PUNJABI CHARACTERS: Why no backlash against Bollywood for portrayal of Sikhs?

Published: December 12, 2012


Bollywood actor Ajay Devgan stars in “Son of Sardar”. Submitted photo

I have written articles about being called an Indo-Canadian and about what it means to wear a turban.

But every time I pull out my laptop, I am very careful about not writing something that will upset the Sikh community.

I am kind of proud of the fact that the Sikh community will band together and protest any disrespect of their views, values, and shrines.

But for the same reasons I am careful with my words.

I remember clearly when Jay Leno showed a picture of the Golden Temple on his show and referenced it as the residence of a rich American. It was a harmless joke, but the response from the Sikh community was fast and furious and demanded a swift apology.
However, the same is not the case for Bollywood.

For years now, Bollywood has recognized that there is a major Sikh population outside of India that provides revenue for Bollywood films.

That is why all major recent Bollywood blockbusters will feature at least one Punjabi song.

They will also have Punjabi characters, when in the past the films were solely in Hindi with Hindu and Muslim characters.

But it is how these Punjabi characters are portrayed that really should be of concern.
No one can deny that when a new film based on Punjabi characters is released that it fills box offices in Vancouver, Brampton, Mississauga, Southall, Wolverhampton, Yuba City, Fremont, Fresno, and many other cities around the world due to the large Punjabi populations there.

But why is it that in every one of these movies the Punjabi character is portrayed as a bumbling buffoon?

The Sikh community lines up to see films like “Jo Bole So Nihal” and “Singh is Kinng”. And now we have Ajay Devgan in “Son of Sardar”. None of these people are actually Punjabi. But they play the character and make him look like an absolute jackass.

Now, I understand that these are fictional characters. But why is it that if a writer, or comedian, or artist was to do the same thing there would be outrage from the collective Sikh community but Bollywood gets a free pass?

Not only does Bollywood continue to make a mockery of turbaned Sikhs but they continue to profit from those same turbaned Sikhs at the box office.

If an openly non-religious person like me can see that, why does no one else see it?
Even in the 1970s and ’80s, why did every character in the films have a Hindu last name but the villain’s last name was always Singh?

The sad part is that me writing this blog will get more backlash than anything Bollywood does.

Everyone loves seeing a character they can relate to being featured in a blockbuster movie but at what expense? At what point do you say enough is enough?

Sooner or later somebody will see the deliberate attempts by one community to put down another community. Or maybe it’s just me.

Those are my thoughts and I just wanted to share them with you.

Hollywood Harv is a local born and raised comedian. He can be reached at hollywoodharvcomedy@gmail.com or you can see one of his live performances every Thursday night at Mavericks Lounge on 12th and Kingsway.



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