A new short film called Kaur, produced by talent from the Midlands, tells the story of a British South Asian woman’s decision to wear a turban as part of her Sikh faith despite her father’s misgivings and fears about reprisals. 

Kaur tackles the uncharted subject matter in a sensitive manner and highlights the social – and racial – conflicts faced by Sikh women who choose to wear a turban as a part of their religious identity.

The short film also aims to address the lack of representation of Sikh women who wear turbans in mainstream cinema or television drama, music, theatre and art. There seems to be zero visual representation of Sikh women across popular culture in British society and the filmmakers are on a mission to right this glaring discrepancy.

Dr Parvinder Shergill – who has Birmingham roots – is the co-writer and producer of the short film, and she also plays the role of the main protagonist in the story.

One of Shergill’s core ideas when developing Kaur was to challenge and address the issue of representation – and how the Sikh community is ignored and marginalised – while at the same time showcasing a positive story where a woman’s choice to wear a turban is seen as a beautiful celebration of her strength and freedom rather than as some sort of coercive cultural control and subjugation forced upon her by elements in the community.

Producer and co-writer Dr Parvinder Shergill plays the lead role in KaurPinder Productions
Producer and co-writer Dr Parvinder Shergill plays the lead role in Kaur

Shergill plays the pivotal role of Avani in the thought-provoking film. Avani’s decision to wear a turban draws unwanted attention and conflict, and a backlash, when she embarks on a personal journey through her Sikh faith which she feels is being eroded with each new generation.

Avani is proud of her Sikh heritage and wants to celebrate her identity by embracing the soulful message of her faith.

Although Avani’s mother (played by Eastenders actress Nina Wadia) supports her daughter’s brave decision to wear a turban there is dissent, and ripples, within the local community and also within her immediate family.

One of the people who is not pleased with her decision is Avani’s own father (Stephen Uppal from Hollyoaks) who is still reeling from the trauma of the horrific racism he experienced at the hands of bigots who mocked and attacked him for wearing a turban upon arriving to Britain as the child of immigrants.

In one abominable attack during his childhood he was set upon by bullies who knocked off his turban and forcibly cut his unshorn hair.

This shocking incident is actually inspired by a deplorable incident in 2021 when a London Sikh lad, who was only 5-years-old at the time, suffered a hideous assault at his school and his hair cut off during the incident. This sacrilegious act left the youngster hurt and traumatised.

The filmmakers hope to challenge the racism and stereotypes associated with the wearing of a turban in a society that outwardly proclaims and stands up for freedom and human rights yet people from ethnic minority backgrounds face mistrust and are viewed as outsiders due to their race, culture, faith or choice of religious clothing.

Eastenders and Goodness Gracious Me actress Nina Wadia stars in KaurPinder Productions
Eastenders and Goodness Gracious Me actress Nina Wadia stars in Kaur

The visionary writers and producers of Kaur – Juggy Sohal and Dr Parvinder Shergill – do not shy away from throwing a spotlight on the Sikh community and tackle thorny topics such as the malicious gossip, conceited objections and judgement thrown upon Sikh women who choose to wear a turban.

The film has the courage to ruffle feathers and the team behind the short film hope the themes will generate a long overdue discussion about female emancipation within the British South Asian community, and further afield, in the hope of dispelling myths and prejudices and confronting the rise in hate crimes against British Sikh and Muslim communities who suffer attacks due to their attire and backgrounds.

While Kaur dares to ignite a debate about the role of women in Sikhism, and how they are perceived by wider society, the topics are dealt with in an honourable and respectful manner and sensationalism is jettisoned in favour of realism and truth. Exploitation is not on the menu, nor cheap thrills, the filmmakers instead opt for education and intelligence to engage the minds of the audience.

The award-winning film has been screened at various film festivals and venues, including Sikh gurdwaras, and garnered positive praise from the Sikh community.

Sikh women, who understand and identify with the journey and experience of Avani in Kaur, have welcomed the message of the short film and come forward to share their stories and start a dialogue which gives voice to the voiceless.

The rapturous and warm response has inspired the filmmakers to look at the prospect of turning the short film into a feature-length movie and screening it around the world to reach a wider audience and spread the message of understanding and humanity which forms the heart of Kaur.

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