In Hindi films, Muslims are perpetually toting guns, smuggling RDX, molesting women... Time somebody cried a halt, feels ZIYA US SALAM.
Lopsided, stereotyped... ``Farz''.
BOLLYWOOD IS going back in time. Going back to regressive ideas and ideologies of those who believe that astrology is a science, that in cow urine lies the panacea for many illnesses, and that the route to progress lies in the past. Along the way, the old stereotypes are being given a new lease of life. It is the in thing these days for the dream merchants to obey political dispensation. It matters little to them that as professed artistes with pretensions to creativity they are supposed to cover old wounds, not inflict new ones. Coming in handy in their new-found zeal to please the political bosses is a lopsided knowledge and projection of Indian history, a few stereotypes and a mindset which bothers only about the box office collections, not social repercussions.
Last year's biggest box office success story was Anil Sharma's "Gadar: Ek Prem Katha." The film, ostensibly a story of a Sikh boy and a Muslim girl falling in love at the time of Partition veered dangerously close to xenophobia. Worse, it often failed to make a distinction between Pakistan and Islam, being often guilty of tacitly equating the two. Throughout the nearly three-hour-long drama, the director focussed on "we" and "they." To pull the wool over the eyes of gullible Censor Board, the film showed a staunchly patriotic Muslim man, holding aloft the Tricolour in Pakistan but the impression the film managed to leave behind was that patriotic Muslims are few and far between, most are given to butchery of the worst kind. "They" did it to "our" people, is the constant refrain. Even the Sikh hero yells at his Muslim father-in-law after the latter has gone back on his word: "Teri to jaat hi aesi hai" - You people are like that only! The film had prolonged shots of trains coming from Pakistan with mutilated, bloodied bodies, provocative slogans in Urdu, and only a few of the trains going from India in a similar condition. The odious attempt at striking a balance was lopsided in this utterly revanchist film which opened old wounds without offering fresh balm. In a film about the seeds of animosity, the fruits of amity were not even given a chance to sprout and develop.
A few months later, debutant director Goldie Behl's "Bas Itna Sa Khwab Hai" promised a lot until it fell frightfully short. The film had everything going for it and for quite some time promised to fill that vacuum in Bollywood which nobody has attempted to fill - it had a normal Muslim character central to the story.
Not the pan-chewing, qawwali singing or the gun-toting man. He was shown as a top-notch journalist - Jackie Shroff in one of the numerous character assignments he has undertaken over the past couple of years clad like any other Indian professional - smart suits, ties, slim-rimmed spectacles. However, in the second half the same man, suave, savvy and all that, suddenly turns a villain he becomes a politician and changes into a black sherwani.
The insinuation was too glaring to be missed by the discerning considering sherwani is closely associated with a North Indian university often used as a springboard to a political career by many. Goldie Behl's villain was not just a danger to the hero or his family but to the nation. Ditto for Raj Kanwar's man in "Farz" where he is shown responsible for everything that unsettles a peace-loving nation. He rains bullets, smuggles RDX, plants bombs, plans murder. All until the all-avenging angel of a hero arrives to nail him down. Needless to say, it was the hero who got the applause and the villain was the object of derision.
Even a nondescript comedy like E. Niwas's "Love Ke Liye Kucch Bhi Karega" which revolved round three young guys united by nothing but a desire for life of ease and beauty, took a small detour about Aslam Bhai, a don. Ostensibly a comic character, the man turns out to be a villain of sorts who scoots with the money of the gullible and the weak. In the dreams of the impressionable lies his livelihood. Earlier also, Niwas had managed a similar feat in "Shool." In a "Zanjeer" remake of sorts, the epitome of corruption was a Muslim cop while his Hindu counterparts, were at worst, guilty only of indifference towards their job!
This is nothing new. Not too far back in time films like "Sarfarosh" and "Border" did the same. Remember Naseeruddin Shah's ghazal-singer from Pakistan in Mathew Mathian's film? However, even as Mathian attempted to strike a balance with the projection of an honest Muslim cop, J. P. Dutta made no such attempt. A film about war heroes, it did not have even a single Muslim soldier ready to lay down his life for the country. A little before them, Sashilal Nair's "Angaar" was guilty of the same.
