hindi cinema: muslims COMMENTS
Cliche to terror stereotype, the ‘Muslim’ roles are straitjacketed in Hindi cinema

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Daily Mail
Mar 04, 2013
Type Cast

Apropos the article Keep the Beard On (Feb 18) on the depiction of Muslims in Hindi cinema, how did you miss out on Garam Hawa? It sensitively addresses the question of how toxic and demeaning an environment of suspicion can be.

Arvind, on e-mail

Cinema is a reality projection of our thoughts. A Muslim redeemer among Muslims is in fact an Indian way to see a post-9/11 world.

Abhishek Sharman, Delhi

How come no one complains of stereotyping when the Hindu sadhu in a film invariably turns out to be a villain and his ashram a den of evil.

Rakesh Mehra, Delhi

There are similarities and there are differences. And Bollywood stereotypes everything anyway, doesn’t it?

Jasjeet Shergill, on e-mail

Mar 11, 2013
Wider Than That

I read the article on Muslim characters in Bollywood (Keep the Beard On, Feb 18) with interest. I found it entirely simplistic. The figure of the Muslim in Indian cin­ema is wide-ranging and numerous eno­ugh to deserve at least a scholarly volume. The space afforded by Outlook is pitifully inadequate and leads to bizarre generalisations. For example, note that Rahul Bose’s character in Vishwaroopam and Naseeruddin Shah’s character in Sarfarosh both articulate a ‘national’ stereotype (Afghan and Pakistani, respectively), and not a religious one. Even the more kitschy examples (say in Sunny Deol’s Gadar) resort to a nationalistic, not communal, jingoism. I fail to understand how the figure of the Muslim in Indian cinema can be reduced to the reductive concept of a stereotype.

Jaydeep Paul, Hyatsville, US
Feb 09, 2013
01:38 PM

Good article! Stereotyping of Jewish and black characters was quite common in Hollywood films right up to 50 years ago until the problem was dealt with head on in movies like "Gentlemen's Agreement" and "To Kill a Mocking Bird". Some of today's Indian directors do show the venturesomeness necessary to rise above stereotypes and hopefully we shall see that potential realized soon.

Dallas, United States
Feb 09, 2013
03:38 PM

 People don't look like Rahul Bose, in the esteemed movie, unless they want to ask police to enquire, in a genuine manner. The police must have been happy, and satisfied.

Aditya Mookerjee
Belgaum, India
Feb 09, 2013
06:02 PM

The problem of stereotyping Muslims is primarily due to a very superficial knowledge about Islam in the minds of non muslims especially the Hindus. Thats why only a Kamal Amrohi could make a Pakeezah.

Navien K Batta
muscat, Oman
Feb 09, 2013
07:34 PM

 how come no one complains of stereotyping when any hindu sadhu in any film invariably turns out to be the villian and his ashram a den of evil.

raksh mehra
new delhi, India
Feb 10, 2013
01:24 AM

 A surprising omission in this article is Garam Hawa, which addresses sensitively the question of how toxic and demeaning an environment of suspicion and alienation can be.

mu, India
Feb 10, 2013
06:52 AM

 The negative stereotyping of males in general in cinema ( compared to females ) goes unnoticed and under reported.

Male Unblocked
Chennai, India
Feb 10, 2013
09:39 AM

 another nonsense article by a nonsense magazine...by and large muslims have always been shown in a better light in bollywood , compared to the violent psyche they usually have

kolkata, India
Feb 10, 2013
11:40 AM

Sometimes I wonder .... is too much de-construction, analysis and looking for issues hidden all over, part of the problem or the solution in these days of heightened identity based on accidents of birth.

Remembering that only thing non-accidental about our birth is that we are "human", the rest is just an accident might to be the balm needed in a world of many real and imagined grievenaces that like acid keep corroding our insides.

Arun Maheshwari
Bangalore, India
Feb 10, 2013
11:49 AM

Rubbish, muslims are always depicted as angels in the Indian movies. It is the faithful Hindus who get potrayed badly.

A. Alagappan
Chennai, India
Feb 10, 2013
06:42 PM

Ahem excuse me, as someone that grew up lower middle class in 3 parts of india that had/have significant muslim minorities(Kutch, North Karnataka close to the Andhra border and Hyderabad-Secunderabad) let me tell you that most adult householding muslim men were indeed bearded.
This has increased now with the greater arabisation.
A lot of people raised completely in urban parts, are so ignorant about India it's not even funny.
There are similiarities and there are differences.
And bollywood stereotypes everything doesn't it?

Just Joe King
Gotham, India
Feb 10, 2013
08:28 PM

 Arun Maheswari >> Sometimes I wonder .... is too much de-construction, analysis and looking for issues hidden all over, part of the problem or the solution in these days of heightened identity based on accidents of birth.

Dont you think that this excessive and obsessive analysis and PEDANTIC NITPICKING is simply because the LIBERAL INTELLECTUALS of our age  do not have brains and spare time to indulge in creative, productive thinking for out of box solutions to our pressing problems?

When was the last time we heard of some real sound, innovative idea from these armchair intellectuals and journalists to our national problems concerning say deprivation, malnutrition or poor state of public health?

I really feel that just like we have this MNREGA (100 day employment scheme) for jobless rural poor, we need a urgent national plan to compulsorily engage these loud mouthed self obsessed intellectuals (the likes of Nandy, Roy, Rushdie, etc etc) in some big public work schemes (like cleaning waterbodies o to make them understand a world outside their comfortable cubicle...

