Sunday, January 28, 2018

Padmaavat Reinforces Negative Stereotypes of Muslim Rule in India

Famed Bollywood producer Sajay Leela Bhansali's Padmaavat is a fictionalized portrayal of a Rajput queen Padmavati, played by Deepika Pudokone, whose earliest mention is found in a 16th century epic poem by a Muslim poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi. With the movie Padmaavat's (Padmavati's) musical score and the song and dance sequences and the opulence and the splendor of the costumes, the jewelry and the sets, it's safe to say that the fans of Bhansali's earlier Bollywood blockbusters like Bajirao Mastani and Devdas will not be disappointed. It looks particularly spectacular when watched in 3D-IMAX version-- something my wife and I experienced in a local Silicon Valley multiplex.

Released amidst death threats by right wing Hindu groups,  one would have expected that the movie in some way challenges the revisionist history being promoted by the ruling BJP's ideologues.

Surprisingly, the movie Padmaavat  reinforces the current Hindutva narrative about the Muslim rulers of India. It portrays Muslim ruler Alauddin Khilji of the Delhi Sulatanate, played by Ranveer Singh, as a violent and lustful man lacking any scruples, fitting in with the current wave of Islamophobia in India. On the other hand, his Hindu Rajput counterpart Maharawal Ratan Singh, played by Shahid Kapoor, is shown as an honorable and principled person.

The story appears to glorify the act of mass suicide by Rajput Hindu women by self-immolation in the name of honor....an idea that the Karni Sena opposing it picked up by threatening mass self-immolation by 1700 women in protest if the film is released. It begs the question: Why should only women commit this mass suicide in protest? Why not the men of the Karni Sena?

Meanwhile, it remains a mystery as to how a fictional Hindu queen first mentioned in a poem by a 16th century Muslim poet has become the symbol of honor for Rajputs in the 21st century.  For this, one must understand the larger underlying trend in Indian polity today with the rise of Hindutva under right-wing Hindu Prime Minister Narendra Modi's leadership.

American historian Audrey Truschke, in her recently published book "Aurangzeb: The Life and Legacy of India's Most Controversial King", attributes today's Hindutva revisionist history to the colonial-era British historians. She says they deliberately distorted the history of Indian Muslim rule to vilify Muslim rulers as part of the British policy to divide and conquer India. These misrepresentations of Muslim rule made during the British Raj appear to have been accepted as fact not just by Islamophobic Hindu Nationalists but also by at least some of the secular Hindus in India and Muslim intellectuals in present day Pakistan, says the author.  Aurangzeb was neither a saint nor a villain; he was a man of his time who should be judged by the norms of his times and compared with his contemporaries, the author adds.

Alauddin Khilji, portrayed in Padmaavat as a villain, was in fact neither an angel nor a devil; he was a man of his time who should be judged by the norms of his times and compared with his contemporaries.  Colonial-era British historians deliberately distorted the history of Indian Muslim rule to vilify Muslim rulers as part of their policy to divide and conquer India, according to American history professor Audrey Truschke. Professor Truschke has systematically dismantled all the myths about India's Muslim rulers as hateful and bigoted tyrants who engaged in rape and pillage of Hindus and carried out widespread destruction of Hindu temples across India. Hindu Nationalists led by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi are using false history to justify their hatred and violence against Indian Muslims today.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Hindu Nationalists Admire Nazis

Lynchistan: India is the Lynching Capital of the World

Hindu Supremacist Yogi Adiyanath's Rise in UP

Hinduization of India

Globalization of Hindu Nationalism

Hindutva Distortion of Indian History Textbooks

2017: The Year Islamophobia Went Mainstream

20 comments:

Ahmad F. said...

Where is the film that conveys the Muslim version of the story?

Riaz Haq said...

Ahmad: "Where is the film that conveys the Muslim version of the story?"

I don't know of any "Muslim version" of this fictional story specifically.

However, I do my best to counter the false Hindu Nationalist narrative of Muslim rule of India.

Fortunately, I'm not alone.

The one person doing a marvelous job of it is American historian Audrey Truschke through her book on Aurangzeb, her articles in newspapers and magazines and her postings on twitter challenging Hindutva trolls.

http://www.riazhaq.com/2017/07/hindutva-legacy-of-british-raj.html

And another person doing something similar is Indian politician and diplomat Sashi Tharoor.

Here's what he said recently:

Under Muslim rule, India was the richest country in the world producing 27% of the world GDP.

