Negative and Positive views of Sikhs in the Media

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Popular media is stereotyping the Sikhs as either clowns with no brain or terrorists. While Sikhs are negatively represented, they are widely recognized in modern media. Trimmed darhis, the dehumanization of women, and obsession over alcohol defining Punjabi masculinity always make their way into Punjabi movies and music. We shouldn't boil Sikhi down to a religion with hard and fast rules about what you should and shouldn’t do. Sikhs shouldn’t get caught up in debates that lead nowhere farther than a cyclical debate of continued controversy. We should promote our mother tongue so that the newer generations may welcome it and carry our culture and tradition.

Detailed List (Work-in-Progress)

Please help make a detailed list of movies, TV shows, music videos, advertisements, and any other media you find that defames or recognizes Sikhs. From this data we will be able to make a report which will reveal statistics Sikh representation and how we should act on improving how Sikh people are perceived in global societies.

In this list please post the following:

  1. Name of the movie, album or show
  2. Release Date
  3. Please write a brief account describing the objectionable character, scene, etc.

This may include:

  1. Jokes about Sikhs (ex: Raja Hindustani, Mission Kashmir).
  2. Wrong impressions of Sikhs (ex: Shootout at Lokhandwala, Sangharsh, etc.)


Hollywood Movies

  • The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen shows an Indian in the role of Captain Nemo (supposed to be a Sikh in the book), the captain of a super advanced submarine, the Nautilus. Naseeruddin Shah lends his acting skills as Nemo, who is depicted as a Hindu Rajput, given his altar/worship to Kali and passion for wearing a turban and weapons. Westerners would possibly think he is a Sikh because of his turban, beard, and swordsmanship. This is also contradictory to the book's description of Nemo being a Sikh.
  • In Octopussy the James Bond flick, Kabir Bedi plays the evil villain Govinda (the henchman of Kamal Khan), and has a well trimmed beard, wears a Nehru jacket, and carries out attacks on the Lake Palace Hotel, Jagniwas Island, Lake Pichola, Udaipur, Rajasthan.
  • In Hancock a Sikh man is the owner of a liquor store and is on the verge of getting robbed. He is defenseless and is held with a gun to his head. This is offensive in that he promotes the consumption of alcohol (against Sikhi) and cannot defend himself (Sikhs are supposed to be strong, courageous people who fight for their right and against oppression).
  • In Partition a Sikh man is shown serving for the British in WWII (this is a good thing, as many Sikhs laid down their lives for US, UK, etc. in the world wars) and wears a turban (also a good thing, as he maintains his Sikh appearance while serving in the military). He takes care of a young Muslim girl and protects her, as she is lost from her family due to the Partition of India (also very Sikh-like as he cares for those in need). Soon he begins to love her and marries her (this however is prohibited in Sikhi, as she is Muslim). After She visits her family in Pakistan, they refuse to let her leave and vow to get her married, denying her relationship with a Sikh man. The Sikh does a very shameful act as he goes on a journey to bring back his love-he cuts his hair and adopts an Islamic name, therefore converting to Islam. He chooses to forsake his religion rather than his maintain it, just in the name of love. This film is very similar to non-Hollywood films Gadar: Ek Prem Katha and Shaheed-e-Mohabbat.
  • In The Darjeeling Limited a Sikh cab driver in the opening scene winds his way through oncoming Indian traffic, racing to deposit Bill Murray at the train station. A Sikh family is seen dining in the train compartment. At one point in the film, the Whitman brothers attend a kirtan, and are surrounded by a room full of Sikhs. The brothers kneel down to matha-tek, questioning if the act itself is actually "working". Waris Ahluwalia shows up in numerous scenes on the train as the chief steward. It's encouraging to see him exploring his range and depth as an actor in these various supporting roles.
  • In Inside Man a Sikh is portrayed. Along with being a heist film, Inside Man is notable for having a great deal of underlying racial tension and commentary on racial issues in modern American society, such as when the Sikh man, initially suspected to be an Arab, is immediately suspected by the police because of the turban he wears, and the tension between groups of different ethnic minorities. He has his turban taken away and complains how Sikhs are not Arabs, he's tired of getting harassed all the time, and his civil rights are continually violated in post-9/11 New York (also uses some vulgar language). Detective Frazier responds, "I bet you can get a cab, though." Then the Sikh replies gracefully, "I guess that's one of the perks." Many things are shown in this movie. The racism of ignorant attitudes is captured. The turban removal scene is embarrassing, disgraceful, and harsh but it shows the struggles Sikhs go through in modern society. The Sikh remains in Chardi-Kala even though his own nation refused to accept his identity. This is excellent in showing one of the fundamental principles of Sikhi. Spike Lee did a great service to our community by bringing this character to life and in retrospect, this scene would be useful in educating people of Sikhism.
  • The English Patient devotes time to Hana and her romance with Kip, an Indian Sikh sapper in the British Army. Due to various events in her past, Hana believes that anyone who comes close to her is likely to die, and Kip's position as a bomb defuser makes their romance full of tension. This a great portrayal of Sikhs, who served in great numbers for UK, USA, etc. in both world wars. It also shows that he maintains his Sikh appearance while serving in battle while among non-Sikhs. However at one point, Kip sleeps with Hana (adultery is banned in Sikhism).
  • In Bend It Like Beckham Jesminder "Jess" Bhamra (Parminder Nagra) is the 18-year-old daughter of Punjabi Sikhs from Hounslow, west London. She follows her dreams of playing football, despite the challenges coming from a Indian community and being a girl. This film accurately shows the challenges Sikhs go through abroad to integrate into society, and is an amazing example of how women can do anything men can do. Jess ends up playing in America and becomes a professional football player. Girls can do anything and should feel proud to be a girl, following the footsteps of Mai Bhago (Mata Bhag Kaur).
  • Ocean of Pearls is a Hollywood movie in which a Sikh man with a full beard and turban, AMRIT SINGH is often the target of racial profiling. But when he sees his dreams of becoming Chief of Surgery at a state-of-the-art transplant center dwindle because of his appearance, Amrit goes against a tradition he's maintained his whole life and cuts his hair. Hiding this decision from his girlfriend and family in Toronto is only the start of a series of compromises Amrit finds himself making as he deals with hospital politics and health care injustices. When his compromises result in the death of a patient, Amrit begins to reexamine the value of the religious traditions he'd turned his back on. See more at
  • Provoked is a British film in which a Sikh women is treated horribly by her husband.
  • Amu is an English film portraing sthe tory of a girl, orphaned during the 1984 anti-Sikh riots, reconciling with her adoption years later.
  • Breakaway is the story of Sehajdhari Sikh Rajveer Singh who challenges his father's wishes and follows his dream to become a hockey player. This film shows the modern issues that Sikhs have to face.

