Good, bad and pretty: Bollywood’s favourite Muslim stereotypes
by FP Staff Feb 6, 2013
#Bollywood Muslims #FirstpostTake
FIRSTPOST. TAKEThe Muslim in Bollywood has lent himself/herself to a bunch of colourful stereotypes. From the tawaif immortalised by Rekha in Umrao Jaan to the ISI agent played by Katrina Kaif in Ek Tha Tiger, Bollywood has explored Islam through a gamut of cliches and at times, interesting characterisation too. When we put all the popular stereotypes together, we also hold a mirror to the several biases, the evolution of understanding, and the conceptions that Indian masses have about Islam.
In the largely black and white world of Bollywood, religion is not always a sub-plot. At times it’s a hero, at times, it’s a villain. While being a Muslim in Bollywood could be an ordeal if Shah Rukh Khan is to be believed, Muslim characters in Bollywood, down the years, have depicted the cliches that we associate with the religion in all their colours.
Rachel Dwyer, a professor of Indian cultures and cinema at SOAS, in a recent blog post called Top Ten Muslim Characters in Bollywood, traces the ten most popular stereotypes of the Muslim shown in Bollywood.
The post published on the website of the Muslim Institute partially traces the evolution of the Muslim character in Bollywood films from the exotic veiled beauty represented by Anarkali in the Mughal-e-Azam to the ISI agent played by Katrina Kaif in Ek Tha Tiger.
Dwyer seems to have found ten popular stereotypes of the Muslim in Bollywood. She calls them ‘veiled beauties’, ‘The tawaif and Nawabs’, ‘Emperors’, ‘Loyal Sidekick’, ‘Poets and singers’, ‘The Intolerant Muslim’, ‘The Gangster’, ‘The Pakistani’, ‘The Terrorist’ and the ‘Modern Muslim’.
Dwyer also dwells on what the characters say about our societies in general and also the ideas that people have about religion. For example she points out how in films like Kurbaan and New York, the Muslim characters and the plot suggest that American Islamophobia creates terrorists.
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