Icon Art Production back in action filming remotely in UAE

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 23 June 2020 | Posted in , , ,

IMO News Service 

Dubai, UAE: To support the local and International film Industry, UAE based Icon Art Production (IAP) has successfully implemented projects with Remote Filming Solutions to all their International Clients, Producers and Production Companies.

The remote Direction Solution is also available for International Directors who cannot travel but can direct the filming and execute projects, including TV Commercials with remote monitoring.

According to Zakir, CEO of Icon Art production, “Following health and safety measures set by the local authorities and the Rules and Guidelines provided by Dubai Film and TV Commission, live concerts can be filmed in our fully equipped state of the Art Studio for broadcast and sound recording. We film indoor or outdoor Music Videos, TV Programs, Web Series and Online Promotional Video as our team understands the niche requirements of the industry and help assist Directors and Producers during these challenging times.”

Remote Auditions and Casting will be conducted remotely over video conferencing or by sending footage as a safety measure for Covid-19. A separate Make-Up Room and Wardrobe room is provided and the Cast is on Set only when everything is ready for Filming.

Producer Saurabh Kabra said, “In the current times where shoots are banned in India because of widespread of COVID-19, Dubai works as a good opportunity. The city has a good database of actors that can pass of as Indians or are of Indian origin. Hence we prefer to shoot here, it is convenient and cost effective. What the city offers is a world class crew that makes the process endearing.”

Instead of over 100 staff, the production house with minimized First Light and Art Team crew has managed to work with assigned call sheets and delegated their tasks in a progressive shoot ensuring only the required departments are on Set. The Direction team is directing remotely, with Client and agency totalling almost 15 to 20 people monitoring online.
Using this pattern for a few projects recently, Icon Art Production has worked seamlessly resulting in the same quality of filming as a full team. This is a revolution in the Filming Industry specially for TV commercials as Dubai has vast Talent and resources so people around the world can utilize this opportunity to make their projects happen remotely.

Icon Art Production specializes in the production of Feature Films, TV Programs, Music Videos, TV Commercials, Events Productions, Studios & Post Production and has a facility that can be customized and branded for magazine shoots, product launches and pop up events.

UAE: Mushrif Mall announces Talentology 2020 Winners

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 02 March 2020 | Posted in , , , ,

IMO News Service

Abu Dhabi, UAE: The fourth edition of Talentology 2020 Grand Finale at Mushrif Mall Abu Dhabi attracted local residents and visitors to witness the action-packed recorded performances by the twelve entrants competing to win in the adult and kids’ categories.

The winner of the kid’s category is Peter Anthony Villegas Rosalita, a Singer from Philippines, and Suriya Badrinath a singer from India is winner in the adult category. Both winners thanked the voters and the mall for providing them a platform to show their musical abilities and their friends and families who supported them with online votes.
The event was attended by Director of Line Investments and Property LLC, Wajeb AlKhoury, Biju George, Commercial Manager as well as Chief Guest, Kris Fade, media and the local community.

Aravind Ravi Palode, Mall Manager of Mushrif Mall, said, “As an annual event, Talentology brings a creative audience to Mushrif Mall from our local communities as well as the country. We encourage young talents to positively to launch their career in the entertainment industry by helping finalists with their portfolios so they get a jump start to nurture their talent further.” 

Selected contestants were judged for appropriate artistic attire and stage presence over the weekend as they performed live on stage at Mushrif mall to get more votes online.
Talentology attracts over 10,000 registrations from mixed nationalities but only 12 finalists are selected with two winners. The grand finale winners receive AED 5,000/- worth of mall vouchers and all finalists get AED 1,000/- mall vouchers.

Talentology is an energy packed competition organised by Mushrif Mall for talented youth with a passion for success. The Mall recognizes the role the young play in society and Talentology helps promote unity in the community, assists in gaining self-confidence and provides an unforgettable experience of being part of a memorable event.

About Mushrif Mall

Spread over an area about 56,000 square meters of contemporary, relaxing retail atmosphere, Mushrif Mall offers an idyllic ambience and a convenient and memorable shopping and entertainment experience to customers.

Mushrif Mall has a well-planned food court, cafés, ample parking and a host of other facilities. It offers a unique mix of retail outlets, leisure, food and beverage outlets, salons, convenience stores, hypermarket and banks, making it an affordable and convenient neighbourhood destination for the local community.

TRIBUTE: Remembering Jameela Malik, who broke barriers to be first Kerala woman to study at FTII

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 04 February 2020 | Posted in , ,

What Jameela did was historically important: studying at a film institute in 1969, at a time when women, especially from the Muslim community, were not encouraged to do higher studies.

In an acting class at the prestigious Pune Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), sometime in the early 1970s, filmmaker Mrinal Sen walked in for a lecture. He looked at the class of one female student and many men and began, “One lady and gentlemen.”

There was a lot of laughter that day, Jameela Malik, that one female student remembered in an article she wrote decades later. She died four days ago, aged 73, and holding a record that people writing her obit would begin with: the first Malayali woman to study at FTII, in 1969.