Bollywood Movies

Movie: Shaheed-e-Azad Bhagat Singh
Release date: 1954
Portrayal: First movie depicting Bhagat Singh's revolutionary figure.
Movie: Shaheed Bhagat Singh
Release date: 1963
Portrayal: Glorious movement of Bhagat Singh depicted again.
Movie: Shaheed
Release date: 1965
Portrayal: An accurate, lively portrayal of Bhagat Singh's life.
Movie: Bombay to Goa
Release date: 3 March 1972
Portrayal: A Sardar is shown wearing a patka and acts mentally handicapped.
Movie: Sheheed Udham Singh
Release date: 1977
Portrayal: Accurately depicts Sikh lion and revolutionary

Movie: Jallian Wala Bagh
Release date: 1977
Portrayal: Sikh freedom fighter is shown a brave and courageous
Movie: Vijeta
Release date: 1982
Portrayal: Excellent portrayal of a Sikh Air-force pilot in war/uniform. However, he wears a patka.
Movie: Raja Hindustani
Release date: 1996
Portrayal: Johnny Lever is depicted as a goofy and dumb Sikh with no beard
Movie: Maachis
Release date: 25 October 1996
Portrayal: The film portrays the circumstances surrounding the rise of the Sikh insurgency in Punjab in the 
1980s and traces the transformation of a youth from a boy next door to a revolutionary bent on wreaking vengeance.
Movie: Border
Release date: 13 June 1997
Portrayal: Great movie showing martial ability of Sikhs and one of the greatest Sikh soldiers.
Movie: Dil to Pagal Hai
Release date: 31 October 1997
Portrayal: A Sikh knows that his friend had an affair with his sister, and he uses cheap words
Movie Name: Kuch Kuch Hota Hai
Release date: 16 October 1998
Portrayal: Song - Ik Nikke Jehe Neyane Nu Sardar Bana Ke Mazak Uddan De Usda...
(translation/explanation needed)
Movie Name: Sangharsh
Release date: 3 September 1999
Portrayal: The slogan Raj Karega Khalsa is misused and misinterpreted by Preity Zinta’s brother who is shown to be a Sikh "terrorist"
Movie: Shaheed Udham Singh
Release date: 2000
Portrayal: Raj Babbar plays the man who took revenge on the British.