This year, the invidious stereotypes have touched a new low. Almost all the films on Bhagat Singh seem to have one agenda: ignore the contribution of Muslims to the freedom struggle, highlight the follies of the Congress and question the acts of Mahatma Gandhi without giving him an opportunity to explain why he did what he did. Guddu Dhanoa's Bobby Deol-starrer "Shaheed" even attempted to appropriate Bhagat Singh within the pantheon of believers! And Rajkumar Santoshi's film ignored, almost completely, the role of Ashfaqullah even as it glorified the part played by Lala Lajpat Rai, a Congress leader who was among the early leaders of Hindu Mahasabha in the later stages of his life.
Professor Jagmohan Singh, nephew of Bhagat Singh says, "Rajkumar Santoshi's film is absolutely silent on the key role played by Ashfaqullah in the Kakori Train conspiracy. He was martyred along with Ramprasad Bismil. Upon his death Bhagat Singh wrote a message from Bismil: `The British Government has said Ashfaqullah Khan is my right hand... I have proved that Muslim youth is equally patriotic and now no one should dare to say that Muslims cannot be believed.'
Obviously Santoshi had not cared to read the message. Little wonder that in this era of Gandhi-Muslim bashing Ved Rahi made bold to make a film on Veer Savarkar and held a special show for the Union Home Minister!
A little before the Bhagat Singh troika reached the box office, Tinu Verma's "Maa Tujhe Salam" and Ashok Tyagi's "Bharat Bhagya Vidhata" had attempted to set the balance right. While Verma's main hero was a nationalist Muslim - it, however, did not prevent him from clothing a few obviously debauch men in a sleazy cabaret in traditional Muslim gear with a cap and a red-checked scarf - Tyagi had to reportedly chop off a few shots of a few saffron-clad leaders trying to destabilise the nation with their politics. It obviously was not proper to show people of certain predilection in anything less than enviable light!
Between the two was sandwiched Kuku Kohli's "nationalist" drama, "Yeh Dil Aashiqana." Again, the man whose heart beats for the nation is, if one must say it, a member from the majority community, and the villain, well, again, one has to say however repugnant it might appear, a Muslim.
Like always in this fight between Karan and Akhmash Jalal, it is the latter who loses. The film managed to get through the Censors because towards the end, it sneaked in a couple of sequences of certain insiders helping Jalal.
In the past we had stereotypes too: all South Indians called Madrasis were invariably shown speaking in broken Hindi, clad in dhoti and guzzling down idli by the dozen; all North Indians called Punjabis were always married to hedonism and ready to break into a song; and all Christians were God-fearing, if they happened to be fishermen, they had to be perpetually high on alcohol, even ready to bash up their women! And what of Muslims? Well, there were two types: One, perpetuated by the likes of A. K. Hangal in countless films. A weak-kneed, frail man, counting the beads of his rosary, always shown on a prayer mat.
The other type was peopled by subjugated women always inside the house, and those few who did venture out it was always in a hideous burqa - remember "Pakeezah", "Bahu Begum," "Mere Mehboob," etc. Their counterparts were brought up by men in sherwanis, chewing paans, singing qawwalis, reciting poetry, drinking wine and enjoying the company of nautch girls.
Muslims, unfortunately, were never shown in a progressive light. They were never Army Majors despite the presence of Hameed -- whose life was probably the inspiration for the character of Puru Rajkumar in this year's "Bharat Bhagya Vidhata" -- never an educationist despite the presence of real life role models like Sir Syed Ahmed Khan and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad or Zakir Husain, not even fine sportsmen or scientists.
They were always living in ghettoes, stuck to the centuries old living style. They were never cosmopolitan, modern, scientific or rational or even big businessmen.
Now it is worse. Muslims are perpetually toting guns, smuggling RDX, molesting women, enjoying cabaret shows, ditching the nation. Time somebody cried halt!
If "Fire" could be banned for alleged promotion of different personal preferences and "Water" not even allowed to be canned, it is time the directors and producers of the utterly retrogressive and divisive films are made accountable for their deeds.
Sops won't do anymore. And nobody should be allowed to sweep everything aside in a single stroke of generalisation.
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