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Of Kurbaan and other Mumbo Jumbo….

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So dig this…an Indian Muslim man weds a Indian Hindu girl…they go off to the United States of America where the girl eventually learns that her husband, neighbours, colleagues are all terrorists hell bent on destroying the Western world. Why? Hmmmmm…Lemme guess……Oh wait!!! Yea that’s right! They’re all Muslims!

I’m sure that ’s not exactly what was intended to be portrayed in the 2009 released Hindi film “Kurbaan” but somewhere down the line, I feel that unconsciously and unintentionally the movie did more harm to the image of the Indian Muslim by portraying almost every Muslim with an agenda for revenge.

Before the release I heard the lead actor of the movie Saif Ali Khan make a point on a TV show about how back in the old days of glory the Muslims of India were known for their artistry with clothes, their command of language, and their palate for fine taste. Now with the current global environment Muslims are branded as terrorists more often than not. He hoped that the movie would change that point of view.

But as the movie unravelled its buffoonery I noticed how like never before the movie showed economically well off educated Indian Muslims as terrorists, conmen, wife-beaters, killers etc. WTF????? So what the movie actually did was that it somehow DID brand all Muslims as terrorists, added fuel to the idea of love jihad (which is frantically talked about by extremist Hindu organizations) and showed Muslim women in pitiable condition.

But Kurbaan is not the only time. Depictions of Muslims in Hindi films have done more harm than good of late. Take any example. Rajiv Khandelwaal was the only “good” Muslim in the film Aamir whereas the rest were busy plotting a bomb. Touché for A Wednesday where all mentioned Muslim terrorists in India had convenient links with Al-Qaeda. Even an ordinary comedy film like Bheja-fry had a Muslim friend (Ranvir Shorey) of the central protagonist named Bharat Bhushan (Vinay Pathak) supporting the Pakistani cricket team. “Khaathe Idhar ki hai, gaatey udhar ki hain” Bharat Bhushan had claimed. Motherfucker! I had exclaimed.

I am a Muslim and so the portrayal of Muslims in Hindi film industry has always been a cause of concern for me. They say that cinema is a reflection of society but in our cinema the portrayal of many religions and cultures has been inaccurate and stereotyped. How else would you explain the Muslims to be bearded, skull cap folks with a mark on their foreheads or the Christians to be jolly, drunk, god fearing and me-child talking all the time? The south Indians always end up being cooks or naaryal paani sellers whereas the Parsis are relegated to being an old couple randomly taking a drive in their vintage hot-wheels. Not to mention Sikhs being relegated to dumb comic characters. But that is slowly changing with better depictions of Sikhs in movies like Love Aaj Kal and Rocket Singh: Salesman of the year.

I just can’t help but feel that these representations somehow and somewhere play into the psyche of the film goer and might help in developing an opinion. I’ve had many instances where the topic of me being a Muslim has crept up and people have said, “Oh you’re a Muslim? You don’t look like one.” And what am I supposed to look like? The one they show in films?

My point is, just because a certain religion or culture is not part of the majority, does it mean it won’t be considered as everyday normal by the film audience? I don’t think so…I think that religion or cultures can always be in the background of storytelling whereas the attention can be on the plot. So the characters can always be called Fayaz, Ismail, Baman, Rustam, Harpreet, Joginder, Michael etc and they are as capable of fighting aliens from outer space as a fair north Indian Raj, Rahul or Vijay is. Normalcy and equality in depiction is what is being demanded here.

I’m a movie buff…and I go to the movies almost every week with one semi-conscious thought in the back of my mind. That please have some degree of logic and accuracy in the movie that I see. I know that this rant of mine wouldn’t get across to many. But if you’ve read this and are a budding filmmaker….please, please, puh-fuckin-lease try to portray all characters as Indians from Earth instead of crazy-loony-bloodthirsty Muslims/Sardars/Parsis/South Indians from stereotyped lala-land.

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