Movie Name: Mission Kashmir
Release date: 27 October 2000
Portrayal: The movie starts from a scene where a Sikh is portrayed as a very cowardly person
Movie Name: Mohabbatein
Release date: 27 October 2000
Portrayal: Anupam Kher wears patka and spreads hate.
Movie: Gadar: Ek Prem Katha
Release date: 15 June 2001
Portrayal: Sunny Deol is a Sikh who slaughters Muslims in the name of Waheguru during the Partition. He is shown as an 
illiterate and marries a Muslim girl. However, he is shown as a sehajdhari Sikh who preserves the art of turban wearing and

retains the message of Sikhi and is ashamed of his sins.

Movie: Lagaan
Release date: 15 June 2001
Portrayal: Deva Singh Saudi is a really good Cricket player
Movie: Shaahed-E-Azam
Release date: 2002
Portrayal: Accuratly represents Bhagat Singh's cause for independence.

Movie: 23rd March 1931: Shaheed
Release date: June 7, 2002
Portrayal: Bobby Deol stars as the revolutionary Bhagat Singh.
Movie: The Legend of Bhagat Singh
Release date: June 7, 2002
Portrayal: Great film portraying Bhagat Singh's ambition and glory.
Movie: Hawayein
Release date: 8 June 2003
Portrayal: 1984 riots and succeeding conflicts are shown. Accurately depicts challenges/struggles Sikhs had to face. 
Later the film shows how Sikhs responded in various ways. It is based on the aftermath of Indira Gandhi’s assassination, the nationwide 1984 Anti-Sikh riots and the subsequent victimisation of the people in Punjab (India) in the years that followed.
Movie Name: Baghban
Release date: 3 October 2003
Portrayal: Asrani plays a very comical, stereotypical image of Sikhs with a fake turban.
Movie: Munna Bhai M.B.B.S.
Release date: 19 December 2003
Portrayal: Sikh man is shown as doctor while keeping full appearance.
Movie: Kaya Taran
Release date: 2004
Portrayal: revolves around a Sikh woman and her young son who have taken shelter in a nunnery in Meerut during 
the 1984 Anti-Sikh riots.
Movie: Main Hoon Na
Release date: 30 April 2004
Portrayal: Sikhs are shown as respectful, military people. Kabir Bedi wears acts as a turbaned Sikh officer.

Movie: Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Saathiyo
Release date: December 24, 2004
Portrayal: Sikhs are shown as respectful, military people. Amitabh Bachchan wears acts as a turbaned Sikh officer.
Movie: Jo Bole So Nihaal
Release date: 13 May 2005
Portrayal: Sunny Deol portrays a Sikh in a very distasteful manner, as he is filled with ego and shown as illiterate 
and stupid. His   mother is shown as an Amritdhari and a sick, idiotic woman. Deol is a Sikh police officer is shown
being chased by scantily-clad  women. The Sikh FBI agent is forgetful of Sikh beliefs and has a bad dressing sense. 
However, the movie does present/promote some Sikh teachings/beliefs in its plot.
Movie: Bunty Aur Babli
Release date: May 27, 2005
Portrayal: Rani Mukherjee is a Sikh girl who smokes
Movie: Adharm
Release date: 2006
Portrayal: The film is based on the real-life events of the Chittisinghpura massacre on March 20, 2000, in 
which 37 Sikhs were massacred by Islamic Fundamentalists in Kashmir.

