Sikhs in Bollywood

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Sikhs in Bollywood

It is difficult to imagine a walk of life where Sikhs, one of India’s most dynamic minorities, have not made a significant contribution. The film industry, too, has attracted many talented people from this community right from the days when films began to be made in India. Over the decades, we have had several actors, directors, producers, story-writers, lyricists, singers, cinematographers, et al from this community who shot into fame by dint of their talent, perseverance and determination.

Amrita Singh

Amrita Singh, who was a sensation opposite Sunny Deol in ‘Betab’ , had a fairly successful film career. She appeared opposite heroes like Amitabh Bachchan and Vinod Khanna in some films of the 80s. However, she quit her acting career after her marriage to actor Saif Ali Khan


Voted as the seventh most handsome actor of the world in 1970s, Dharmendra is a household name in India, even among those who do not watch hindi films. He has been a part of many hit films and a favourite of many leading directors like Hrishikesh Mukerji and Shakti Samantha. Although his films with Asha Parekh did well at the box-office, it was his pairing with the dream girl Hema Malini which made both of them immortal in the memories of hindi film viewers. The couple went on to do 31 films together before they married in real life too. The drunken scene of the classic SHOLAY has been tried by many, but no one could do it with the same ease as Dharmendra. Today's top stars like Shahrukh and Salman Khan are still in awe of Dharmendra's personality in the latter's hey days. He has 2 sons, Sunny Deol and Bobby deol from his first wife Parkash Kaur, and 2 daughters with Hema Malini. Sunny and Bobby are also in films.

Dev Kohli

The famed lyricist, he is best remembered for writing the song 'didi tera devar deewana' in the film Hum Aap ke Hain Kaun which is Madhuri Dixit's biggest hit of her career. The songs of Hum Aap ke Hain Kaun were at the top position for nearly one year and Dev was given much appreciation and awards for it. he has written many other popular songs too.

Daler Mehndi

A Sikh who can send teenyboppers over the country dancing deliriously to his lilting Punjabi pop tunes. He is, of course, the Burly Sardarji known to us as Daler Mehndi. Daler Mehndi has to his credit innumerable music albums and stage shows. He has sung in films too and he is still very much in the reckoning.

Geeta Bali

(Real name Harikirtan Kaur), introduced by the late director Mazhar Khan, also created a new trend in the field of acting. She belonged to a highly religious Sikh family. Her role in Bawre Nayan, directed by Kidar Sharma, ensured her immortality in the annals of cinema. When we talk of Sikh heroines in Hindi films, it is of course Geeta Bali’s name that comes to the top. She was a highly talented actress. Though she had some small-time dancing roles in pre-partition films, she is generally regarded as a Kidar Sharma’s post-Partition discovery.

Geeta Bali’s real name was Harkeertan Kaur. She made her debut as heroine in Kidar Sharma’s ‘Suhag Raat’ (1948) when she was around 17. Though the film was not a box-office hit, Geeta Bali’s powerful performance in it catapulted her to stardom. Soon she was flooded with offers from filmmakers. In a career span of some twelve years, she was paired with topmost heroes of her time. Her most successful film was ‘Bawre Nain’ (1950) in which Raj Kapoor was her hero. In ‘Baazi’ , ‘Jaal’, ‘Milap’ and ‘Ferry’, she was paired with the debonair Dev Anand. Her expressions and beauty in 'tadbeer se bigdi hui taqdeer bana le', and dance of 'shola jo bhadke dil mera dhadke' are remembered very well by the critics and peers.

Geeta Bali married Shammi Kapoor after falling in love with him when they were acting in the two film ‘Miss Coca Cola’ and ‘Coffee House’. After retiring from films, she settled for domesticity. She tragically died of smallpox in 1965 when she was still in her 30s.


Born as Sampooran Singh Kalra in Jhelum, now in Pakistan, this man is one of the living legends of bollywood since the black and white era. He is an accomplished lyricist, producer and director writing under the name of Gulzar. After getting his first break in 1961 and writing songs for the classic 'Bandini', he has worked non-stop til 2009's Academy Award for the song 'jai ho' in the film 'Slumdog Millionaire', thus becoming the first sikh to get the honour. Highly respected all over India by the audience, film makers and his own collaegues, he has directed many films like Mausam, Aandhi, Ijaazat and Maachis. Maachis was based on terrorism in Punjab. Many of his films have been honored with National Awards by the Govt. of India. He has also wrote ghazals for the famed ghazal singer Jagjit Singh. He also happens to be one of the favorite writer of Lata Mangeshkar, who fondly says his writings one of the best she has sung. he is also famous for always wearing a starched white kurta-pyajama. He is married to the yesteryear film actress Rakhee and they have a daughter who is now happily married.

H S Rawail

Aas another Sikh who made some memorable films. Beginning with ‘Patanga’ in the late 40s, he went on to make a number of films that old-timers remember even today. His ‘Mere Mehboob’ (1964), for which Naushad provided some haunting tunes, was a chartbuster.

