhi Saroop and Sikh principles.

I wasn’t really feeling the Teri Meri Bas video at first, but I now appreciate the vision and effort to use a music video in conveying such an important message. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, there are so many talented Sikh artists out there – MCs, singers, musicians, poets, artists, and film-makers…many of whom I’m sure are loyal TLH readers…so this is a challenge to you. A challenge to use your craft in presenting a positive image of Sikhs and Sikhi. A challenge to find creative ways to present Sikh ideals and principles. Personally, I’m tired of complaining about Bollywood and whining over offensive lyrics of Punjabi singers…tired of being on the defense. Let’s call the shots ourselves…and put something out there we can all be proud of!

About RP Singh

Writer. Reader. Runner. Thinker. Seeker View all posts by RP Singh

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