Movie: Rang De Basanti
Release date: 26 January 2006
Portrayal: Draws parallels between revolutionaries of Singh's era and modern Indian youth. Amir Khan has a Khanda tattoo 
and is a Sehajdhari Sikh.
Movie: Hattrick
Release date: March 16, 2007
Portrayal: Absurd song "RABBA KHER KARE, LUT GAYA SARDAR" (sung by a Sikh-Labh Singh Janjua) is used. Sarabjeet 'Saby' 
Singh is  obsessed with cricket and doesn't pay attention to his wife.
Movie Name: Shootout at Lokhandwala
Release date: May 25, 2007
Portrayal: Sikh revolutionaries are labelled terrorists and are compared with underworld dons. 
Movie: Jab We Met
Release date: 26 October 2007 
Portrayal: Kareena Kapoor shown as dumb, stupid, and crazy girl and demoralizes the image of a woman, Jatti, and Sikhni through 
her  actions.
Movie: Return of Hanuman (previously Hanuman Returns)
Release date: 28 December 2007
Portrayal: The school Headmaster of Hanuman is shown to be a Sardar 
who behaves in a disgusting way. This is used to promote Hinduism over Sikhi, and defame Sikhs by showing them 
as arrogant/condescending and labeling them as a cult of Hindus.
Movie: Khushboo
Release date: 20 June 2008
Portrayal: A Sikh family is shown in the wrong manner and their daughter has an affair with a Hindu who is living in their 
house. The family has no problem with this relationship or their marriage.
Movie: Singh is Kinng
Release date: 8 August 2008
Portrayal: At times Akshay Kumar's character sported a trimmed beard and fake turban, but this was later changed. He 
is shown as a  useless, stupid, illiterate guy. However, the movie does promote some religious beliefs and teachings.
Movie: Heroes
Release date: October 24, 2008
Portrayal: Salman Khan plays a turbaned Sikh in the Sikh Regiment in the Kargil War. His son Jasvinder Singh is shown 
wearing a patka in childhood, but is played by Salman Khan at the end of the movie and is shown clean shaven with a haircut.
Movie: Golmaal Returns
Release date: 29 October 2008
Portrayal: Gopal uses his friend's yatch one night to escape being drenched in the rain. The boat's appliances (like TV) suggest 
that his friend is into women and watches porn. It is later reviled that his friend is a Sikh and is shown fat, wears 
jewelry (showing Maya and ego), and hangs out with multiple women (suggesting adultery).
Movie: Love Aaj Kal
Release date: 31 July 2009
Portrayal: This movie shows Rishi Kapoor and Khan with turbans and doesn't distort the Sikh image.
Movie: Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year
Release date: December 11, 2009
Portrayal: Portrayal is positive and shows how Sardars are not to be made fun of.
Movie: Yamla Pagla Deewana
Release date: January 14, 2011
Portrayal: This film stereotyped Sikhs. It shows the girl who got the NRI as a fair-skinned kudi with a beautiful 
physique.  Meanwhile her cousin, who is chunkier and tanner, is portrayed as the girl desperate to get a guy and go 
to Canada. Furthermore, there are scenes of Sikh guys getting drunk. In fact, one scene shows Paramveer drinking 
out of a bucket and everyone praising him  for it. Alcohol is a problem is a Punjab and we should be trying to reduce 
it, not encourage it. Not to mention Dharam and Gajodhar  don’t even start wearing dastaars until they have to disguise 
themselves. A dastaar is something you’re supposed to wear with pride!
Movie: Patiala House
Release date: February 11, 2011
Portrayal: Akshay Kumar is a Sehajdhari Sikh who wants to play cricket for England, and his dad Rishi Kapoor is the 
turbaned leader of the Southall Sikh community. This movie is very entertaining.
Movie: I Am Singh
Release date: December 2, 2011
Portrayal: Great movie depicting struggles Sikhs go through after 9/11.
Movie: Son of Sardaar
Release date: 13 November 2012
Portrayal: Returning to his parents' village, a man becomes the latest target in a long-standing family feud. This film stars well known actors in turbans but is mostly a cheaper version of Yamla Pagla Deewana.
Movie: Yamla Pagla Deewana 2
Release date: 7 June 2013
Portrayal: Average film showing the trio of Dharam (Dharmendra), Paramveer (Sunny Deol) and Gajodhar (Bobby Deol) reunite, this time in the UK. Paramveer opens up the "Yamla Pagla Deewana" club and re-encounters a visit with Dharam and Gajodhar, after their last visit to Canada. Now, the trio are back with double the fun, double the action, with the presence of a fool (Johnny Lever), and double the romance, with the Suman (Neha Sharma), and Paramveer's love Reet (Kristina Akheeva). 
Movie: Bhaag Milkha Bhaag
Release date: 12 July 2013
Portrayal: Excellent film showing tThe truth behind the ascension of Milkha "The Flying Sikh" Singh who was scarred because of the India-Pakistan partition.
Movie: Singh Saab the Great
Release date: 22 November 2013
Portrayal: Good movie showing a modern Sikh man and his life's struggle in India. A common man works as a tax collector in a small city. A TV journalist uncovers the mysterious hero's back story.

Pollywood (Punjabi Movies)

Many Punjabi films are stating to support haircuts and cut beards and portray the turbaned men as backwards, non-progressing villains. We should support the Punjabi Film Industry, because at the end of the day, if more people watch Punjabi movies, more Punjabi films will be made. Bollywood is a giant Hindi-speaking monster. So do your part to promote the ma boli, save the over-analyzing for later.

