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Academic expertise contributes to film about Sikh soldiers during WW1

07/10/2020

A University of Wolverhampton academic is using her expertise to advise on a new film that documents the journey of a Sikh soldier during the First World War. 

Dr Opinderjit Kaur Takhar MBE, Director of the University’s Centre for Sikh and Panjabi Studies, is helping a group of young filmmakers who have teamed up with industry professionals and historians to make The Sikh Soldier – raising awareness of Sikh and Indian involvement in the Great War. 

Dr Takhar is Associate Professor of Sikh Studies and Course Leader of MA Sikh Studies in the University’s School of Humanities and is an internationally recognised researcher in Sikh Studies who has published extensively on the Sikh and Panjabi community. 

Dr Takhar said: “More than 130,000 Sikhs fought in the First World War, forming 20% of the Indian Army despite being just 1% of the Indian population. 

“Despite this huge contribution for the British Empire, relatively little onscreen stories in Western cinema have been told of their heroic effort. 

“It’s a huge honour for me to advise on a short film that puts a Sikh solder at the centre of its story and I think Mohinder’s journey will emphasise the sacrifice and endurance that Sikh soldiers gave to the war effort for the British and hopefully this will start a conversation about that wider contribution.” 

The short film, The Sikh Soldier, is a not-for-profit film made by Award winning Writer and Director Joseph Archer. The Lead Actor and Co-Writer, Sky Cheema, who is from Wolverhampton, said: “At the beginning of the year, during the fallout of Laurence Fox’s 1917 comments about the featured Sikh soldier, we didn’t want the conversation of India's involvement in WW1 to end with a debate over someone's comments.  

“It should be the start of exploring stories of Indian soldiers, as well as the surrounding history and context and it’s this sentiment that led to the creation of The Sikh Soldier. We’ve enlisted the help of several high-profile researchers like Dr Takhar to ensure that the film is accurate in every way.” 

With Dr Takhar’s extensive networks, the Directors have been introduced to a number of advisors including Peter Bance (Sikh Historian and Author) Mandeep Singh Bajwa (National Security, Strategic Affairs Analyst and Military Historian), Gurinder Singh Mann (Lecturer, Author and Sikh Historian) and Gurmel Singh Kandola MBE (National Sikh Museum Derby & former General Secretary of Sikh Council UK).  

The film will be produced using the equipment and crew of Window Zebra Productions, as well as the facilities, props, costumes of a film studio in the south of England.  Efforts are being made to raise £30,000 to support the film through Crowdfunding activity and Executive Producer opportunities are available. 

Anyone interested in supporting the film should contact Joseph Archer on 07469 788765 or email: info.sikh.soldier@gmail.com 

The University of Wolverhampton’s Centre for Sikh and Panjabi Studies is the first of its kind in the UK, founded in the home of the second largest UK-based Sikh population. The Centre offers PhDs and Masters level degree courses in Sikh studies, as well as continuing professional development (CPD) courses for teachers and managers of diverse workforces such as national and local government, the NHS and the emergency services. 

ENDS 

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