HOW AKSHAY KUMAR'S KESARI OVERPLAYS THE KHALSA'S KESRI IN BHAGVA CLIMATE
There are many missteps in the controversial war movie.
But there is still one reason I would thank Akshay Kumar for Kesari.
By HARMEET SHAH SINGH
Special to India Parent Magazine
You owe your fame partly to Sikh themes. Unfortunately
till today though, you mostly represented Sikh characters
either absurdly or weirdly out of place.
In Singh Is King, to my mind, you lampooned the proud
Sikh identity - your Singh Is Bling was worse.The portrayal
of Sikhs in Bollywood films has evolved. But far from fast
enough. But there is a reason why these films were made in
the first place. A sizeable - and lucrative - Bollywood market
exists overseas. It's dominated by Sikh deep pockets
across the developed world on both hemispheres.
Bollywood woke up to this economic reality as little as
20 years ago. It began experimenting with Sikh themes as the
Internet age flourished and the world shrank into a global
But it too had to evolve The rise of Diljit Dosanjh as an iconic star and a social
media celebrity led Bollywood to shed the readymade fake
topi-turbans that Akshay Kumar wore eccentrically enough
in Singh Is King.
Actors in Hindi cinema started tying turbans in impressive
styles for an authentic on-screen look. But the hangover
from the tasteless portrayal of Sikhs in movies like Raja
Hindustani and Kuch Kuch Hota Hain persisted. The massive
film industry located in India's financial capital - barring a
few exceptions - still lacks the skills and the intellectual
sophistication to project Sikh history, characters and subjects
discerningly in movies.
It continues to succumb to interpolations, stereotyping
- and the political climate of the day.
Thus, to my mind, Akshay Kumar's Kesari stands out as
an example of needlessly infecting what was a tremendous
act of collective valour in the British Indian army.
What turned me off in Kesari The first turnoff is the main lead's wig-type fake beard.
Kesari is set in the late 19th century - 1897, to be precise.
Getting the details right was not so difficult.
Akshay, if your topi-turban was one of the eyesores in
Singh Is King, your make-up in Kesari, as I see it, did no
favours to the valiant Sikh sergeant you play. You needed no
major tuitions in history here. A quick glance at the archived
images of the 36 Sikhs of the British Indian army could have
encouraged you to sport a realistic - and appealing - countenance.
The Battle of Saragarhi took place in 1897. Getting the
details right wasn't so difficult.
Given the importance of the role, you could have invested
some time in growing your beard naturally. But apparently,
you didn't. Instead, you chose the same Singh-Is-King
topi-turban short-cut for your facial hair and compromised
the towering character of Saragarhi.
But, dear Akshay, your role in Kesari is bewildering for
more than one reason.
Your Toilet: Ek Prem Katha and Pad Man were indisputably
in line with the Modi government's sanitation program.
They carried a positive message. Good.
But Kesari, despite its captivating final hour and artwork
promising commercial success, barges unreasonably into
religious and ideological realms.
Why Khalsa's kesri in the film Kesari?
Why insert the Khalsa's kesri into what essentially was a
battle between a disciplined British Indian army and Pathan
tribes of the North West Frontier Province?
From my conversation with researchers in the modern
British armed forces, I am convinced it was an unwelcome
interpolation into a historic battle.