“The British came to one of the richest countries in the world when the GDP was almost 27% in the 17th century, 23% in the18th. But, over 200 years of exploitation, loot and destruction reduced India to a poster child for third world poverty”, he said in reply to a question about the British rule in India.

https://youtu.be/dN2Owcwq6_M

Riaz Haq said...

#Padmaavat: #Malaysia Bans Controversial
#Indian Film – Variety

http://variety.com/2018/film/asia/malaysia-bans-india-padmaavat-1202679940/

Malaysia has barred controversial Indian period drama “Padmaavat” from receiving a theatrical release. The announcement by Malaysia’s National Film Censorship Board (LPF) was made Saturday.

Its “not approved” ruling gives no explanation for the ban. But local media quoted LPF chairman Mohd Zamberi Abdul Aziz as saying: “The storyline of the film touches on the sensitivities of Islam. That in itself is a matter of grave concern in Malaysia, a Muslim-majority country.” The film as directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali sees a Muslim sultan waging war in order to be able to win a beautiful Hindu princess of the Rajput warrior class.

In India, the film was banned for two months after protests by Rajputs, but eventually was released last Thursday amid some violence by protesters. India’s censors required a title change and a disclaimer explaining that the film was not based on historical fact.

Salah A. said...

I agree with you for the most part regarding what is going on in India these days (especially since Modi became PM). But, what I don’t understand is the fierce (and sometimes violent) demonstrations in that country by the right-wing Hindu nationalists, rajputs, etc. against the movie since the rajputs and their culture, history, etc. are being depicted very positively, whereas the Muslims are being portrayed in a very negative way. So, actually it should be Muslims in India who should be demonstrating against their ‘unkind’ portrayal in the movie. Your thoughts, please.


Also, accept for a few well-known writers (Audrey Truschke, Shasi Throor, etc.) why aren’t there more (‘scholar-type’) people who can/would present a counter-narrative about past Muslim rule in India, and present day Muslim societies, their achievements in the South Asian subcontinent.

Riaz Haq said...

Salah: " why aren’t there more (‘scholar-type’) people who can/would present a counter-narrative about past Muslim rule in India, and present day Muslim societies, their achievements in the South Asian subcontinent."

The Brits have dominated the discourse on Indian history for a couple of centuries and claimed lots of unsuspecting victims in both India and Pakistan, including liberal Hindus and Muslims

The tide is now starting to turn with the Hindutva excesses and their justifications based on British distortions.

I hope we’ll see more scholarly scrutiny building up on the work of Truschke and Tharoor

Sika said...

I don't buy your line. Alauddin's wife and father-in-law are portrayed positively. So is the nephew, the Mughals - all Muslim. The court Hindu Brahmin Priest is portrayed very negatively and so is the first Rajput queen. My father is an Indian Muslim involved with Bansali. Please don't be so alarmist.

Riaz Haq said...

How Hindu nationalists devoured India

Shikha Dalmia

http://theweek.com/articles/750971/how-hindu-nationalists-devoured-india

Loosely based on an epic poem by a 16th century Muslim Sufi poet, the movie's cinematic sophistication — it is shot in 3-D with absolutely breathtaking scenes of courtly pomp set in medieval India — contrasts sharply with its crude and cartoonish characters. The film isn't a clash between mere good and evil, but utmost perfection and complete depravity as embodied by Singh, the Hindu hero, and Khilji, the Muslim villain.

The Hindu Singh, with his buff bod and kohl-smeared eyes, is a paragon of Rajput virtue who treats women like queens (of which he has two), moves with grace, deals with matters of state with flawless judgment, conducts himself with decorum, and fights with valor and integrity. Twice he foregoes the opportunity to kill the unarmed Khilji because that would have meant violating the Rajput code of honor.

The Muslim Khilji, by contrast, is not just dastardly, but a savage lech. He is a sadist who gets a sexual high from humiliating his minions. On the day of his wedding, he is off jumping other women. He is cruel toward family and friends and happily turns on them for the slightest advantage. He doesn't dine from shining utensils sitting serenely in the traditional lotus position like the cultured Rajputs. He hunches over a table grabbing large pieces of meat with his bare hands, tearing the flesh with his teeth.

And he believes that for victory in war, no tactic is too ignoble. After killing Singh on the battlefield through treachery, he races to claim his prize. But Padmaavati, herself a paragon of virtue, calmly leads 800 women into a fiery cauldron in an act of mass self-immolation that Rajput widows were expected to perform to protect their — and their husbands' — honor. (This dénouement has rightly incensed Indian feminists struggling against traditional attitudes that measure a woman's worth by her devotion to her husband.)

