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Bollywood, Indian Muslims & its Islamophobia

As we sail through the world of media hegemony and conglomerates, our perception is not formed only due to our personal experience, but Cinema plays an important role in forming our opinions. The messages shown in movies leave an imprint in the minds of viewers.

Based on my understanding, Indian Cinema has witnessed various eras of themes from romantics to action to the thriller but whatever genre it might be they very subtly portray Islamophobia in it. There is absolutely no doubt about how media and films reinforce stereotypes and shape our gaze about a particular community.

In my opinion, Indian cinema has a very myopic vision about Muslim attire, Kohl rimmed eyes, ‘taweez’ around the neck, skull-cap, Pathan suit, tasbeeh in hands, rebellion in eyes and hatred filled heart, that’s how they portray the majority of the Indian Muslims. Films like Fanaa, Kurbaan, Agent Vinod, etc, and Web series like Bard of Blood, The Family Man, etc all have Muslim antagonists. The web series The Family Man shows three Muslim men from Kerala who have terrorist plans for India. The series then apprises us of ‘Mission Zulfiqar’, which is a plot to attack Delhi.

Bollywood is hell-bent portraying and pigeonholing Muslims as terrorists, bombers, qawwals, or gangsters. Kesari, which means saffron, the movie was based on the Battle of Saragarhi fought by Sikhs against tribesmen from Afghanistan, again the movie portrayed Sikhs as patriots and Muslims as fanatic Jihadis totally ignoring the concept of colonial oppression.

Commando 3 also played its major part in portraying Muslims as terrorists and fascists. In the context of Sacred Games, religion has been used to manipulate and control the masses referring to the tensions between the two communities in India created by Partition. In Pataal Lok also to close/solve the case they bring forth the fact that the accused are linked to ISIS and have therefore planned the assassination of Mr. Sanjeev Mehra, the journalist. This ‘othering’ and bad portrayal again creates a sense of “we” and “they” in society resonating Islamophobia which has real consequences.

Bollywood has further amplified the stereotypes, deepened Islamophobia, and created disgust among viewers and hatred against Muslims. Indian cinema needs to recognize the fact that extremists can exist in any community but targeting Muslims or Islam is undoubtedly a misplaced assumption and as a matter of fact, we also need to analyze the content that we are consuming these days.

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