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Manpreet Singh refuses to mar Sikh image for TV roles

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    In the last issue (March 12-18, 2008) of the World Sikh News, a Special Report titled "Pride and Prejudice" has come in for much appreciation by many readers. The report focussed on the demeaning, stereotyped and offensive Sikh images in Bollywood movies and television serials which have become a source of concern for Sikhs in India.

    It also detailed how numerous attempts by various individuals and organizations seeking fundamental changes in previewing films and television serials prior to certification by the Film Censor Board of India have borne virtually no results.

    Some readers have pointed to the case of Manpreet Singh, a veteran of 15 TV soap operas, who would rather lose a good role in a television drama or a film than compromise with his Sikh faith. The 25-year old Chembur resident has acted as a Sikh in all the television serials as well as films. He has turned away several choice roles because playing those characters would have required him to shave off his beard and cut his long tresses that are symbols of his religion. Since he made his debut in two episodes of ‘Mehndi Tere Naam Ki’ four and half years ago, Singh has so far acted in television serials, several advertisements and movies; all his roles have been that of a Sikh.

    Manpreet on the small screen

    Des Mein Nikla Hoga Chand
    Kya Hadsaa Kya Haqeeqat
    Mehndi Tere Naam Ki
    Yeh Meri Life Hain
    Kyunki Saans Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi
    Aprajita (Gujarati)
    Rabba Ishq Na Hoye
    Dekho Magar Pyar Se

    He is currently seen in popular soaps like ‘Kyunki Saas Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi’, ‘Yeh Meri Life Hain’ and ‘Dekho Magar Pyar Se.’ “Once they asked me to remove the turban and wear my hair in a ponytail for a serial; I declined,” he said. On another occasion, Manpreet refused to wear a hat over his turban while shooting for the serial ‘Dekho Magar Pyar Se.’ “The Sikh religion does not permit the turban to be covered: this is the reason why Sikhs are exempted from wearing a helmet,” said this former engineering student who opted out of an electronics course at Khalsa College to pursue an acting career. Manpreet’s father Puran Singh Banga, an active member of gurudwara committees in Chembur, said, “The Kesh or hair is one of the five ‘Ks’ that are the external symbols of the Sikh religion. Though young Sikhs have the freedom to give up the turban, I am particular than my two sons keep their turban: it is a symbol of our faith in god.

    ”Not happy with the comical portrayal of Sikhs in Hindi movies, Manpreet says his roles have been more varied. He has played role of a journalist as well as of a soldier. “A Sikh is always shown as a bumbling character; even in Punjabi movies, a Sikh character has never become the hero; it is always clean shaven men who play the lead roles,” he said. Manpreet’s complaint is shared by Ajit Singh, principal of Khalsa College who says the roles played by Sikh characters do not reflect the achievements of the community. The community has big industrialists, top ranking policemen and writers “But the image of a Sikh perpetuated by the media is that of a comical character who should be laughed at: it is insensitive,” he added.

    - By World Sikh News

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