"if you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen
the side of the oppressor." - Desmond Tutu.

Turbaned Sikh actor Diljit Dosanjh breaking many barriers Featured


Gurpreet Singh  

As he approaches the age of 40 (he turns 38 on January 6), the global fan following of the prominent Punjabi singer-turned-actor Diljit Dosanjh continues to grow.  

Dosanjh, who comes from the minority Sikh community in India, gives hope to many like him, not only back home, but also in countries like Canada.   

For practising Sikhs, keeping long hair and tying turban is integral to their identity. Dosanjh therefore is no exception. However, facial hair and turbans can become a challenge if one is struggling to find a place in the Indian cinema and entertainment industry in a Eurocentric environment. But the 39-year-old native of the village Dosanjh Kalan, Punjab has already broken that glass ceiling with his talent.  

After having started his career as a singer, he gradually stepped into the field of acting in Punjabi cinema that eventually opened doors for him in Bollywood, where caricaturing of the Sikh characters has been too common.   

Indian films have constantly promoted stereotypes about the Sikhs. A number of Sikh men who began acting in the Hindi movies years ago, had to cut their hair to fit in and become part of the mainstream. This enabled big names like Dharmendra to be popular, but they couldn’t think of being accepted in their traditional attire.  

Perhaps with the changing times, Dosanjh was able to make it to Bollywood without giving up his identity. Not only was he able to perform with renowned stars such as Kareena Kapoor Khan, Anushka Sharma, Kiara Advani and Akshay Kumar, he received a lot of love and admiration from them.  

In Canada too, he made history in 2022 when he became the first Indian artist to perform at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, according to CBC. It was a sold-out show in a country which has a history of anti-Sikh racism, affecting mainly turbaned men, apart from those with shorn hair and dark skin.  

It is not surprising to see Fruiticana, a famous Punjabi grocery chain in Metro Vancouver, to rope in Dosanjh as its model.   

Interestingly, his original name was Daljit, which means a conqueror. He later converted it to something that means a winner of hearts. In fact, he proved himself to be suited for both, when he took a tremendous risk by his support of protesting Indian farmers, who camped outside New Delhi for almost a year to oppose unjust farm laws imposed by a right-wing Hindu nationalist BJP government. 

In order to suppress any voice of dissent, the protestors who came from Punjab in big numbers were branded as Sikh separatists. Dosanjh too was dubbed that way by BJP supporters, including some fellow actors. 

In a highly polarized environment which has impacted Bollywood, it can be emotionally draining for anyone like him to stand up for his people.  

It also goes to his credit for doing justice to the broader issue of human rights by acting in films, like Punjab 1984 and Jogi. The two movies look into the inconvenient issue of 1984, when innocent Sikhs were targeted by the Indian state in the name of a war on terror against separatists, or for the assassination of then-Prime Minister Indira Gandhi by her Sikh bodyguards. Incidentally 1984, which left a permanent scar on the Sikh psyche, is also the year of his birth.  

Dosanjh too has his flaws and limitations like everybody else, but making a legacy at such young age is remarkable. 

Happy Birth Diljit Dosanjh. Stay blessed.

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Last modified on Thursday, 05 January 2023 21:22
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Gurpreet Singh

Cofounder and Director of Radical Desi


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