Turbaned Sikhs making waves in Bollywood
Akshay Kumar popularised the turbaned Sikh look in last year's blockbuster Singh Is Kinng and now Ranbir Kapoor and Saif Ali Khan will don turbans for their upcoming movies - a trend welcomed by the Punjabi film industry.
While Ranbir sports a turban for Shimit Amin's Rocket Singh, Saif will be seen in the 'Sikh look' in his home production Love Aaj Kal, which also stars Deepika Padukone.
Manmohan Singh, a prominent Punjabi filmmaker, is happy that the look has been adopted in Bollywood and accepted by audiences across India.
"Earlier, we had seen that a turbaned character is portrayed in a comical sense to add some humour to the movie. But now a turbaned hero sporting a beard is shown as a central character," Singh told IANS.
Hindi films have earlier had Sikh protagonists but the instances have been few. Those who have played turbaned Sikhs in the past include superstar Amitabh Bachchan in Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Saathiyo, Sunny Deol in Gadar-Ek Prem Katha, Ajay Devgan in The Legend of Bhagat Singh and Salman Khan in Heroes.
"The influence of the Punjabi language and its values are undoubtedly growing rapidly throughout the world. In fact, wherever we went for shooting or promotion of our movies in Europe and the US, we have seen that foreigners are keen to know more about Punjabi culture, especially about turbans," said Singh, who is credited with modernising Punjabi cinema.
Singh has made successful films like Jee Aayian Nu, Asan Nun Maan Watna Da, Yaran Nal Bahran, Dil Apna Punjabiand Miti Wajan Mardi. He is known for highlighting serious issues through his narratives.
Labh Janjua, a Punjabi singer who has made a mark in Bollywood with his rustic voice, is also upbeat about the prominence given to Sikhs in Hindi movies.
"Turbans and the Punjabi language are gaining prominence in both Bollywood and Hollywood. Besides seeing the protagonist of the movie sporting a turban, you can easily find a Punjabi song or inclusion of Punjabi dialogues to add colour to the movie," he said.
"Recently, I also got an offer from a Britain-based actor and director to sing a bouncy Punjabi number in his forthcoming English movie. I guess the day is not far when we'll see Hollywood stars wearing turbans too," quipped Janjua, who has crooned hit numbers like Jee karda in Singh is Kinng and Hikknaal in Dev D.
Said Punjabi pop singer Amrinder Gill, who made his acting debut with Punjabi film Munde UK De: "If I get a chance, I would happily flaunt a turban on the screen."
"The turban has its universal appeal as you can find a turbaned Sikh in every nook and corner of this world. So it is an attempt by Bollywood film producers to gain the attention of viewers worldwide," he added.
Said Jasbir Jassi, another renowned Punjabi singer: "It's really good to see Bollywood stars wearing turbans. It has now become a regular trend. Everyone wants to cash in on this concept, but we are happy that it is also helping to propagate Punjabi values among the masses."
But at the same time Bollywood filmmakers should be cautious to maintain the dignity of the turban while portraying it on screen, he added.
(Alkesh Sharma can be contacted at email@example.com)