Bollywood After 9/11 – The Depiction of Islam and the West in Indian Cinema

Because the dramatic occasions of 9/11, Bollywood cinema has proven an peculiar passion within the terrorist movie style, particularly with regards to world terrorism and world tensions between Islam and the West. Putting examples of this style come with Kabir Khan’s New York (2008), Karan Johar’s My Title is Khan (2010), Rensil D’Silva’s Kurbaan (2009) and Apoorva Lakhia’s Project Istanbul, to call a couple of. Movies like Anil Sharma’s Ab Tumhare Hawale Watam Sathiyo (2004) and Subhash Ghai’s Black and White (2008) center of attention on terrorist problems throughout the Indian subcontinent itself. The latter movies have endured within the custom of pre 9/11 terrorist movies like Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Project Kashmir (2000), Mani Ratnam’s Dil Se (1998) and Bombay (1995). Ratnam’s Bombay handled the devastating Hindu and Moslem riots in 1991, which value over a 1000 lives. Chopra’s Project Kashmir handled a state of affairs of native terrorist task within the Kashmir area subsidized by means of world terrorist cells operating from Afghanistan. On this method the terrorist style isn’t a wholly new style in Bollywood, neither is terrorism an unfamiliar phenomenon within the daily actions of the Indian subcontinent (the newest and brutal terrorist assault used to be the Mumbai bloodbath in 2008). What makes the hot spate of terrorist movies attention-grabbing is that they have got entered the worldwide sphere and feature turn out to be phase and parcel of a transnational discussion between East and West and Islam and the opposite.

To make the terrorist style extra palatable, Bollywood has historically spiced up the violence and suspense with the hallmark Bollywood track and dance interludes and mawkish romantic exchanges between the hero and heroine. Project Kashmir is infamous for its sleek dances and stirring emotional exchanges between the primary protagonists, performed out at the violent backdrop of terrorism in Kashmir. Mani Ratnam’s Bombay likewise mixes up probably the most brutal scenes of Hindu and Moslem hatred and violence with scrumptious comedy and a forbidden love affair between a pious Moslem woman and a boy from a extremely positioned Shaivite Hindu circle of relatives. His father is the trustee of the village temple and each the circle of relatives patriarchs are violently antagonistic to the kids marrying outdoor their caste and spiritual neighborhood.

Karan Johar’s My Title is Khan

Following within the Bollywood custom of blending genres (recognized within the trade because the masala or highly spiced recipe movie), Karan Johar’s My Title is Khan blends comedy and romance with the political sizzling potato of put up 9/11 bigotry and racial hatred in the United States. The movie’s theme of ultra-nationalist extremism culminates within the mindless killing of a tender Indian boy Sam or Sameer, who’s crushed to dying by means of youths within the soccer flooring, partly because of the adopting of his stepfather’s identify Khan. Overflowing gushes of emotion and center stirring romantic songs, reminiscent of the blending of the 1960’s counter tradition anthem “We Shall Conquer” (sung in each Hindi and English), happen all through the movie to each lighten the stress and to exemplify the presence of sunshine and hope in a global darkened by means of the sour shadow of worldwide terrorism. The truth that the central protagonist Rizvan Khan is a pious Moslem, and politically impartial to the hysteria of the talk, is important. Introduced up by means of his mom that there are not any mounted labels reminiscent of Hindu and Moslem, however most effective excellent and unhealthy other folks, Rizvan Khan freely practises his faith with equivalent love and admire for all different races and creeds, most effective differentiating between what’s within the hearts and minds of other folks, to not what faith they profess, or to what race, tradition and nationality they belong.

My Title is Khan may be important for Bollywood fanatics in that it reunites the most important center throb couple of Hindi cinema from earlier many years, Kajol and Shah Rukh Khan. The duo used to be in the past paired in two of Karan Johar’s previous blockbusters Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1995) and Kabhi Kushi Kabhie Gham (2001). Either one of those movies have been sentimental gushy romances, actually overflowing with juicy outpourings of emotion and feeling; a phenomenon which is termed rasa in India. The track and dance sequences have been additionally very elaborately staged and blended a steadiness of the normal Indian song and dance bureaucracy (Hindustani song and conventional folks dances) in addition to trendy Western bureaucracy. This ensured the flicks’ immense recognition in each India and diaspora nations like Canada, the United States and the United Kingdom.

