We are Indians, our national animal is the tiger, national anthem is currently being played in cinemas and national enemy is the Muslim. Nothing works better than popular culture to represent a psychology. If Hollywood specialized in black identities shown as criminals and drug doers and dealers, Bollywood grew up portraying the Muslim as the other. Let’s take a look at the ‘diverse’ roles of Muslim characters in films. As you know, unity in diversity is India ka slogan. Islamophobia is its nom de plume.
1. The Despicable Terrorist
This Muslim has got it all wrong and shall be taught a lesson by the [Hindu] hero. His aim is to destroy Hindustan and what a fool he is to believe our hero would let that happen. He will not.
The peculiar case of the Muslim hero (or sometimes a heroine like in Dil Se) who, no surprises there, is a terrorist and will end up dead is also a winner. The audience gets an idea of how our armed forces work (Think ‘Fanaa’). How Bollywood thinks they work. To be fair the Hindu boy in Dil Se also ends up dead maybe because he did not get married to the Nair mallu girl?
2. Terrorist by Fate
This one gets a tiny pinch of sympathy. He was not born a terrorist like the rest of the Muslims. His circumstances pushed into being one. But his loyalty is with his religion – something barbaric for Bollywood. He shall be punished for it. If possible, by his own family members who are loyal to the country and not their stupid barbaric faith.
3. The Loyal Friend Muslim
Here goes the script for this Muslim character. He is the friend of our hero. He is there for the laughs. He is stupid. He is dead. [Permutation combinations of the same can be used according to varying needs]
4. The Secular Muslim
A Muslim hero can be a hero only if he is secular. Think Akbar, everyone’s favourite Muslim hero. Be it a ruler, a businessperson or anybody in a prominent role that the masses love, the person should be secular. Secular includes showing that one is secular. By marrying a Hindu woman, allowing Hindu log around to be Hindu and being extra ordinarily nice. A streak of violence in you and you shall be immediately deported to the terrorist Muslim category
5. The Poet
Breaks into poetry for no reason. Speaks ornate hindi with loads of urdu in it. Has a way with women only because of the poetry [otherwise why would any woman date a Muslim]. Be cautious, he could turn out to be a wife-beater. The Muslim poet is there for the charm and the Urdu. [Think ‘7 Khoon Maaf’ and Irrfan Khan in it for starters]
Rays of hope
Bollywood did break free of this monotony at times. There came the mighty, the unapologetically Muslim Muslim, who totally owned the films they were in. The only problem with them being the inevitable death of the hero. Wonder if it is possible to have an unabashed narrative of an unabashedly Muslim hero who does not die. Adapting Shakespeare or retelling history, it can have interpretations where things change. It is possible. You only have to do it.