the hopeful British subjects of the Indian sub-continent at the turn of
the century, Canada was a confusing place of strict and discriminating laws.
Unable to bring their wives and families with them, these Indian immigrants
forged a strong bachelor society that contributed mightily to the creation
of an industrialized nation. Filmmaker Ali Kazimi explores the dreams and
efforts of one of these Indian immigrants, Bagga Singh, and the Canadian
families that continue to bear his name.
In his small village in the Punjab, Bagga Singh heard fabulous stories of Canadian land waiting to be settled. In 1913, Singh made it to Canada through the United States, circumventing strict immigration laws which sought to keep Asians like him out. He found work labouring in the lumber mills of British Columbia. Today, many of these mills are owned by the descendants of those first Indian immigrants.
Two generations later, Bagga Singh's granddaughter, Belle Puri, is a well-known CBC television journalist in Vancouver. The film follows Belle as she draws upon family stories and tries to understand what life would have been like for her grandfather.
Filmmaker Ali Kazimi, himself an immigrant from India, parallels the history of the Indian community in Canada with his own journey. Kazimi skillfully mines anecdotes from two 'old-timer' immigrants, Kuldeep Bains and Jack Uppal. Canadians will be surprised to learn that Indians were denied the right to vote until 1947. Indian Canadians organized and lobbied for inclusion and helped make Canada a more just nation. That they and their descendants, like Belle Puri, continue to feel a deep attachment and love for Canada, is a testament to the worth of this country.
"PASSAGE FROM INDIA" is an enduring testimony to the hard work of thousands of Indians like Bagga Singh. Filmmaker Ali Kazimi faithfully and passionately documents the history of the Singh family and eloquently articulates the hopes, struggles and desires of all Canadians whose roots lie in India.
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