Karan Johar continues to utilise the Bollywood masala method in My Title is Khan, exploiting a sentimental and now and again drawn out love affair between the autistic hero Rizvan Khan and his eventual Hindu spouse Mandira, a owner of a a success hair dressing salon in San Francisco (the “town of affection” which symbolizes the 1960s counter tradition motion exploited by means of Johar within the “We Shall Conquer” collection). Within the initial scenes of the movie, The usa is portrayed because the land of freedom and alternative, the country the place all races and religions are given the likelihood to transport ahead and reach prosperity and happiness in some way this is observed to be virtually unimaginable in a rustic like conventional India, buffeted as it’s with caste and spiritual prejudices and between part and two thirds of its inhabitants residing in poverty.

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For overseas nationals or NRI’s (non-resident Indians), then again, 9/11 radically adjustments this method and shatters the American dream nurtured for many years by means of an Indian diaspora which has merged its Indian cultural roots with American beliefs of particular person freedom and shopper prosperity. In line with Johar’s movie, that is now the plight of the Khans who, as an alternative of constant to behave as totally built-in contributors of the mainstream neighborhood, now abruptly to find themselves at the outer edge of a post-9/11″us and them” rhetoric, fuelled by means of an ultra-nationalist Republican President, who perceives the arena in black and white realities, that have little to do with the on a regular basis lives of the typical particular person. It’s no twist of fate that it’s the newly elected President Barack Obama (performed by means of his glance alike Christopher B. Duncan) who greets Rizvan Khan on the finish of the film and applauds him for his religion in God and his humanity and perseverance. For Karan Johar, Obama’s election is symbolic of the “us and them” divisions in the United States psyche being delivered to a detailed together with the recovery of the innate beliefs for which the American Republic and its other folks stand.

Earlier than the country’s divisions are healed, then again, the Khan’s revel in excessive private hardships because of their ethnicity. Those hardships culminate within the tragic dying in their teenage son Sameer, crushed to dying within the faculty enjoying box by means of racist youths. In her grief, Sameer’s mom Mandira blames her husband Rizvan, accusing him of the truth that if she and her son had no longer taken the identify of Khan, he would no longer be useless. She then tells him that the one method he can compensate for this stigma of being a Khan and, by means of implication a Moslem, is to fulfill the United States President (on the time it’s George W. Bush) and to inform him that: “My Title is Khan and I’m really not a Terrorist.” This easy word turns into a type of mantra all through the movie, powerfully confronting the viewer’s post-9/11 prejudices by means of refusing to hyperlink the 2 ideas of Islam and terrorism in combination: i.e. my identify is Khan, due to this fact I’m a Moslem, however on the identical time simply because I’m a Moslem, does this imply that I’m a terrorist? Unhappily, all the way through the hysteria that adopted within the wake of 9/11 for plenty of Westerners the 2 phrases, Moslem and terrorist turned into just about synonymous.

This can be a movie due to this fact which, in contrast to its predecessors, isn’t just geared toward educating Indians and West Asians (it broke all information in Pakistan), however may be geared toward instructing and enlightening Westerners. This it does in an excessively refined and didactic method, no longer most effective via its exploitation of acquainted West Asian icons, but in addition via its exploration of topics and photographs common to the United States and the West: the 1960s counter tradition, the plight of the colored other folks within the South and references to the civil rights motion by means of the movie’s theme track “We Shall Conquer.” This well-known anti-establishment track from 1960s when sung in Hindi by means of a religious Moslem in a black gospel church provides the target audience a nearly surreal feeling of each merging and, on the identical time transcending, nationwide, racial and socio-religious cultural borders: a trail to international brotherhood and cohesion which has been courageously expounded by means of two of the 20th century’s nice religious leaders, India’s Mahatma Gandhi and The usa’s Martin Luther King.

Karan Johar thus attracts upon each the Western beliefs of liberty and individualism, in addition to propounding the roots of West Asian devout piety and communal team spirit. By means of doing this My Title is Khan proposes another style of worldwide brotherhood and transnational identities and exchanges. This new world style for Johar is one which pulls its inspiration and beliefs from the grass roots level- from the deficient coloureds of Georgia, from the socially ostracised Moslems, and from the autistic and mentally handicapped. They all are an integral a part of this world humanity and finally the determine of Shah Rukh Khan, the most important star within the world discussion board these days (together with Hollywood), speaks for they all, when he says my identify is Khan and I’m really not a terrorist, no longer an outcaste and no longer a danger to the United States or the very important values which it seeks to export to the remainder of the arena. Quite, as pious Moslems, the ones like Rizvan Khan have one thing of price to give a contribution to the United States and the West, and when the ones in energy permit them to take action, the very important values that have made the United States nice cannot most effective be maintained however higher and broadened. However, ultranationalist extremist practises will most effective create an increasing number of hatred and department, in order that even those that have assimilated the American Dream will develop to turn out to be its maximum sworn enemies. That is the primary theme of Kabir Khan’s New York, which I can in short talk about partly two of this text.

