Will Akshay's trimmed beard influence his Sikh fans?

By Subhash K. Jha

Mumbai, June 20 (IANS) Akshay Kumar's trimmed beard in his new release "Singh Is Kinng" is causing problems as some feel it might cause his impressionable Sikh fans to trim their beards.

"Yes, the experts have commented on the length of Akshay's beard. They feel it would have been better if he had sported a full-grown beard. Their worry is that Akshay is a role model. And if young Sikhs see him with a trimmed beard, they may start emulating him," producer Vipul Shah told IANS.

"I agree with this misgiving. In fact, I've made an effort to justify Akshay's brief beard in the dialogues. In fact, when Akshay returns to his village at the end, he has the full traditional Sikh beard."

Akshay's first photo shoot for "Singh Is Kinng", releasing Aug 8, was without a beard.

"But we realised our mistake and corrected it. Akshay grew a trimmed beard. That explains Akshay's bearded look for the past six months," said Shah who teamed up with him in last year's super hit comedy "Namastey London".

The actor wowed his fans as a rustic guy with a golden heart in "Namastey London".

So is Shah suggesting that the size of the beard determines the extent of an individual's religiosity?

"I don't want to contest any community's religious beliefs. I'm here to make movies, not challenge or offend any community. So when the Sikh experts asked us for that one dialogue justifying Akshay's trimmed beard, I had no hesitation in respecting their sentiments. Now the Sikh experts are very happy. We sorted it all out in five days."

The second thing that has made some Sikhs angry is a line of Gurbani recited wrongly.

"It's just a case of a grammatical error, nothing else. I offered to re-shoot the scene. But Sikh leader Gurbachan Singh Bachchan and his colleagues saw the film and gave us a clean chit.

"They said no need to re-shoot, just re-dub it. They showed us how to pronounce it. I've got their go-ahead in writing. We didn't want to hurt anybody. I'm not a Sikh, neither is my director Anees Bazmi.

"The minute reports of protests by the Sikh community came out, we immediately decided to clear it. There was a report about Om Puri's turban, when he isn't even playing a sardarji. Then they wrote that I had to destroy 200,000 posters due to protests. Posters for 'Singh Is Kinng' haven't even been printed."

Shah contacted the censor board that invited the Sikh experts.

"Believe me, they didn't tamper with one shot. All they wanted was for us to add a dialogue saying cutting the beard is not the right thing to do."

Last year, Shah's "Namastey London" courted controversy when Katrina Kaif entered the Ajmer Sharif wearing a short skirt. The Dargah committee had made it a rule to let no one enter the shrine in anything above the knees for both men and women.

Shah had to re-shoot the whole sequence with Katrina in a full-length skirt. Incidentally, she is playing Akshay's love interest in "Singh Is Kinng" too.

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