Manpreet Singh

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Manpreet Singh

Although the Indian film industry is the largest in the world in terms of ticket sales and number of films produced annually [1] (877 feature films and 1177 short films were released in the year 2003 alone), Sikhs, especially "Sabat Soorat - Dastardhari Sikhs" ("fully fledged and turban wearing" Sikhs with unshorn Kesh) have not had any significant impact in this business arena. Hence, the Sikh community has been waiting to see a "Sabat Soorat Sikh" on cinema and television screens for a very long time. Also, the image of the Sikhs in Bollywood has mainly been shown in derogatory light and their reputation has taken a severe beating for a long time now. Perhaps this is going to change.

No more!

The Sikh community now has Manpreet Singh from Mumbai the hero of 'Sat Sri Akal (Bollywood Movie)', who is leading the wave of turbaned and bearded Sikh role models now appearing in cinema, television and the advertisement world. Leading from the front, they have taken upon themselves the mantle of the battle of respect for the turban and the Sikh image in the world of acting.

With a graduate degree in mass media and a post-graduate degree in management studies from Bombay University, Manpreet Singh has had a chequered and versatile career so far. Emerging as an artiste through participation in inter-college events and anchoring programmes for a variety of singers from Punjab, Manpreet Singh is now anxiously awaiting the release of his first full length Punjabi movie called Sat Sri Akal, produced by the Mata Tripta Trust and dedicated to the Tercentenary celebrations of Guruship of Guru Granth Sahib. Based on a true story, the movie has a wholesome offering of Shabads and songs with a socio-religious message, not only for the Sikhs but for all of humankind. Shot at various locations in Punjab, the movie is historic in more ways than one.

Having played key roles in a plethora of TV serials from 'Yeh Meri Life Hai' to 'Kahi' to 'Milenge', young and dynamic Manpreet has directed social message films and acted in corporate ad films, including ones for Microsoft and ESPN sports.

Like many present day youngsters, Sikh boys and girls also 'clamour for the glamour'. The likes of Manpreet Singh, Manmeet Singh, Ishmeet Singh and Rohanpreet Singh are growing. Like in all spheres of life, they want a niche and are determined to have their way.

Some years ago when the die was cast against them and Sikhs were being ridiculed in cinema, Jaspal Singh became Grasim Mr. India International in 2002 and was the first saabat soorat Sikh model to do so. The trend started and we now have regular Mr. Singh International contests. Since then we have had many Sikh stars walking the ramp in pomp and glory. Let us hope that this glory will refurbish the image of the Sikhs.

Anita Kim while writing about 'Sikh Roles, Representations and Revenge in the Media, writes, "Despite the dominant media influence, Sikhs around the world have taken up the challenge to reconstruct their social image and spread knowledge of their religion to Sikhs and non-Sikhs alike. Ironically, one of their most potent tactics is by using the methods initially used against them. Sikhs are using radio, television, journals, the internet, and other sources of media to rebuild their image and strengthen the communication between each other.

The Interview

Manpreet Singh

An Interview with Manpreet Singh

  • Q: Manpreet Singh nu kis naal preet hai? (Does Manpreet Singh have love for someone?)

Manpreet Singh: Apne parents, apni family, apne dharma, rab di banayee har cheez te insaniyat naal (I love my parents, my family, my religion, God’s creations and humanity.)

  • Q: When and how did you choose acting as a career?

Manpreet Singh: I started my acting career in the year 2000 and now I run my own production house called 9a Entertainment.

  • Q: Have you ever been told to cut your hair or beard in order to be granted a role? Is this normal?

Manpreet Singh: Yes I was offered a role in a Hindi film where the director wanted me to cut my hair. I refused. The Mumbai Mirror newspaper in Mumbai published my story, “Not without my turban”. This is a normal trend in the Indian film industry where they think that a Sabat soorat Sikh cannot be a hero. There is a similar trend in Punjabi films too as so far there has not been one.

  • Q: How will this be undone?

Manpreet Singh: Fortunately times are changing. More and more youngsters with faith in the Guru are coming forward to perform and display their acting skills. Most of them are steadfast in their beliefs and strong enough to rebut malafide moves. By the grace of God and the farsightedness of the Mata Tripta Trust at Mohali, even I have got a chance to prove the film pundits wrong. I am playing the lead role in a forthcoming Punjabi film, “Sat Sri Akal” and I hope and pray that the film will mark the beginning of a welcome change in the perception of Sikh artistes and that of the Sikh community.

  • Q: Now that you have done many roles in TV serials, ad films and cinema, how do you propose to fight the trend of denigrating the Sikhs? Do you see the possibility of Sikh Actors forming an association and lobbying with the Film Censor Board?

Manpreet Singh: Yes. Along with actors like Manmeet Singh, we plan to form a body of Sikh artistes, which would work in tandem with various production houses to ensure that the looks and character of a Sikh in a film is vetted before it is broadcast. The preliminary discussions are on and soon it will take shape.

  • Q: Do the Sikhs need a soft image?

Manpreet Singh: Indeed. The multifarious personalities of Sikhs need to be portrayed more comprehensively. We need to show that we are Sant-Sipahi and not just fighters and jokers as is being characterized so far.

  • Q: On screen, what needs to be done to counter the image damage of Sikhs in cinema?

Manpreet Singh: To and extent we are responsible for spoiling our image. Our reaction to our pigeonholing has been slow, ineffective and wanting. Everytime a film slurs our image; we should take immediate and thorough action. On screen, we need to tell producers and directors that we are not just to play the characters of the dhaba waala and the taxi driver. We are prime ministers, ministers, members of parliament, doctors, researchers, engineers, CEOs, pilots, lawyers, journalists, teachers, bankers and more. We excel in our chosen professions and the world has to see us differently.

  • Q: Tell us something about your best moment?

Manpreet Singh: My best moment so far was one when I recieved the Sikh Gaurav award in 2005 in Amritsar. My parents were present there and according to me it was one of the best gifts I could give in return for all that they had done for me.

  • Q: Apart from films, what more do you do to promote Sikhism?

Manpreet Singh: We organise a hunt called Mr Singh India in Mumbai which is on for the last two years.

  • Q: Do you attribute your success to your own efforts or the collaborative efforts of the community?

Manpreet Singh: Undoubtedly, it is the collaborative efforts of the community. But for the trust reposed in me by the Trust in Mohali it would not have been possible to play the role of the first Sikh hero.

  • Q: What would you say to young Sikh aspirants –boys and girls –who want to make it big in the world of cinema?

Manpreet Singh: I just want to say that “do not get carried away with the glitz of glamour, don’t compromise with your religious beliefs. Remember, ‘Waqt badal raha hai doston.”

Interview courtesy World Sikh News

See also

External links