Dear Mr. Devgan / Dear Mr. Dhir
Of late, the news of Sons of Sardaar has been in the glare of publicity. Today, this news has reasons to worry concerned Sikhs as your earlier work bearing similar title had deeply hurt Sikh sentiments.
From the trimmed beard, to the lord Shankar tattoo on the shaven chest of protagonist, or the usual stereotyping of Sikhs – calling them inventors of expletives, are still afresh in minds of young Sikhs. Advocate Navkiran Singh had even issued a legal notice to Mr. Devgan (the actor and producer of SOS) which was arrogantly ignored.
Today when the same team allies together to make an ‘entertainer’ and that too on battle of Saragarhi, intelligent and thinking Sikhs have all reasons to feel concerned and apprehensive.
Please bear with me as I go into the background of such concerns.
Sikhs in India and across the world have always had to struggle hard because of their unique identity. At times being victims of hate crimes or of mistaken identity (one case came to light even while this letter was being written). Inspite of this, legends of their victories, big or small, in far off corners of the world giving Sikhs right to practise their faith, in their own way, keep making headlines.
For a Sikh this identity is a form and expression of his/ her faith, which cherishes his/ her ties with the Sikh Gurus and Khalsa brotherhood. Indian Media system per se has been hostile to this identity. In this background, Sikh identity is being attacked everyday! whether it is in school text books, Santa Banta jokes or the sterotypical potryal of Sikhs as mere clowns in Bollywood. Arguably, the list doesn’t end here. Other techniques and ways are far more subtle and all the more dangerous.
Today, when you are attempting a period film based on epic saga of the battle of Saragarhi, on behalf of entire Sikh community we would like to make the following suggestions and submissions.
For the Sikhs, Saragrahi is not just another battle, its sheer personification of Sikh spirit of bravery, valour and sacrifice. There are also two Gurudwaras constructed and maintained in memory of this battle.
Secondly, authenticity in the form and spirit of the character of those 21 Sikhs including the legend Havildar Ishar Singh would not only enhance the look and feel of the movie, but would also grab bigger mind share in the Sikh diaspora worldwide, which in itself is a sizeable market segment.
Thirdly, you can attempt to break sterotypes with this work. A realistic potrayal of a Sikh, attempted in the past, by Rocket Singh and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag is what the Sikh community and we are sure the audience on the whole would appreciate.
Today the matured audience is more keen to watch authenticity and realism over dramatisation and glamour.
Further as a community in Mumbai we would be more than happy to extend any support in terms of historical data or any other relevant information for the screenplay of this movie.
With this we wish you all the very best in this attempt which has a potential of becoming a monumental work.
Charanjit Singh (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Charanjit is a Sikh Activist and Entrepreneur from Mumbai and is active in many social activities along with local NGOs.
Inputs by :- Taranjit Singh (email@example.com)