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Kabir Khan’s New York

Even supposing no longer as a success on the field administrative center as Karan Johar’s blockbuster, Kabir Khan’s New York is most likely an much more attention-grabbing instance of the transnational pattern within the Bollywood terrorist style. Launched in 2008, New York specializes in the lives of 3 stylish younger Indians learning at New York State College in combination. The standard Bollywood masala romance dominates the primary part of the movie, that specialize in a sentimental love triangle between Maya (Katrina Kaif), Sameer or Sam (John Abrahams) and Omar (Neil Mukesh). Each Katrina Kaif and John Abrahams, in addition to Irrfan Khan (enjoying the FBi agent Roshan) are smartly established stars in Bollywood (Irrfan Khan additionally starred because the policeman who interrogates the primary protagonist in Slumdog Millionaire). And the presence of those stars, together with the cast musical rating and the dramatic love triangle state of affairs, confident the movie’s luck in spite of its arguable theme. Considerably, Sam and Maya fall in love and shatter Omar’s emotional international at round the similar time as the 2 hijacked passenger planes are pushed into the Dual Towers. As with My Title is Khan, precise pictures of the terrorist assault at the International Business Centre is utilised within the movie.

From this level onwards, a movie which has been most commonly centred upon a sentimental love warfare between 3 buddies now turns into a political indictment of the Bush management’s post-9/11 terrorist insurance policies. Sam, as a part of the FBI’s national hunt for terror suspects, is arrested, incarcerated and tortured. Those tortures are graphically depicted within the movie and are it seems that according to true lifestyles accounts of blameless sufferers, who’ve been illegally arrested and incarcerated for no different explanation why than their having the incorrect ethnic background and spiritual persuasion. Throughout the overall credit a grim be aware to this impact informs the audience of the info that: “Within the days following 9/11 greater than 1200 males of overseas foundation in the United States have been illegally kidnapped, detained and tortured for so long as three years. The federal government didn’t to find proof linking a unmarried certainly one of them to the 9/11 assault….”

The central protagonist Sam or Sameer purposes as a prototype for those 1200 males. Certainly, from being a wholly assimilated American sooner than his torture and arrest, Sam now turns into a Moslem Jihadi, fusing his hatred for the US with that of terrorist cells in Pakistan, Afghanistan and the Center East. His previous good friend Omar is recruited by means of the FBI to undercover agent on Sameer and his Hindu spouse Maya and to crack open Sameer’s hyperlinks to world terrorist cells. Omar is coerced into betraying his buddies at the specter of disappearing into the FBI’s custody and being tortured for months on finish as Sameer were. On this method, even supposing the movie does no longer actively advertise Jihad as a elementary guideline of Islam, it does painting a sympathetic mental profile of the terrorist state of mind. Sameer’s good friend Omar in the end understands this additionally when he’s given Sam’s tale and the barbaric nature of the ordeals he has needed to undergo and that have led to him to turn out to be a global terrorist.

Not like Rizvan Khan, who has no qualms about informing the FBI in regards to the enthusiast Physician Faisal’s terrorist plot in My Title is Khan, New York’s Omar is torn between his sympathies for his good friend Sam/Sameer and the United States device of liberty and justice, which he sees as being critically undermined by means of George Bush’s invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan and his repressive home insurance policies in the United States, the place underneath the Patriot Act elementary particular person rights and liberties of Americans are it seems that violated for no different explanation why than that they’re of every other ethnicity, tradition and spiritual persuasion than the mainstream white majority. Omar, because the voice of explanation why and sensibility in New York, additionally represents the impartial observer, who’s each throughout the device (he’s trained at New York State College) and is outdoor it (he’s an NRI nationwide from Delhi residing in the United States). He has additionally been in love with Sam’s spouse Maya however has attempted to detach himself from those emotions, certainly from feeling anything else in any respect. As such his resolution to infiltrate his good friend’s terrorist team and participate in its Jihad is important. Omar is an “undecideable”; he’s undecided of his id, undecided of his beliefs and his loyalties. Ultimately, he betrays Sam and his team and communicates Sam’s plan to explode the FBI headquarters to the FBI agent Roshan and the related government.

