Recognition and Rejection of Sikh Identity in Film

  • Author(s): Geetanjali Singh Chanda
  • When: 2014-08
  • Where: Sikh Formations: Religion, Culture, Theory
  • Enlarging on Benedict Anderson's idea that print capitalism bound a nation together this paper argues that films, like memoirs, novels and oral histories are also valid historic and public documents that aid in nation formation. In focusing on two commercial films – ‘Amu’ and ‘Khamosh Pani’ – made by women and with women protagonists – we explore how religious identity and gender are deeply embroiled in Indian history and nation building. Religious affiliations and rejections are explored against the backdrop of three critical historical moments – the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan, the 1984 anti-Sikh pogrom and Zia-ul Haq's Islamization of Pakistan in the late 1970s. The underlying message of the films is that unless we know and understand our history we will be forever condemned to relive it. In these two films the protagonists challenge the religious identities thrust upon them viz – Sikhism and Islam and although both protagonists recognize their religious affiliations and the sway it holds over them they also ultimately reject a religion that instead of being life sustaining has destroyed their relationships with their kin, themselves and their state. These films force citizens to reconsider their national and religious identity.

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