  • Harbhajan Mann: Harbhajan Mann makes great movies, showing and enriching true Punjabi culture and heritage. He encourages the youth to speak Punjabi and never forget it. Although his films are enjoying and fun, they almost always depict the turbaned man as the backward villain.
  • Diljit Dosanjh: No one knows if Diljit ever kept his kesh or trimmed it like his dhari. Sikh guys are ditching the pagh like crazy. Diljit was proof for many young Sikh men that wearing a pagh is cool. Yes, it’s shallow to be inspired to do something just because a celebrity does it. Diljit, along with Ravinder Garewal and Inderjeet Nikku is famous and for a lot of little boys they are role models (unfortunately).
  • Ik Kudi Punjab Di: Shows how a girl, Navdeep, agrees to marry her suitor (Sehaj) under one condition – he has to move in with her parents! This film shows this love story's drama and effect on society. Women are equal to men and should be treated like them too.
  • The Lion of Punjab: This film has a lacked storyline, a combination of cheap sexual humor, and classic misconceptions of Punjabis. Punjabi people do not breath violence. We have better things to do than pick a panga with random people. It's filled with classic trimmed dharis, jatt pride and macho-man personas, but Punjabi audiences are finally seeing an actual pugh-wearing lead character. This film is the Punjabi version of Singh is Kinng.
  • Dharti: Jimmy Shergill plays a Sehajdhari Sikh. It centers around a fictitious political party whose leaders have been successfully ruling the region for decades. But when the party’s head politician is on his deathbed, panic spreads across Punjab as potential replacements for his position keep getting assassinated. The movie quickly turns into a murder mystery with Jimmy Shergill’s character tapped to unravel it. The movie has great music.
  • Jihne Mera Dil Luteya: This is a great comedy movie that definitely promotes the speaking of Punjabi. Diljit Dosanjh (the dude who sang Panga) and Gippy Grewal (the dude who sang Huthiyar), quite possibly the two most ridiculously macho singers ever, are comedic geniuses in this movie, who have to win over Neeru Bajwa. There a few lame things about it. Especially the final scene where the Sikh wedding ceremony has some unnecessary ritualistic undertones (Get it straight producers, Sikhs don’t do that!). After a while it’s also tiring to see Diljit’s perfectly trimmed dhari.
  • Jatt and Juliet: This movie is very funny and stars Diljit Dosanjh and Nerru Bajwa. However, this movie still shows trimmed darhis, the dehumanization of women, and obsession over alcohol defining Punjabi masculinity. Regardless, Jatt and Juliet is definitely a step up from the typical Harbhajan Mann Punjabi films. While the story line lacks originality and substance. If you are looking for a film to fill your downtime with some laughs, this movie is perfect for you.
  • Shaheed E Mohabbat: This is a very good film which shows Gurdas Mann as a WWII veteran who aids a Muslim girl (lost from her family from the partition of India & Pakistan).
  • Des Hoyaa Pardes: This is an emotional film illustrating the tragedies faced by the people of Punjab in the 1980s. Gurdas Mann adopted the role of a son of a well-respected Jatt (bilingual separatist) Gurdev Singh Somal. He falls in love with a high-ranking police officer’s daughter. Before the wedding, the father is murdered by separatists. This tale soon twists in to the inevitable demise of Gurshaan (Gurdas Maan). This movie was based on actual events.

Punjabi Music Industry

  • Lyrics: Singers such as Honey Singh and Diljit Dosanjh sing dirty music and taint the image of Sikhs as lying, perfidious, and those who slander.
  • Music Videos: Singers such as Jazzy B and Honey Singh present a very crude nature in some of their music videos. They depict violence, pride, promote caste, drugs, and guns. Many of these videos show Women as sex-appeal and promote the use of drugs. Some religious songs however, show a very respectful and inspirational presentation.

Print Media

Sandeep (Sonny) Caberwal with Times Square billboard

  • A Year in the Best-Dressed Life of Waris Ahluwalia, Vanity Fair magazine
One of the 2010 International Best-Dressed List’s honorees is New York City and Jaipur resident Waris Ahluwalia, who (rather unsurprisingly) describes his style as East meets West. The C.F.D.A.-nominated House of Waris jewelry designer and bit-part actor, who likes wearing tailored suits from Savile Row accented with pocket squares and pink suede George Esquivel shoes, is also one of the few people in the world who isn’t afraid to wear denim on denim. Here’s a look back at some of his most memorable outfits of the past year.