New film highlights contributions of Sikh soldiers during world wars
VANCOUVER -- The untold stories of Sikh soldiers will soon be on the silver screen.
Like Canadians, Indians enlisted for the King during the First World War and Second World War, but their contributions have often been overlooked. The film "Promises" hopes to change that.
Written and directed by a Surrey historian, the movie shows Indians and Canadians fighting side-by-side to defeat the Nazis.
“It's really an opportunity to be a part of something special, that telling of a story that's been neglected for far too long,” said Sukhpreet Singh Heir, a border agent appearing in the film.
None of the people portraying Sikh soldiers are actors. Instead, they’re all played by local law enforcement officers.
For Heir, the project is personal because his great-uncles and great-grandfather fought in the war for the British.
“They were an oppressed people; they were colonized people at the time. And, you know, they signed up for something that required them to give their lives for a greater cause,” he said. “So when I put on that uniform, it gives me that opportunity to connect with that mindset.”
The uniforms, boots and rifles are all authentic to the Second World War.
The film is written by Steven Purewal and is based on a story in his book, “Duty, Honour and Izzat.”
“What it does is it outlines a story of the veterans of the Indian Army, that were forgotten and were mistreated in Canada,” Purewal told CTV News.
He said some of the mistreatment happened a century ago. Most famously in Vancouver, the Komagata Maru incident saw hundreds of British-Indians denied entry and forced to return.
“Just three weeks later, World War One was declared and the Punjabi community still stepped up and served in the First World War, when they could have quite easily taken a stand saying, ‘Hey, we're gonna step away from this one because we're being discriminated against in the Empire,’” he said.
Some of the other forms of discrimination are even more recent, he added.
“When turban soldiers would walk into a legion, and they felt unwelcome (in the 1990s). We do have those incidents, even to today. So that's what we're trying to do, we're trying to close the loop that the same group of people fought for your rights for your freedoms, yet they would not be welcomed into a legion in Canada.”
He said it’s important that there are more inclusive portrayals of those who made the ultimate sacrifice.
“If you see a statue...you will see a steel helmeted soldier. Why not see a turban soldier as well? They served alongside each other, “ he said.
The film is produced by Indus Media Foundation, a non-profit organization.
Sunday wrapped up the last day of filming but the production crew will be busy in the next 72 hours, as a teaser for “Promises” is set to be released on Remembrance Day.
The full film will be available next year.