British Columbia

Deepa Mehta's Beeba Boys: Anti-gang unit slams film on Indo-Canadian gangsters

The 'Indo-Canadian Scarface' gets two thumbs down from the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, who say the film is disappointing and inaccurate.

Sgt. Houghton said youth see the movie as the 'South Asian Scarface' and are concerned it will cause violence

The Beeba Boys dress stylishly and love attention, but are brutally violent. (

The Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit said the movie Beeba Boys, which opened in theatres Oct. 16, is "disappointing" and sets back their gang prevention efforts by many years.

The film, by Indo-Canadian director Deepa Mehta, is set in Vancouver and tells the story of a ruthless young Sikh gangster who manages a group of brutally violent young men as they battle an older, established gangster for control over the city's drugs and arms trade.

"We take a step forward, and then something like this comes along and it's two steps backwards unfortunately," CFSEU spokesperson Lindsey Houghton told Rick Cluff on the Early Edition.

"We don't want these people to be looked up to. These people should not be our heroes in society. Our concern is that even if a few of the kids think it's cool to aspire to what they're seeing on film, it will create damage and violence down the road."

The 'South Asian Scarface'

Sgt. Houghton said the film's portrayal of gangsters — as charismatic men who wear colourful tailored suits — is not what the unit sees when they're on the frontlines dealing with gangs in the Lower Mainland.

"The life of a gangster, and we get this right from them, is fraught with paranoia [and] fear," he said.

"You never know if it's your friends, your enemies or the police who are going to be knocking on your door or taking what you have. You are never safe, and in this movie they portray peacocks, walking around like they own the city, they own the region, and that is not the case."

Houghton said the lead character Jeet Johar (played by Randeep Hooda) is based loosely on gangster Bhupinder "Bindy" Johal, a violent gangster and alleged drug trafficker in the 1990s (Mehta said her movie is not about Bindy, but is loosely based on real people and events).

Houghton said he is worried because he has heard from those who work with South Asian youth in the Lower Mainland that the youth are being drawn to this movie "because they see it as their South Asian Scarface."

"They have heard stories about Bindy Johal, they really think he's a great guy, even though they weren't even born when he was around and involved in his very violent lifestyle, and they want to see this movie because they want to become like Bindy, and that's very upsetting to us."

Director says 'crime doesn't pay'

Mehta has said in interviews with CBC that her film does depict the harsh realities of gang life, even if she has dressed her characters in stylish clothes and given them a sense of bravado.

In 'Beeba Boys' gang leader Jeet Johar and his young, loyal, and often-brutal crew love attention, and openly compete with an old style crime syndicate to take over the Vancouver drug and arms scene. (TIFF)

"It's an ascent, and then it's a descent," she told On the Coast host Stephen Quinn.

"There is no second act. It's a deadly road."

In an interview with Q host Shad she said that her new film tackles many of the same themes in her other films — issues of immigration and belonging, and the process by which "invisibles become visibles."

"Whether it's the Irish gangs, whether it's the Italian gangs, historically, to gain recognition or to feel a part of society that means power, money, and gangs have access to that," she said.

These people should not be our heroes in society.-CFSEU spokesperson Lindsey Houghton

"That's the upside for them, but the downside is, of course, that most of them end up dead."

Mehta said there is a straightforward lesson she wants audiences to take away from her film.

"Crime doesn't pay. That's the message," she said.

To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled: 'Beeba Boys' movie glamorizes gangster lifestyles, says anti-gang unit


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