Delhi, India
Feb 11, 2013
02:11 AM

It is not uncommon to see movie makers stereotyping a character. Cinema is reality of our thoughts. A Muslim redeemer among Muslims infact is an Indian way to see post 911 world. Compare the portrayal of Muslims in the Hollywood where Muslims characters are unabashedly terrorists, the Indian portrayal looks benign.I can't blame to movie makers or blame their creativity or rather lack of it. 

The best portrayal of a Muslim character in Bollywood was in Sarfrosh. Not the role that Naseeruddin Shah plays but the one played by some unrecognizable actor of a Muslim cop. He is accused of being complicit with terrorists but Aamir Khan employs him on his own reasoning. Certianly patronizing in a way but by far the best portrayal i have ever seen.

A movie like Vishwaroopan is appeasement of Muslims at best where a Muslim character redeems the fellow Muslims. It just shows that we are not ready to call a spade a spade. Kamal Haasan has a history of being an appeaser. His last movie about Gandhi'd assassination gave the first symbol of Haasan's creative bankruptsy. I am pretty sure that he is the last man laughing after entertaining people more with the story about his movie than about the story of his movie.

New Delhi, India
Feb 11, 2013
10:46 PM

Kamalahassan who claimed in an interview when asked on his surname Hassan said that their family was taken care by a Muslim and in his honor his name and his brother's surnames name are Hassan.He is the one who vehemently protested to Narasima Rao's inaction on the riots post Bari Masjid demolition.

I am really surprised he is streo typing the Muslims in bad light to make money.Yearning for wealth can deride even the most talented people.

Nasar Ahmed
Karikkudi, India
Feb 13, 2013
01:28 PM

That Muslims are today in the maximum numbers on the list of "terrorists" is not denied.

That Muslims are responsible for the bad name their community and religion has got through Obscurantism and fundamentalism is not denied.

That the kind of identity fixation getting into Muslims is not going to help them is not denied.

But then can any body name a single grouping of some size and position not having had "fundamentalists", obscurantists and "terrorists"?

We may define terrorists in different ways-but terrorists they are if they cow down people of other belief into submission and surrender through force and belligerance.

Every society has to reform and regrow and many do so. That depictions of Sadhus and Pandits in negative manner in films is not considered as 'stereotyping' would be a wrong belief. It is stereotyping. However, the fact is that the Hindu society is itself depicting and questioning it's ills and thereby reforming and regrowing.

Muslim society can and will grow out of this phase provided the 'accusing eyes' of the so called guardians of what is allowable and what is not spare them the time and freedom.

Under siege any and every society turns defensive and regressive. This is not to be ignored or excused, but definitely understood and included in all actions.

Hindus turned to Casteism with great intensity during the onslaught by invaders from land and sea. Its consequences are with us in great virulence even today.

So all of us who are going to nurture this siege mentality need to take a hard look at their positions and step back to allow the Muslim society to take ownership of its future in the world of mankind and make necessary reforms.

Atul Chandra
Feb 14, 2013
07:59 AM

MUSLIMS insist on dressing and doing everything different than rest and complain when treated differently. 20 years back hardly anyone was seen in BURQUA in Assam but presently, there are large number of women wearing BLACK BURQUA in the sweltering heat of Assam. Sadly it is the educated, well off Muslim families that have forced their women into  BURQUA. --------------------------------------------- The contribution of BOLLYWOOD to increse the caste divide amongst Hindus have been no less - THAKURS & BANIYAS were the permanent villians of 50's & 60's and early 70's and people suffering at their hand were Hindus- mostly lower caste Hindus. (the vivid dipiction of lecherous BANIYA of Mother India is apt example).  BUT there was no protest from PSEUDO- SECUS when Hindu society was divided on caste lines- because supporting Hindus is not secularism.  

Charan dewry
Guwahati, India
Feb 14, 2013
04:50 PM

Atul Chandra sahib,

Salutations for your wonderful reasoning in Post D-72/14 .

Mumbai, India
Feb 16, 2013
10:42 AM

Atul.. I agree with most of your points except your inference on caste system. When an invader arrives society generally tries to mobilise its strength by uniting rather than divide into further fragments. In this case i am afraid you are confusing the effects for the cause. Our society became week because of the caste system and not the other way around.

My apologies if i am digressing from the main topic.

Sampath Kumar
Bangalore, India
Feb 16, 2013
01:28 PM

This is an entirely simplistic reading. The figure of the Muslim character in Indian cinema is wide-ranging and numerous enough to deserve something at least as long as a scholarly volume, if not an encyclopaedia. The space afforded by a weekly magazine article is pitifully adequate, and leads to these bizarre, enormous generalizations. I seriously doubt the subject can be reduced to the claustrophobic dimensions afforded by the idea of a 'stereotype'.

Jaydeep Paul
Hyattsville, United States
Feb 16, 2013
01:49 PM

Note that Rahul Bose's character in Vishwaroopam, or Naseeruddin Shah's character in Sarfarosh - both articulate a *national* stereotype (Afghan and Pakistani, respectively), not a religious one. In fact, even the most kitschy examples (like say, Sunny Deol's Gadar) resort to nationalistic, and not communal jingoism. Again, I simply fail to understand how the figure of the Muslim in Indian cinema (ranging from Jitendra's camp 'Hatim Tai', to the visual poetry of Muzaffar Ali's oeuvre, to the naive propaganda-tinged idealism of a Mission Kashmir, to the searing intensity of Firaaq, to name a few examples not mentioned above) can be reduced to the reductive concept of a stereotype. I seriously hope some scholar (maybe Rachel Dwyer, whom the author quotes so enthusiastically, if selectively) comes along to write the book on the subject that is just crying out to be written.

Jaydeep Paul
Hyattsville, United States


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