Bollywood's newest trend to go in for turbaned and bearded heroes is to the liking of Sikh religious leaders, who feel it is helping popularise the look and preventing young Sikhs from getting their hair cut.
Even the Shiromani Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee (SGPC), the apex Sikh body, is happy at the portrayal even though some of the films have run into small controversies with the community.
Top male actors Akshay Kumar, Salman Khan and now Saif Ali Khan have played Sikh characters in recent Hindi films. Young actor Ranbir Kapoor, whose mother Neetu Singh comes from a Sikh family, will follow suit soon in Shimit Amin's 'Rocket Singh'.
SGPC president Avtar Singh Makkar told IANS: 'Sikhs have earned name and fame all across the world in almost all the fields like sports, politics, cinema and business. It is all due to their enterprising nature, right attitude, hard work and honesty.
'Bollywood is just trying to cash on the image of a complete Sikh with beard and turban on his head. They are doing it to earn professional gains but we are happy. Now we want them to use real Sikh characters on the screen, someone who actually sports a turban and beard.'
The Sikh religion makes it mandatory for Sikh males to have the five 'Ks' -- 'Kada' (steel bangle), 'kirpan' (small dagger for defence), 'kesh' (long hair), 'kanga' (comb) and 'kachha' (short breeches/long under-garment).
'The portrayal (of Sikh heroes) has proved that Sikh men (with turban and beard) look very good. Otherwise, Bollywood directors and heroes wouldn't have taken this risk. Sikh youths are now less inclined to get their hair cut. The portrayal in films has helped them re-discover their identity,' pointed out Harmehtab Singh, a college student here.
The Sikh religion, founded by first Sikh guru Nanak Dev in the 15th century, is one of the youngest and most progressive religions in the world.
In Punjab, there used to be a trend among Hindu families to make the eldest son follow Sikhism.
Saif's first home-production 'Love Aaj Kal', which released Friday, shows him as a turbaned and bearded Sikh.
One of the biggest blockbusters of recent years 'Singh is Kinng' had Akshay Kumar as a turbaned Sikh protagonist throughout the film. Some Sikh bodies though did object to the way his beard was cut in the film.
Makkar felt that the election of Manmohan Singh as prime minister had also popularised the Sikh image.
'The election of a Sikh prime minister has given much-needed impetus to boost the image of a turbaned Sikh. Not only this, we have many turbaned Sikhs at senior positions in the government of the US, Britain and other developed countries,' he added.
Salman recently played the role of a brave Sikh soldier in 'Heroes' but the film did not do too well.
Actor Sunny Deol - who comes from a Sikh family but like his actor father Dharmendra and brother Bobby Deol has shorn hair - had acted as a Sikh hero in two Hindi films, 'Gadar - Ek Prem Katha' and 'Jo Bole So Nihal', a few years ago.
Shah Rukh Khan-starrer super-hit film 'Main Hoon Na' had actor Kabir Bedi playing the role of a Sikh army general. Ajay Devgun also donned a turban to play the character of Bhagat Singh as a Sikh in 'The legend of Bhagat Singh'.
Mumbai-born Sikh youth Jaspal Singh Sehgal showed that the turban and beard were no impediment when he became the first runner-up in the Grasim Mr India contest in 2002. His win initiated a new wave among Sikh youth, especially in Sikh-community dominated Punjab, to sport a turban and beard.
'The presence of a Punjabi character makes Bollywood movie more cosmopolitan. Due to the presence of a large Punjabi diaspora in America and Europe, movies with Punjabi flavour are easily acceptable among them,' Manmohan Singh, a prominent Punjabi filmmaker and an accomplished Bollywood cinematographer, told IANS.
'In fact, I am also thinking of making a Hindi film with a Sikh central character in the near future. Earlier, we had seen that a turbaned character is portrayed in a comical sense to add some humour to the movie, but now audiences have started taking it seriously,' said Singh, a director who is credited with modernising Punjabi cinema.
Singh has made successful Punjabi films like 'Jee Aayian Nu', 'Asan Nun Maan Watna Da', 'Yaran Nal Bahran', 'Dil Apna Punjabi', 'Miti Wajan Mardi' and 'Munde UK De'. He is known for highlighting various issues -- from immigration to trans-continental love -- through his narratives.
Earlier, portrayal of Sikhs in films was mostly for comical situations. Sikh comedians Jaspal Bhatti and Gurpreet Ghuggi have been featured in Hindi films in comic roles.