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As Akal Takht now bans ‘Nanak Shah Fakir’, movie producer questions U-turn

The chief objection is that portrayal of the gurus or their family members in human form is a violation of Sikh tenets, though the movie claims to have only used graphic effects to outline Guru Nanak.

punjab Updated: Apr 09, 2018 22:03 IST
Surjit Singh
Surjit Singh
Hindustan Times, Amritsar
Akal Takht,Chaar Sahibzaade,Nanak Shah Fakir
Giani Gurbachan Singh, Akal Takht jathedar, addressing a press conference in Amritsar on Monday. (Sameer Sehgal/HT)

Two days after the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee (SGPC) urged the Union and state governments to ban the movie ‘Nanak Shah Fakir’, Sikh temporal seat Akal Takht on Monday announced a “ban” on its screening and appealed to the Sikh community to oppose it “in a peaceful manner” ahead of its re-release scheduled for April 13, Baisakhi.

Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh reacted a day after “parallel” jathedars, “appointed” at a radical groups’ Sarbat Khalsa (congregation) in 2015, also announced a “hukamnama” (edict) against the movie based on the life of the first Sikh master, Guru Nanak.The chief objection is that portrayal of the gurus or their family members in human form is a violation of Sikh tenets, though the movie claims to have only used graphic effects to outline Guru Nanak.

The producers have already refused to hold it back at this stage, citing a U-turn by the top Sikh bodies that had approved it and even appreciated it. After it was first released in April 2015, producer Harinder Singh Sikka had to withdraw it in some days, and the Punjab government too had suspended its release citing protests.The jathedar had given an appreciation letter to Sikka before that, on January 22, 2015. It read: “The film made by you on the life and teaching of Guru Nanak and Sikh religion titled ‘Nanak Shah Fakir’ is praiseworthy. We congratulate you. This is fine example of promotion of Sikh faith.”

The Takht has now changed its stance as was done by the SGPC, which had issued clearance to the movie. After the inistail ban in 2015, the SGPC under the headship of Avtar Singh Makkar later formed a sub-committee and, on its recommendation, the Sikh ‘mini-parliament’ gave approval a year later, on May 13, 2016, by issuing a letter signed by the then chief secretary, Harcharan Singh.

The jathedar on Monday, though, said, “Sri Akal Takht Sahib completely bans controversial movie ‘Nanak Shah Fakir’ and this movie will not be allowed to be released at any cost. I appeal to all the followers of Guru Nanak in the world to oppose the movie in peaceful manner.” And added, “The SGPC has withdrawn all the letters issued to approve the movie and facilitate its promotion in its institutions. Besides it has also written to Prime Minister, Union Home Minister, Information and Broadcast Minister and Punjab Chief Minister to seek ban on the movie.”

Meanwhile, members of various Sikh organisations held protests at many places across Punjab. Addressing a gathering at Nawanshahr, former SGPC general secretary Sukhdev Singh Bhaur said it was against the Sikh tenets to show Guru Nanak in “living form”. The protesters said in case the film was released in the state on April 13, its makers would have to face wrath of Sikh community across the country. Some agitators also disrupted the traffic on the Bathinda-Mansa road.

Why give permission first? Producer asks

Producer Sikka, when contacted, had a question for the institutions: “Why did you first gave permission to the movie?” He added, “Initially, the Akal Takht approved, then the SGPC objected. A year later, the SGPC approved. Now the Takht has reservations. Someone should ask them: Whom should I go to? Do I need to say more? I took permissions at every step. Asked if he would still go ahead with the release, he did not commit either way, but said “If I now withdraw the release of the movie, I will have to pay penalties of many crores as I have already signed contracts with distributers and other agencies. Also, if ‘Chaar Sahibzaade’ movie can get the permission, why not this movie?” ‘Chaar Sahibzaade’ is a computer-animated historical drama film based on sacrifices of the sons of the tenth Sikh master, Guru Gobind Singh.

‘Sikh censor board’ planned

Next up, there is also a proposal to have a “Sikh censor board”. The SGPC during its recent budget session demanded representation on the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), or the censor board. Now the temporal seat has decided to form its own censor board.“This board will include representatives of the SGPC, Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee (DSGMC), Sant Samaj, Sikh sects and other Sikh institutions, Sikh historians and intellectuals, religious personalities and filmmakers”, the jathedar said.

He added, “Permission of this board will be mandatory for the script for every filmmaker before making a film related to Sikh religion. On recommendation of this board, Sri Akal Takht Sahib will be giving final approval to any of such movie.”

Movie row: Plot twists and U-turns

Jan 22, 2015: Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh issues appreciation letter to Harinder Singh Sikka, producer of movie ‘Nanak Shah Fakir’

Apr 15, 2015: Punjab govt suspends screening of movie slated for release on April 17 for two months across state after controversy erupts; movie shown at some other places

Apr 21, 2015: Producer withdraws movie citing Takht instructions; SGPC forms 8-member sub-committee to decide

May 13, 2016: Sub-committee gives clearance

Mar 13, 2018: SGPC chief secretary Roop Singh sends e-mail to committee’s education director, asking him to show film to students as it was announced to be re-released on April 13

Mar 19: Letter from SGPC directs gurdwara managers to facilitate promotion of the movie

Mar 28: After row erupts online again, SGPC stands by clearance, says people protesting should first watch the movie

Mar 29: SGPC takes U-turn, says won’t allow screening in wake of concerns by Sikh devotees

Apr 5-6: SGPC constitutes new sub-committee to review movie; as producer does not appear before it, committee urges Centre and state government to ban movie

Apr 8: “Parallel” jathedars “appointed” by radical bodies issue edict against movie asking Sikhs “not to allow” release

Apr 9: Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh announces “ban”, besides deciding to set up its a “Sikh censor board”

What’s the objection?

Portrayal of gurus, their family members in human form “or graphics” in “violation of Sikh tenets”

Voice of a living being while depicting the gurus and other Sikh figures in movies

Nomenclature of the movie as words ‘Shah’ and ‘Fakir’ “degrade” the guru

First Published: Apr 09, 2018 21:59 IST