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Roots Of Love: Exploring Hair In The Sikh Community

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Roots of Love: Exploring Hair in the Sikh Community
Posted by Sundari | Sunday, March 20, 2011 – 9:05 pm

Conversations about hair are often emotional for Sikhs – and therefore they are conversations which we tend to avoid. For many Sikhs, it is a constant struggle to explain the historical significance of keeping our hair and/or wearing a turban while other Sikhs will argue that simply keeping your hair or wearing a turban by no means makes you a good Sikh. While that may be true, being able to have conversations about hair is an incredibly important and necessary dialogue for us to participate in. Many Sikhs in the diaspora have struggled to maintain their identity, while Sikhs in Panjab are struggling to be western. It’s such an interesting juxtaposition and anybody who has visited Panjab recently will see the dwindling number of Sikh boys choosing to wear turbans. In an effort to explore this issue, a fascinating documentary film - Roots of Love – by award winning filmmaker Harjant Gill is being released this Spring.

<a href="http://mhlnk.com/B1419C65" target="_blank"><img src="http://media.markethealth.com/bannerServer.php?type=image&ad_id=2434&aid=713449" border="0"></a>

Told through the stories of six different men ranging in age from fourteen to eighty-six, Roots of Love documents the changing significance of hair and the turban among Sikhs in India. We see younger Sikh men abandoning their hair and turban to follow the current fashion trends, while the older generation struggles to retain the visible symbols of their religious identity. The choice of cutting one’s hair is one that not only concerns the individual and his family, but an entire community.
I was given the opportunity to watch the entire documentary – I highly recommend the film and was drawn to its excellent cinematography. You can watch the trailer below and after the jump, read my interview with Director, Harjant Gill. Then, think about how hair plays a significant role in your life, if at all?

Interview

What was your inspiration behind making Roots of Love? Was the film inspired by a personal experience?

It was actually this NY times article that first got me interested in the topic. Even though the film is not entirely inspired by my own experiences, I can relate to it because I grew up in a traditional Sikh family with unshorn hair, and then one day, before moving to the US, my dad had my hair cut… which at the time I was very young and I didn’t care much about… I enjoyed the transition, however, sometimes I do wonder what it would’ve been like had I not migrated, or not cut my hair.

In the trailer, we see the tying of a pagh intertwined with hair getting cut – what is your message?

Films (my films at-least) rarely have one specific clear cut message… I juxtaposed the turban tying with the hair-cutting because I felt that – that was often the typical experiences that I came across in my research when looking at masculinity among Sikh men in Punjab. In someways, Dastar Bandhi is the official or religious rite of passage, where the boy is transformed into a man or manhood in front of his family and his parents, and then there is the unofficial rites of passage among young men in Punjab… many of whom are trying to fit into the contemporary definitions of masculinity, and be part of global india – and often abandon the turban and cut their hair in the process – for various reasons.

The issue of hair and wearing a turban/not wearing a turban is often an emotional issue for many Sikhs. How did you handle the sensitivity of this?

I approached this issues with the same sensitivity as I approach all of my work as an anthropologist and academic and filmmaker… with respect and an open-mind.

I was concerned about the hair cutting sequence, I didn’t want any turbaned Sikh man to cut his hair just for the purpose of this documentary… but I also wanted to show and feature that experience, so we decided to stage that sequence – Rupinder had already cut his hair before we decided to include him in the documentary. So the hair being cut in that sequence are in-fact not real. We also included a disclaimer at the end of the documentary: “No Sikhs were de-turbaned in the making of this film”

Yes, the issue of hair, or cutting hair is an emotional one for Sikhs… but we should not just ignore it or reframe from talking about it. I am simply trying to engage people in a conversation.

There is a scene in the film (an important one) showing a sardar getting his hair cut – many viewers may view this scene with uncomfort. How do you hope it will be perceived?

[As mentioned] above… Some times making viewers feel uncomfortable is important, it makes them realize that things are not as clear cut, not as black and white. It makes them question their own position and lives.

Was the Sikh community involved in helping to direct the shape of the film? Perhaps your own personal connection to the Sikh community helped advise you as you made this film?

Yes, I consulted with numerous individuals from various Sikh organizations before making this film. I am really grateful to folks at the Institute of Sikh Studies in Chandigarh, and Akaal Purakh Ki Fauj in Amritsar.

What does the title, Roots of Love, refer to?

There is an amazing amount of “love” and “care” that is invested in the uncut hair of Sikh men growing up, especially by Sikh mothers who are assigned the task of caring for the uncut hair.. washing, cleaning, oiling, and tying their son’s hair… I wanted to capture and celebrate in the title of the film.

What do you hope the audience gains from this film?

I want audiences to develop their own understanding, and conclusions… that’s why the film is left so open-ended. I guess in the end, the only thing we can be certain about is ‘change’… this films chronicles that process of cultural change in Punjab as captured by this iconic symbols of the turban and unshorn hair that has defined Sikh masculinity and identity.

Will you be showing the film at any upcoming film festivals? When will Roots of Love be released and how can viewers watch it?

The film recently premiered in India on Doordarshan (the Indian National TV Channel). It is making its way through various international film festivals and educational conferences right now. The DVD is now available and can be purchased at this site.
<iframe title="YouTube video player" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/FkHQ2s4hPPA" allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="390" width="640"></iframe>

http://thelangarhall.com/
 

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Navdeep88

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Dec 23, 2009
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Looks like a very interesting film, the title is great and it seems like it'll really contribute to the conversation about Sikh image...
 

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