New Delhi, 21 Nov 2020 17:30 IST
The film highlights the honesty, candour and sheer determination of this group of five young men who refuse to let hatred get them down.
Nance Ackerman’s documentary Behind The Bhangra Boys is inspired by the activism and positive spirit of the Maritime Bhangra Group, a group of five Sikh students who moved to Nova Scotia, Canada, and decided to spread positivity and love through Punjab's traditional dance, the Bhangra.
In 2016, Hasmeet Singh Chandok, Kunwardeep Singh, Davinder Singh, Simran Singh Chadha and Bikramjit Singh formed a Bhangra group to engage with the community around. The five students, far away from home, were united in their desire to spread their message of positivity in their new home. They began dancing for charity, taking up issues as diverse as ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) and climate change, dancing in people’s homes, in scenic locales, with the the Miꞌkmaq, bringing a smile to people’s faces wherever they went.
The documentary traces the journey of the group as it tracks people’s responses to them to understand their widespread popularity on social media, even as they themselves admit they aren’t very good dancers! But there is a connection that is made between them and the people whose lives they attempt to touch with their work. As one of the members of the group says, “We find someone who needs help and just help them.”
Despite their exuberance, the film also highlights the anxieties of the group as people trying to make it in another country, doing multiple jobs and striving to make something of themselves. They bear the brunt of racist remarks but counter it by creating awareness about Sikhism through advocacy campaigns in schools, educating people about the Sikh ethos and culture. Over steaming hot cups of masala chai (spiced tea), the group bonds like brothers and crosses many milestones.
Although the documentary has a lot of heart, it is slow and does become repetitive. We see more of the same as we are taken from one place to another tracking the work of the Bhangra group.
What remains with you, however, is the honesty, candour and sheer determination of this group of five young men, who refuse to let hatred get them down. Addressing their critics, one of them says, “If they send a hateful message, we will send more love.” In an increasingly bigoted world, we all need these simple messages of hope.
The film was screened virtually as part of the South Asian Film Festival of Montreal.
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