It is not clear that Padmaavati ever existed, but Singh and Khilji were real historical figures and, unsurprisingly, much more nuanced than the movie's ridiculous caricatures. But literally every Hindu in the film, except the king's Brahmin tutor, is upright, humane, and decent — and every Muslim, but for Khilji's wife, is craven, randy, and slothful.

Such demeaning portrayals would be controversial under any circumstances. But today, when Muslims (and other religious minorities) are under siege in India, they are downright irresponsible.

Casual bigotry against Muslims has always existed in India. But since Modi assumed office, the situation has gotten considerably worse. Hindu nationalism's singular project is to restore Hindu pride and identity by avenging historic harms, real and imagined, inflicted on Hindus by "Muslim invaders" who ruled the country for centuries.

Lynching of Muslims suspected of consuming beef — which is taboo for Hindus — have become commonplace. And in recent years, paranoid Hindus have taken to accusing Muslim men of engaging in "love jihad" — or converting Hindu women by seducing them into marriage. (Christians face analogous allegations.) Hardly a day goes by when Hindu thugs don't beat up a Hindu-Muslim couple somewhere in the country. Last month, a court actually annulled a marriage between a Muslim man and a 25-year-old Hindu woman in med school. The court concluded that a woman of her station and background could not possibly in her right mind have consented to such a nuptial without being "brainwashed," her protestations that she was in love with her husband notwithstanding.

Given all of this, you would probably think that Muslims would be protesting this movie, directed by a Hindu with an all-Hindu cast, for feeding every single rabid anti-Muslim stereotype. Instead, it is Hindu extremists who have taken to the streets.

Ejaz N. said...

Do you notice that too? "Indeed, a selective survey of 41 films had concluded that 75.60 per cent of them portrayed Muslims negatively, 12.20 per cent positively, and the rest were ‘mixed.’ Be that as it may, Muslims are no longer Rahim chachas, rib-tickling Hyderbadi chefs (Mehmood, Gumnaam, 1963), kindly daai maas ( the daijaan nanny of Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham, 2001). Instead, largely, they’re shown as terrorists without delving into the reasons why." ~


https://www.thequint.com/entertainment/bollywood/muslims-in-the-movies-the-good-the-bad-the-khiji

Riaz Haq said...

Bollywood, please spare us your Muslim stereotyping by Milia Ali

http://www.thedailystar.net/opinion/shifting-images/bollywood-please-spare-us-your-muslim-stereotyping-1411690

Films are powerful tools that shape ideas, attitudes and social norms. But as any art form, the message can be diffused or even distorted if it's not presented in the right way. In general, movies produced in Bollywood are not inspiring or stimulating — most of them defy logic and common sense. But sometimes they manage to touch a cord — unfortunately it could be the wrong cord. I must admit that once in a while I enjoy Bollywood entertainers, simply because they make no pretences about projecting “real life”. Hence, when a friend invited me to watch Raees I accepted, looking forward to a fun evening of laughter and light chatter.

I will refrain from commenting on the quality of the film since it's beyond the purview of this column. What irked me is the stereotyped portrayal of the Muslim characters. The story centres on the life of a Robin Hood style mobster Raees played by Shah Rukh Khan. Interestingly, Raees, his sidekicks and rival dons are predominantly Muslim, creating the impression that the Indian underworld is entirely controlled by Muslims. Shah Rukh's surma-eyed, kurta-clad new avatar was charming and impressive. But his bloody, self-flagellating appearance as a mourner in a Moharram procession was too much for my palate. It evoked all kinds of negative connotations, especially now when Islam is projected by the media as a violent and “bloodthirsty” religion. As if that was not enough, we were subjected to a 10 minute (or what seemed like 10 minutes) brawl between Shah Rukh and a group of butchers in a bazaar with pieces of meat, and human and animal blood splattering all over the screen. This raw display of flying flesh and blood was a perfect gift for the RSS, who label Muslims as beef-eating savages and are advocating a ban on cow slaughter!

The movie could have picked up some traction with its diversion toward the Gujarat riots, but this thread was unfortunately sidetracked. On the contrary, by a strange twist of the plot, it was revealed that a Muslim underground don was involved in a major terrorist attack on the country, killing and maiming hundreds!

