Tag Archives: religionism

BOLLYWOOD LET ME CALL YOU OUT REAL QUICK: RELIGIONISM AND ETHNICISM IN BOLLYWOOD

(Disclaimer: I wrote this like months ago, in case something I say doesn’t make sense time-wise.)

I hope religionism and religionist are actual words…

White privilege, Gandhi, man—I’ve been going HARD lately. So I was like, I should definitely do something light-hearted this week. But then I figured, I might as well get it all out, you know?

BOLLYWOOD.

Cheerful…

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Scenic…

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Romantic…

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And overall just a hoot, right?
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Mhmm. It is all of those things. But, as I’ve mentioned before, sometimes, bollywood gets a little bit offensive.

Just…

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A tad…
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rude.
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When portraying minorities. The minority I’ve noticed being discriminated against the most is Sardars, who are Sikh men who wear turbans. Sardars are almost always portrayed as drunk, irrational, uneducated men. Some infamous offenders are Jab We Met and Veer Zaara (although Bachchan isn’t actually wearing a turban in Veer Zaara). Also, Sikhs are often shown doing things that are blatently against Sikhsims, such as idol worship, and, overall,  Bollywood mixes Hinduism and Sikhism. A lot.  And I have a couple issues with that.

First, the whole drunk thing. An argument I hear for this very often is, “But it’s true!! Sikhs ARE drinkers!” Okay, I get it. It is true. But…it’s true to the point that it’s like, an issue. Like, the biggest issue for us, basically. Drugs and alcohol are killing Panjab. 73% of Panjabi youth are addicted to drugs. Not just users. Addicts. I have family members who have had to recover from serious drug problems at very young ages. And yes, Sikhs are known to drink. Fine. But does that mean that Bollywood has to portray Sikhs as alcoholics all the time? Think about little Sikh boys and girls. When all they is  see Sikhs portrayed as is drinkers, that’s what they’re going to think is expected of them. And so how can we ever progress? We can’t. And Bollywood’s not concerned about it.

Now when Sikhs are somewhat reasonable people in Bollywood, it’s great! But, it’s also not, because, the more reasonable they are, the more the movie makers want us to believe they’re actually Hindus. They do pooja, worship idols, have Hindu weddings, and do other things that I don’t even know what they’re called, because as a Sikh, I never learned them. Also, characters who are Hindus often wear karas. This I just don’t get. Like, I was thinking about it the other day–karas were given to Sikhs so they could be identified as Sikhs on the battlefield. And so I was thinking, I get that religious traditions blend together sometimes, but karas are for ride or die Sikhs, like, literally. When I was in India, I noticed how there isn’t really a line between Sikhs and Hindus, and that scared me a little. We make up just 2% of India’s population, making it totally possible for us to kind of get washed away. And seeing so much Sikh-Hindu confusion in Bollywood seems like a symptom of this. Even Rocket Singh, which is the best portrayal of a Sikh-Sardar Bollywood has ever done, shows Sikhs praying to pictures. This even got my grandma heated. So you know it’s not just me, a rebelious youth. Also, there’s the fact that the Indian constitution says that Sikhism is part of Hinduism. SO YOU KNOW, THERE’S THAT.

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Look, I love watching B-wood movies. And I’m not trying to turn anyone off of them. I just feel like we need to be aware that they don’t portray minorities, like Sikhs and Muslim, well. I don’t think anyone should stop watching them. But when you do watch them, and you see that the only Sikh and Muslim characters are the rickshaw drivers or something like that, notice. Just notice. And if you want to stand up in the theater, declare the movie ethnicist or religionist, walk out, and hold a picket-sign protest, feel free. If you feel like sending a strongly worded email to Karan Johar about how, while you have marathons of his movies every rainy day, they are damaging the image of minorities in front of an international audience, be my guest. Or blog about it heatedly. Either one.

See you next time, hopefully engaged readers,

-M

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