Sab Rab De Bande opens with the serene visuals of Gurudwaras, of Sikh men and women worshipping and celebrating their faith and religion. A narration on the origin of Sikhism, its journey through time and its present status in the world and in India plays along with. By this time, we know what is Sikhism and who are Sikhs. After a vivid establishment we step into the main idea—what does Sikhism say about queer genders and sexualities?
We see a couple of interviews of queer persons sharing their lived experiences of being queer and Sikh. The first of which is of Amolak, who is a gay man from Kanpur. He states his gender expression to be androgynous. After Amolak we come to Sukhdeep’s story. He is from Kolkata and also the director of the film. After we have heard about his plight as a gay Sikh man, we see Ekampreet’s story, a gay man from Haryana, followed by Ritika, a transgender woman from Delhi and Puneet, a lesbian woman from Punjab.
The film brings forth the various challenges that LGBTQ Sikhs grapple with and the different ways in which they reconcile their faith and gender/sexual identities. The documentary, through interviews, captures the varied experiences of queer Sikhs.
By tracking their lives, it seeks to find answers to questions like conflict with their religious identity (and teachings) and their sexual and gender identity, coming out, impact on their growing up due to the lack of visibility and representation of queer Sikhs in media and online spaces and discrimination queer Sikhs face within the queer community.
Through the film we are able to know each of our characters in depth, looking at various aspects of their lives like family, childhood, love and acceptance. We live their emotions, their journey, their struggles and their believes. It is not just what the cis-het world is saying about them, but also the ruthlessness of the gay community for always upholding a certain type of identity.
Sab Rab De Bande successfully captures the battle that most queer people fight if they are to keep believing in their faith and also in themselves. The lack of explicit examples of queer folks bring forth the challenge of finding acceptance in their religions. Even though the religion and its scriptures does not mention anything queer negative, the gate keepers of the religion often interpret silence as negation. The same is true for Sikhism.
Sukhdeep, the director, through his film points out to us that faith is individual, our belief is our own and nobody can tell us to renounce it. He upholds the tenets of Sikhism to be courage and there is true courage in acceptance. The heart felt stories of our characters who have been wronged, misunderstood for who they are in the name of religion and how their resilience proves everyone wrong is truly admirable. They show us that all is possible when one does not give up.
Even though the documentary brings together various narratives which are valuable experiences from a community that has not spoken about queerness before, at times it feels like that it is too linear, too unidirectional, lacking a certain nuance. It feels like the film even though is complete needed something more. We hear each character and their stories and we are left at wanting to hear more—what are their parents saying? What are other people in their lives saying? Who are they to other people? Some more first-person narratives of people who are a part of our characters’ lives would have brought about the necessary nuance.
Sab Rab De Bande largely revolves around cis characters, except for one trans character. A little more on the lives and the position of trans people, their discourses and narrative within the Sikh community and Sikhism should have been a necessary addition to the film. The trans representation in the film was typical, lacking diversity, more like the token ‘T’ From LGB’T’Q +. Though the film told us stories that we often do not hear and are important to hear, it was after a point predictable, familiar and to simplistically sequential.
Not just trans* characters but female bodied people had minimal representation in the film as well. Very less was shown of queer females, except for one success story. Female bodied people often face side-lining in most spaces and that is true for queer spaces as well. The film too was not an exception.
By the end of twenty minutes, Sab Rab De Bande would leave one with respect for all the characters for being honest, for contributing to a minimally represented narrative. One would feel happy for their pride, sad for their struggles. The film is undeniable a much-needed resource for the queer community. It is a documentation of queer people by queer people. It would inspire all who are going through the same and needs someone or something to tell them and they are not alone. Sukhdeep Singh has done a splendid job in bringing these narratives together—all that can be asked of him is nothing but more.
Featured Image Source: YouTube