Bollywood's depiction of Muslim stereotypes is not new. In the late 60s and 70s, I remember watching Muslim socials (as they were then called) that came straight out of the studios and had no connection to reality. They were popular because they showcased a surreal world where the hero (usually a nawab's son) fell in love with the marble white (sang-e-marmar) hands of the burka-clad heroine whose face was revealed to him halfway through the film. After several twists and turns of mixed identities, the story ended happily. There was also the popular genre of the proverbial courtesan (always Muslim ) rescued by the hero after a three-hour long tamasha with conspiring brothel madams, devious pimps and “khandani” fathers trying to preserve their family honour by disavowing the smitten, prodigal son!

The question that continues to puzzle me is: Why are Muslims usually depicted as veiled beauties, dancing girls, nawabs, emperors, princesses, gangsters and terrorists! The Bombay film industry has given us many iconic directors, scriptwriters and actors who are Muslim. Yet it is hard to name a memorable movie that has “normal” Muslim characters with normal dreams and aspirations — like the boy or girl next door.

Riaz Haq said...

“Very few films go against Muslim stereotypes”
Mohammad Ali


http://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-national/tp-newdelhi/very-few-films-go-against-muslim-stereotypes/article5177813.ece


As an industry Bollywood resists movies which will break stereotypes of Muslims as terrorists, argued filmmaker Subhas Kapoor while speaking at a function organised to mark 25 years of the Safdar Hashmi Memorial Trust.

While talking about the “Trajectory of the Secular/Communal Impulse in Indian Cinema”, the Jolly LLB director pointed out there were very few films which go against the established Muslim stereotypes.

“Who is a Muslim character in Bollywood today? He is a terrorist and if the filmmaker is progressive then the terrorist is shown dying while trying to save the flag,” the filmmaker said.

While mentioning cases of innocent Muslim youths being framed in terror cases in which later they get acquitted, Mr. Kapoor shared his future plans to make movies which challenge the perception of Muslims as terrorists.

He talked about his desire to make ‘ Pandit Saleem Mohammad Chaturvedi’ , a movie where a Brahman youth gets killed in a fake encounter.

“There is a lot of resistance if one wanted to change that perception. When I discussed my plan for the movie, senior producers frankly told me that it was not possible to make such a movie and it may lead to communal riots,” he said.

But at the same time, the filmmaker said, Bollywood remains one of the most secular spaces to work without any strong biases. And there is competition between Kapoors and Khans to get the Eid slot for the release of their films.

Posing a rhetorical question as to when will the situation change, the filmmaker said the answer lies in the society, the domain outside the film industry.

While adding to the filmmakers’ argument, one of the trustees of SAHMAT Sohail Hashmi said the Muslim character in Hindi cinema has to pay for not going to Pakistan.

“Muslim characters are drunks, poets or terrorists. Where do we have a hero who is Muslim? Normally a Muslim character has to die saving a Hindu hero. The opposite is quite rare,” he said.

While talking about how reality was distorted to suit stereotyping of Muslims, Mr. Hashmi mentioned Sarfarosh, a movie which talks about Pakistan-sponsored terrorism . The origins of the movie lies in the attack by Shiv Sena on a ghazal concert of Ghulam Ali.

Riaz Haq said...

#India Should Be Grateful to Alauddin #Khilji for Thwarting the #Mongol Invasions. Mongol success would have completely destroyed #Hindu civilization. #Padmavati #PadmavatiControversy https://thewire.in/203518/india-grateful-alauddin-khilji-thwarting-mongol-invasions/ … via @thewire_in

At a time when most of the medieval world was laid waste by the brutality of the Mongol armies, Khilji kept India – and its culture and civilisation – safe.

What is not well-known, however, is that Khilji, for all his faults, saved India from a fate much worse than even his own oppressive rule – that of the murderous Mongols, who tried to invade the Indian subcontinent six times during his reign as the sultan of Delhi, and failed miserably, thanks to his brilliance as a general, the quality, discipline, and bravery of his army and its commanders, and their superior military tactics.

What the Mongol invaders inflicted on Persia, the Caliphate of Baghdad, Russia, and elsewhere is well documented – genocide, the destruction of infrastructure, and the destruction of native culture, literature, and religious institutions. Their habit of leaving conquered countries as wastelands that would not spring back for at least a hundred years, and their tendency to rule even the regions they settled in, such as Russia, in an exploitative and backward way, are well-known to historians and laypersons alike.

Against this backdrop, one can safely argue that Alauddin Khilji, for all his faults, actually saved the syncretic culture of the Indian subcontinent of that time – which included Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, and Jain subcultures – from enormous destruction, even if preserving the culture of India may not have been what motivated his resistance to the Mongols.