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In spite of guarantees from Roshan and the FBI government heads, each Sameer and Maya are shot useless by means of FBI snipers all the way through negotiations for Sameer’s give up. In line with Kabir Khan’s arguable movie, this type of FBI brutality and overkill is symptomatic of the brand new post-9/11 ultra-nationalist The usa which, in its unrelenting quest to punish the responsible, additionally leaves in its wake the bloodied corpses of the blameless: no longer simply Maya, however arguably additionally Sam himself. This can be a theme which has been taken up courageously and once in a while uncompromisingly by means of Hindi cinema.

Some other robust instance of this uncompromising condemnation of post-9/11The usa happens in Rensil D’Silva’s Kurbaan. Right here, in an open dialogue college discussion board, the primary protagonist Riyaaz condemns US intervention in Afgahanistan and Iraq, claiming that the arena’s greatest terrorists are the white tremendous powers. Riyaaz informs the ethnic white scholars provide about sure uncomfortable realities in US politics, reminiscent of the truth that the Taliban used to be a introduction of the CIA and that greater than 500,000 civilians have been killed in Iraq. A lot to the horror and consternation of the scholars provide, Riyaaz concludes his speech by means of pronouncing that “simply since you put on a swimsuit and phone your self President does no longer make you any much less a terrorist.” That is beautiful daring stuff and appears to be reflective of the rising dissatisfaction of sure Bollywood filmmakers in opposition to a length in historical past the place the West seemed to pass completely incorrect taking the downward trail from humanitarian beliefs of common equality and democracy to insurance policies of non secular bigotry and totalitarianism.

Apparently, even if those topics have additionally been taken up by means of Hollywood, in movies reminiscent of James Cameron’s Avatar, they’ve been depicted in a much less direct method. In Avatar, as an example, the” surprise and awe marketing campaign” unleashed upon the indigenous population of the planet Pandora (obviously a connection with Bush’s surprise and awe marketing campaign towards Iraq), happens within the context of an creative fable universe, the place the brutality of company capitalism and US neo-imperialist insurance policies is downplayed in that it no longer most effective occurs within the protection of every other continent, as with Iraq and Afghanistan, however happens on every other planet fully!

The brand new Bollywood terrorist style is due to this fact a extra uncompromising and certainly worrying contribution to the worldwide debate than movies like Avatar. That is because of the truth that West Asian administrators depict terrorist task from the fresh political perspective, together with exploring related problems hooked up with the stigmatised cultural and ethnic team, which has been in large part denied a voice on this debate ever for the reason that 9/11 tournament happened. As has historically been the case in Indian cinema, the brand new Bollywood terrorist style provides the Moslem minorities a voice, telling their tale from the interior, making them matter and no longer object and narrating the plot from the point of view in their tradition, faith and neighborhood base. In My Title is Khan, as an example, Rizvan’s sister in regulation Hasina is persuaded to take away her hijab (head shawl) after being attacked and having it forcibly got rid of by means of an unknown assailant. Ultimately, she restores the hijab to her on a regular basis get dressed, together with her lecturing process at college. Right here she says to her scholars: “M y hijab isn’t just my devout id. It is part of my lifestyles. It’s me.”

In Rensil D’Silva’s Kurbaan, the central protagonist Riyaaz may be instrumental in instructing white college scholars about their preconceptions of Islam as a violent faith and the Koran as a scripture selling Jihad. Riyaaz flatly informs the scholars that the phrase Jihad is in truth discussed within the Koran most effective 41 instances, however that the time period mercy and compassion is discussed 355 instances. On this method, the movie’s audience also are knowledgeable that Islam is predominantly a faith of compassion and peace and no longer violence and bloodshed, as proper wing vested passion teams have led us to consider prior to now decade or so.

It’s those perspicacious insights from throughout the socio-religious roots of West Asian tradition which makes Indian cinema, ceaselessly disregarded within the West as sentimental and trivial, one of these profoundly didactic medium from which audiences, particularly within the West, can build up their scant wisdom in regards to the psychology in the back of Hindu and Moslem icons and non secular practises. In an an increasing number of world international, the place those icons and practises are frequently crossing over and clashing with Western requirements, this data and consciousness isn’t just related to us within the West, it’s elementary to our very lifestyles.

Movies like New York and My Title is Khan are an integral a part of the instructing of that consciousness.

Robert Rintoull

PhD Graduate

Copenhagen College

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