Sikh women have dedicated their lives to imbibing the practice of Shabad Kirtan - a 500-year-old tradition that is the primary form of devotion in Sikhism.
a young Sikh journalist and filmmaker travels to the Gurudwaras in Punjab and Delhi, speaks to Kirtankars, academics, & devotees
to deconstruct the essential question
We follow the story of Jaswinder Kaur, a kirtankar and professor in her sixties, Jaswinder has seen it all. A woman of few words, her achievements say it all. Spanning a singing and teaching experience of 30+ years, she is wise yet vulnerable. And, Harmanpreet Kaur, a young gun of liberal thought, took up performing kirtan, inspired by her father. A woman of the Internet age, college-educated Harmanpreet aims to start her Youtube channel. As a quiet rebel, she feels strongly about the skewed gender dynamics in the gurdwaras.
Voice of Vismad
Voice of Vismad
In a religion with an egalitarian foundation, what stops these women from singing Kirtan at the Harmandir Sahib, the holiest site for Sikhs in India?
The film explores the past, present, and future of the tradition of Shabad Kirtan through two female kirtaniyas of different generations. The two women personalize the many struggles of being a Kirtankar as they share notes on life. The story of Sikhism and its changing shape in the modern day and age is looked at through a feminist lens.
What stops them from singing Kirtan at Harmandir Sahib and Takht gurudwaras in India when the religious code allows it?
"Harman's grandfather often used to recite the afternoon prayers as she slept by his side after a long day at school. He always recited Ardaas before any of them would go on a trip or had an exam to take. The family would always visit Gurdwara Bangla Sahib every Saturday and participate in the seva. Sikhi was all-pervasive but never imposed. Harman wondered if she could call herself a true Sikh. A feeling of an insider-outsider prevails over her."
How can she relate to a faith that only allows women to be in the background and never at the center of the prayers?
"Jaswinder has trained hundreds of students. She always discusses the sparse legacy of female kirtankars with her students and reminisces about her endeavors. Her wish to sing at the Golden Temple has taken a backseat over the years. Singing at the temple now doesn’t feel like a big deal for her. She feels she can create a larger impact by imparting kirtan knowledge to as many students as she can in her life. But one compliment is etched in her memory - if a woman is ever given a chance to sing at Golden Temple, it should be her."
Harman investigates the stories of these women who dream to perform at the Holiest of Sikh sites, across Punjab and New Delhi. With her background in research, investigative journalism and filmmaking, she paints an arresting portrait of post-modern Sikhism and how the young women of today are renegotiating their relationship with their faith.
We're seeking the right partnerships to make this film-- from writers to storyboard artists to community support-- we'd love to have a chat.
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Produced by Alina Gufran, writer, editor, podcaster & creative strategist currently based out of Goa. A graduate of Prague Film School, she writes and makes films, apart from producing and co-hosting podcasts. Her debut novel is being represented by A Suitable Agency.
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