Jagjit Singh

Jagjit Singh (Punjabi: ਜਗਜੀਤ ਸਿੰਘ) (born February 8, 1941) is an Indian ghazal singer. He sings in the Urdu, Punjabi, Hindi, and Gujarati languages. Jagjit Singh was born in Ganganagar, which was then in Rajputana in British India. His father Sardar Amar Singh Dhiman, employed by the Government of India, was a native of the village of Dalla in what is now Ropar district in Punjab and his mother Bachchan Kaur came from a deeply religious Sikh family from Ottallan village near Samrala. His siblings include four sisters and two brothers. Jagjit Singh is known as Jeet by his family. Although his late father had wanted him to join the Indian Administrative Service, he was later reported to be happy with his son's achievements in the world of music. Singh went to Khalsa High School in Ganganagar. He then studied science after matriculation at Government College (Ganganagar) and went on to DAV College, Jalandhar where he graduated in arts. He also achieved a post-graduate degree in history from Kurukshetra University, Haryana.

Jagjit Singh's association with music goes back to his childhood. He learned music under Pandit Chaganlal Sharma for two years in Ganganagar, and later devoted six years to learning Khayal, Thumri and Dhrupad forms of Indian Classical Music from Ustad Jamaal Khan of the Sainia Gharana school. The Vice-Chancellor of Punjab University and Kurukshetra University, the Late Professor Suraj Bhan encouraged his interest in music. He arrived in Mumbai formerly Bombay in 1965 in search of better opportunities as a career musician and singer. His early struggle in the music industry, though not too harsh by his own account, still had its share of trials and tribulations. He lived as a paying guest and his earlier assignments were singing advertisement jingles or performing at weddings and parties.

Kanwaljit Singh

From a Sikh family, started as hero in Hindi films. But he could never make it to the top bracket. Nowadays, kanwaljit is seen more often in television serials than in films.

Kuldip Kaur

The first Sikh actress who became a household name for her negative roles in films was, of course, the one and only Kuldip Kaur. Kuldip Kaur is regarded by film historians as the quintessential vamp of Hindi films. In the 40s and 50s, she could be seen in almost every other film that was released. Not very tall, Kuldip Kaur was nevertheless a beautiful woman with a powerful screen presence. Above all, she was very good actress.

Hailing from a rich Sikh family of Attari (near Amritsar), Kuldip Kaur was undoubtedly far in advance of her times. At a time when girls from respectable Sikh households could not even imagine of making film acting as their career, Kuldip Kaur, defying conventions and the strong oposition put up by her tradition-bound family, had chosen to join the film industry.

Though she must have acted in more than a hundred films, the film in which she played the role of a vamp to perfection was BR Chopra’s Ashok Kumar-Veena starrer ‘Afsana’ (1951). Such indeed was the commercial success of this film that B R Chopra decided to go in for a remake of this film in the 70s. The remake, however , was given a different title- ‘Dastaan’. While Dilip Kumar and Sharmila Tagore were the leading pair, the role of the vamp in it was attempted by Bindu. But Bindu, alas, came nowhere near Kuldip Kaur in impressing the viewers with her performance. Critics said Bindu lacked the oomph and the seductive charm that the mercurial and bright-eyed Kuldip Kaur had brought to bear on her role in the original film.

Manmohan Singh

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Manmohan Singh is the iconic cinematographer of hindi films. He is famous for making a good team with the legendary director Yash Chopra and credited with picturization of the beautiful scenes in films like Chandni, Lamhe, Dilwale dulhaniya le jayenge, Mohabbatien and Dil to paagal hai among numerous other popular films he did. Recently he quit cinematography in hindi films to take up direction in Punjabi films and has made quite a hit films with Harbhajan Mann like Jee Aaya nu, Dil Apna Punjabi, Assa nu Maan Watanaa da and Jimmy Shergill's Yaara naal Bahaaraa.

Neetu Singh

Neetu Singh, who started as a child artists in films, was a successful leading lady in many films of the 70s. She quitted films after marrying Rishi Kapoor.


Paintal whose real name is Kanwaljeet Singh, was much in demand in the 70s and 80s. He could make people laugh with his antics in films. Paintal comes from a Sikh family of Taran Taran, near Amritsar. His brother Gufi Paintal, also a talented actor, is well known for playing the role of Shakuni Mama in B R Chopra’s monumental serial ‘Mahabharat’.

Poonam Dhillon

A Chopra camp discovery, zoomed to fame with ‘Noorie’ (1979). she was applauded for her performance in ‘Sohni Mahiwal’ in which her hero was Sunny Deol. She, too, retired from films after her marriage. She is, however, still occasionally seen in some television serials.

Simi Garewal

Sukhwinder Singh

This singer's voice is most famous for singing 'Jai Ho' for the Academy Award winner film 'Slumdog Millionaire'. He has set up a hit team with the music maestro A. R. Rehman, and now Vishal Bharadwaj. Rehman gave him his first superhit song 'Chaiya Chaiya' for the film 'Dil Se', and he has never looked back after winning all the playback awards for that song.

Uttam Singh

The music of 'Dil to Paagal hai' brings the name of Uttam Singh in memories. Although a music arranger for most of his career, he composed music for few films like Waaris and Dil to paagal hai which went on to be huge hits.

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.

Harikirtan Kaur

Jaspal Bhatti

Jimmy Shergill

Kabir Bedi

Kanwaljit Singh

Mandira Bedi

Manmeet Singh

Namrata Singh Gujral

Preet Brar

Priya Gill

Ranjeeta Kaur

Shoma Anand

Vikram Chatwal

Waris Ahluwalia

Yogeeta Bali