Indeed, Khilji is a classic study in the layered and complex nature of historical figures whom it is impossible to portray in the black-and-white terms that modern politics seems to demand. Khilji is rightly viewed negatively for his cruelty and brutality; but he should also, in fairness, be seen as the saviour of Hindustan that he unwittingly ended up being, by repelling the formidable and ruthless Mongol hordes.

-------------


For the past month, Rajasthan has been convulsed by a controversy over the Bollywood movie, Padmavati, based on Padmavat – a prose-poem written by Malik Muhammad Jayasi in 1540 CE which uses Alauddin Khilji’s conquest of Chittor in 1303 CE and his supposed obsession with Rani Padmini of Chittor as a backdrop for its ficitional tale.

None of the politicians and activists accusing the film maker of denigrating the honour of the Rajput queen of Chittor, Padmini, and glorifying the “Muslim conqueror Khilji” has even seen the film yet.

Much of the controversy is fuelled by ill-feeling towards Khilji, based on the fact that he was an oppressive ruler to his subjects, who were mostly Hindu. So the possibility of romance – or even unrequited love – between a Muslim “villain” and a Hindu queen being depicted on screen, even as a fantasy, as has been rumoured, infuriates Hindu right-wing groups.


Dawud said...

Wow, so the “good invaders “ prevented the “bad invaders”. Such generosity to protect what they captured.


Makes a good bedtime story for kids :)

Ahmad F. said...

They came anyway. The Mughals were Mongols.

Riaz Haq said...

Ahmad: " They came anyway. The Mughals were Mongols"


The Mongols were illiterate and uncivilized.

The Mughals were a later civilized version of the Mongols.

The Mughals enriched India by all genuine historical accounts while Mongols laid waste to the places they invaded.

India got its reputation as "golden bird" during the Mughal rule.

The most lasting Mughal influence on India can be found in India's architecture, literature, poetry, music, cuisine, etc etc.

The biggest , most iconic and most lucrative tourist attractions in India were built by Muslims.

Muslims from Arabia and Persia coined terms like Hindu and Hindustan that are celebrated by Hindutva today.

Dawud said...

Historic and magnificent buildings have existed in India for centuries.

Mugals filled their treasuries using local wealth by collecting taxes, etc.

When one accumulates such huge resources, it is easy to find great artisans to build. It would have been different scenario had they brought in wealth from their lands to build and beautify India. No wonder that Emperor Shahjehan emptied his treasury in his quest of building the Taj Mahal. He paid the price as his son had him imprisoned.

Riaz Haq said...

Dawud: "Historic and magnificent buildings have existed in India for centuries. Mugals filled their treasuries using local wealth by collecting taxes, etc."

1. India’s top 10 tourist attractions in terms of tourism dollars were built by Muslims...no Hindu king or raja ever built anything as beautiful and iconic as the Taj Mahal

2. All of the Hindustani music gharanas are Muslim

3. Biryani, the most popular dish in India owes itself to Muslims

4. Tandoori meats and nan were introduced to India by Muslims

5. India’s textile industry that made and exported the world’s finest muslins was started by Muslims...the Brits singled it out for destruction

Arshad M. said...

Doesn't matter what Mughal did for India, they were invaders ..

Riaz Haq said...

Arshad: "Doesn't matter what Mughal did for India, they were invaders .."

Wrong....only Babar was an invader. All others were born and raised in India. Several had Hindu mothers.

They were as Indian as anyone else.

Ahmad F. said...

India under the Mughals had begun declining and to blame that on the British is a stretch. To argue that India under the Hindus after 1947 would have done better under the Muslims is even a bigger stretch.


Riaz Haq said...

Ahmad: "India under the Mughals had begun declining and to blame that on the British is a stretch. To argue that India under the Hindus after 1947 would have done better under the Muslims is even a bigger stretch"

Your statement is an opinion based on misinformation.

Assessment by serious scholars who have done research on this subject differs strongly from yours

Among the scholars whose work you need to read are American historian Audrey Truschke and Indian writer-diplomat Sashi Tharoor who have published recently

http://www.riazhaq.com/2017/07/hindutva-legacy-of-british-raj.html?m=1

https://youtu.be/dN2Owcwq6_M

I suggest you also need to study the work of
Economist Angus Madden

http://www.riazhaq.com/2015/01/impact-of-industrial-revolution-on.html?m=1