Sikhi Sidak Na Javai – Bhai Taru Singh Reviewed

Vismaad team brings us their fourth animated Sikh film, 'Bhai Taru Singh'.

Sir Javai Te Javai, Mera Sikhi Sidak Na Javai
If I lose my head, so be it. But I must not lose my Sikhi.

After 16 months of tremendous effort and expending hundreds of thousands of dollars, the Vismaad team brings us their fourth animated Sikh film, Bhai Taru Singh.

I’ve blogged about the film before and about Bhai Taru Singh’s legacy. Now having had the privilege of watching the film last weekend, I’d like to share a few thoughts.

In years past, during the quickly cooling evening hours of dusk a Sikh child would huddle up next to their grandmother for the warm not only of her body and but also her captivating stories. Night after night, Beji would weave together real life tales of Sikh courage and bravery, instilling a sense of intrinsic pride, faith and determination that would provide a foundation of strength for young Sikhs in an unfriendly world.

But things have changed. Hectic schedules, disconnected families, ubiquitous technological distractions, and language issues have made these kind of life moments a rare occurrence.  Whereas the Sikh panth has relied heavily on, and benefited from, its rich oral traditions, the current lack of intra-generational transference is a major concern. What are Sikhs without their history? Who else begins every supplication to the Creator by remembering and reflecting on their entire history? However, the Ardas we recite daily is only shorthand summary of our history, so what relevance does it hold, if you don’t actually know why we say charkrian de chare, aarye naal charai gaye, or sikhi kesan suasa naal nibhayi? So it is into this vacuum that a movie on Bhai Taru Singh attempts to fill a void.

First and foremost, this film is for Sikhs and specifically Sikh children. Obvious but worth pointing out. This film is not for the New York Times to review nor is it produced for an international film festival. It is made for Sikh families to sit down together in their family room and to watch on TV. Not as another feel good Disney film or Harry Potter epic, but as a vehicle to transmit the Sikh DNA from one generation to the next. This film is meant to be watched by kids over and over again to the point that they memorize the story, dialogue and soundtrack. And in doing so, there is a hope that the Sikh values of resilience, sacrifice, humility, and fearlessness are imbued by the film viewer. 

While I had grown up on the story of Bhai Taru Singh, I’d never really lived it, meaning I’d never put myself in moment. However, through the course of film I found myself amazed that this is based on a real life true story of a Gursikh who, at every instance, submitted to will of God. In a world where Sikhs are more interested in chhhak ke vandana (eating and then sharing), Bhai Taru Singh demonstrates how one lives up to our mantra of vand ke chhakana (sharing and then eating).

So congratulations are in order to Bhai Sukhwinder Singh and the Vismaad team for a great effort. Their films just get better with each release. The animation is improving, the voiceovers are clearer and the editing is crisper. Yes there’s still some slight holes in the plot (tied up hands in one scene are unexplainably open to hug in the next) but there’s nothing that takes away from the key messages of the film. The real winner is the soundtrack with very memorably sung shabads and a dhadi vaar by Tigerstyle that’s been stuck in my head for days.  Its definitely worth picking up the audio CD in addition to the DVD.

Speaking of the DVD, before the screening Sukhwinder Singh took the opportunity to introduce the film. He also spoke of the issues they’ve had with piracy crippling their sales. Just that very day, he’d walked into the major 'all-things-Sikh' store in Toronto area and found all of his DVDs for sale on the front counter for a mere $7 each. Great product placement, but unfortunately they were all counterfeit. When he asked why a dharam parchar society would basically sell stolen merchandise, he was given the answer that people aren’t willing to pay the full price and that they were doing the community a service. Sukhwinder Singh was quick to note two things. Firstly, if this store keeps doing his particular type of service, there aren’t going to be many more films made and more suspiciously, if they are doing a service, why aren’t they charging the $2 it takes to make a DVD rather than the $7 being charged. Things that make you go "hmm.."

Regardless, if you can buy your family tickets to the Gurdas Maan show, or if you’re wearing fancy shoes or designer jeans, you can afford to pay for an ORIGINAL DVD.

The panth needs more Sukhwinder Singhs, more Vismaads and more films like Bhai Taru Singh. But you only get what you pay for.

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