Movies about the Sikh faith will need the clearance of a ‘Sikh Censor Board’ set up by the Akal Takht, a PTI report said on Tuesday. The move follows the release of Harinder Sikka’s production Nanak Shah Fakir, a Punjabi film about the founder of Sikhism.
“The Akal Takht, the highest temporal seat of the Sikhs, said it set up the ‘censor board’ following a controversy because of ‘distortion of facts pertaining to Sikh Gurus and Sikh history in movies,’” the PTI report said. Sikhism prohibits the depiction in human form of any of its holy figures.
Sikka’s novel Calling Sehmat is the source of the latest Alia Bhatt movie Raazi. Nanak Shah Fakir has been directed by Sarjat Singh Pannu, and was originally released in 2015 before being pulled out of cinemas following protests by Sikh religious groups, including the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, which oversees the management of Sikh shrines in India.
Sikka said that he had procured SGPC’s permission before releasing the movie, which uses computer graphics to depict Guru Nanak as a shimmering blob of light. The cast includes Adil Hussain, Arif Zakaria, Puneet Sikka and Tom Alter.
The movie was re-released on April 13 this year after Sikka moved the Supreme Court on the ground of freedom of expression. Nanak Shah Fakir has been cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification, which is the only organisation with the authority to ban movies. The Supreme Court backed the release, with a bench headed by the Chief Justice of India, Dipak Misra, ruling, “Once the Central Board of Film Certification grants permission to a film, no one has the right to stop its public screening.” However, Sikka chose not to release the movie in Punjab.
On Tuesday, Akal Takht jathedar Giani Gurbachan Singh said it had been made “mandatory” for every filmmaker to seek the board’s approval before embarking on movies about the Sikh religion and Sikh heritage, whether in the live action or animation format.
In 2014, Harry Baweja’s animated movie Chaar Sahibzaade dramatised the legend of the sacrifice of Guru Gobind Singh’s four sons. Baweja sought SGPC permission to release the movie and its 2017 sequel, Chaar Sahibzaade: Rise of Banda Singh Bahadur.