An Indian Civilizational Perspective

Normal Muslim Bollywood Stories no more?

Last night I watched a rather different kind of Bollywood movie “Iqbal”. The reason I brought the cassette was because the grocery store owner – a Gujju and a self-proclaimed class-mate of Rakhi Sawant (yeah that sexy siren) – had written the words “Good Movie”! This was the first time in last two years that I have seen any movie in his store get SUCH a proclamation. That does it, I said!

It was a nice but predictably familiar plot of a movie.. kind of like one of those popular themes where an underdog village kid with no real means .. against ALL odds and a little help from un assuming quarters, makes it BIG! Only with two differences – this kid was deaf and dumb and he was Muslim. Why have I mentioned the latter? Interesting point! Even I did not realize it until late!

When was the LAST TIME when you saw a Bollywood movie made ENTIRELY on a NORMAL Muslim family (not as a terrorist or drug mavericks) as a central theme? I think the last that I remember was decades AGO called Nikaah by BR Chopra. And it created quite a stir!

The magic of Urdu and the world of Muslims – normal ones – cultured and educated is all but lost from bollywood! And its NOT because Indian Cinema is NOT secular or discriminates against Muslims or has little representation of the members of the community. Even today, as in the past, the top directors, actors, and other departments are dominated by Muslims!

Two of the FINEST classics on Muslims, in my opinion, were “Chaudvin ka Chand” and “Barsaat ki Raat”.

Barsaat ki Raat

This is my absolute favorite so I will talk about this one here a bit.

This movie has these two good things:

– The absolutely wonderful angelic face of Madhubala and the suffering of Shama for Amaan Hyderabadi played by enigmatic Bharat Bhushan.
– The great lyrics of Sahir Ludhianvi – without whom Urdu literature will be incomplete!

“Ajnabi si ho magar gair nahin lagti ho;
Waham se bhi ho jo nazuk wo yakeen lagti ho”

(Oh you stranger, quite like my own,
A dilemma stronger than my Conviction!)

Image Hosted by ImageShack.usThis is BY FAR the best use of oxymoronic yet most powerful use of irony that I have heard in my life (from the song “Maine shayad tumhe”)

I cannot forget the legendary qawwali – under the music of Roshan (grand dad of Hritik Roshan) and by far the best music director for qawwalis ever in Bollywood! – of love “Yeh Ishq Ishq Hai”. The qawwali starts with Manna Dey – one of the best singer that Bollywood had – and somewhere in the middle starts an alaap by the unbelievable Mohd. Rafi. If you have been listening to the qawaali from the beginning you instantly feel – despite Dey’s greatness – that you were walking in a desert and suddenly came to an Oasis! Such is the soothing voice of Rafi! But this one song shows Rafi’s best and worst – his voice breaks at a higher pitch as well! But if “God” ever sang – he would surely have a voice of Rafi (another of my convictions!).

Here is a verse from this “Sufi-ist” qawwali:

Allah Rasool Ka Farmaan Ishq Hai
Yaane Hadeez Ishq Hai, Quraan Ishq Hai
Gautam Kaa Aur Maseeh Ka Armaan Ishq Hai
Ye Kaaynaat Jism Hai Aur Jaan Ishq Hai
Ishq Sarmad, Ishq Hi Mansoor Hai
Ishq Moosa, Ishq Koh-E-Noor Hai
Khaaq Ko But, Aur But Ko Devta Karta Hai Ishq
Intaha Ye Hai Ke Bande Ko Khuda Karta Hai Ishq

(for complete lyrics visit here)

With the way the current environment is – do we think we can have such lyrics written now? Who will?

The Question

Having reviewed this wonderful movie – the question still remains – WHY is it that we cannot make a movie which is EXCLUSIVELY about a Muslim or a Sikh family AND which does not have any apologetic references to their loyalties? In Iqbal, the kid’s father was vehement that he wanted his kid to be useful to his “watan”! Why this rubbing in something that should be considered natural.

Whether it’s our Directors’ hestitation and misgivings on the minorities are becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy or they are trying to help already “off-the-road” minorities, I can’t really say. But it will serve each of us better, if a NORMAL family story of an educated Minority family is written and WITHOUT any of the formulaic “my heart beats for India” cliches (in defense of Muslims – without these too they will do just fine!) in it and forms the base of a blockbuster like Barsaat ki Raat!!

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