It has a lot of historical importance, Prem Chand, journalist and film critic, says. “Not just because she was the first Malayali woman to study at FTII, but also for being a Muslim woman living in those times,” he says.

You wonder if it is luck, timing or just the fact that she was a woman that prevented her from enjoying the same status that the men in her batch would come to enjoy.

“Those were the days you only heard of men going away to Pune to study films,” says Sreebala K Menon, writer-filmmaker. Jameela happened to be among the first and few women to have gone far from home, to train in acting. “It was too early. The men who studied with her would come back and create a new wave of cinema, but that would take years to happen. When Jameela came back after her course, she somehow became part of commercial cinema, which possibly had different demands from an actor, than what you’d expect of one who has been to FTII. The skills she’d picked up, more suited for the parallel cinema that her batch mates would later make, could not be put to use just then. And by the time they were making cinema, Jameela had already faded into the background, perhaps with family responsibilities,” says Sreebala.

Jameela was still known for her historical achievement, one that few women followed after her. Women from Kerala did go to FTII later on, to learn technical skills such as cinematography and editing. But few have been known to take up an acting course in particular.

Jameela must have been in her early 20s then, going away from her home in Kollam after finishing Class 10. Mother Thankamma Malik and father Malik Mohammed, both culturally and socially active, had little doubt about sending their talented girl to learn acting from the best in the country. To be sure though, they checked with Basheer, iconic and much quoted writer of Malayalam fiction who made simple literature appealing to all. Basheer, a close friend of the family, agreed that Jameela should go to Pune.

The audition was in the then Madras, at the Adayar institute, Jameela would narrate in future interviews. There were three judges to evaluate her: Telugu superstar P Bhanumathi, vice principal of FTII Jagat Murari and Tamil director Bhim Singh. They liked her. She got chosen as one of the only two girls in her batch for the acting course.

This was five decades ago. Women who were allowed to do higher education were few. Muslim women were fewer still. Thanks to her progressive parents – who themselves had a Christian-Muslim marriage, defying norms – Jameela could chase her dream. A dream she formed after years of watching cinema freely, a privilege that came from having socially affluent parents. Thankamma was Gandhi’s disciple, and Jameela had for long kept a letter her mother once received from the Mahatma.

Jameela was nervous when she stepped into the Pune campus. But there she found a very familiar world of Malayalis. Names that would become much revered in Malayalam cinema were enlisted the same or nearly the same year as Jameela. KG George, Shaji N Karun, John Abraham, KR Mohanan – all of whom would become renowned filmmakers of art house cinema, and Ramachandra Babu, who’d become a noted cinematographer. KG George cast her as the heroine of his diploma film Faces. Ramachandra Babu was its cinematographer.

There was also Ravi Menon, who’d become a known actor later. Jameela, however, didn’t quite follow in the same footsteps as the others and didn’t quite make a mark for herself in Malayalam cinema, barring a few films in the 1970s and 80s.

“Ravi Menon got so many opportunities, he was the hero of a certain period of Malayalam cinema. But somehow Jameela didn’t get that kind of a welcome,” Prem Chand says. A sign, if you notice, that women had to walk the tougher road at all times; even with the same qualifications and exposure, they had to play the second fiddle.

Ravi and Jameela acted as a couple in another campus film called Jai Jawan Jai Makan, directed by Vishram Bedekar, who is now a renowned Marathi filmmaker.

After she completed her acting course, Jameela went to live in Mumbai for a while, hoping to get a break in cinema. Several chances slipped through her hands, she wrote later. When nothing worked out, she went to Madras. She got her first feature in Malayalam, a film called Ragging. Jameela was cast as the heroine opposite Vincent. Actor-director Cochin Hanifa made his acting debut in this film. While the release was delayed a little, Jameela got two more films: Adyathe Katha and Sathi. When Ragging finally released, it didn’t click. So didn’t Jameela’s luck.

She did have a few more brushes with luck. There was the time when she became heroine of Pandavapuram, based on writer Sethu Madhavan’s novel of the same name. Sethu wrote a condolence post on Facebook, but he didn’t know her well enough to comment about her, he said. She lived away (from where he was) in Thiruvananthapuram. That’s where she moved to from Madras, after marriage. A marriage that lasted only a year and gave her a son with whom she spent the last years of her life, in a rented house near Bheemapally. Obituaries lamented about Jameela having to take Hindi tuitions in her last years to make a living.

“This is true. She took tuitions, she didn’t want to beg anyone for any favours,” says actor-director Madhupal, who was with her in the final days and sent out word to others in the film industry on her passing.

In an interview, Jameela said she is grateful to the Association of Malayalam Movie Artists for sending her money in the years she became unwell.

Jameela was the kind of woman who did not whine about lost chances, who didn’t want to blame others for not giving her a chance. She wrote that she was okay with it all. Somehow, it didn’t work out for her. “I feel she was this woman who went to this great institute, but didn’t know how to act in life,” Madhupal says, continuing his earlier observation of how Jameela never asked for help. “Till the end though, she had always wanted to act, that desire was there. She never got the consideration she should have, but if it was today, a woman graduating from FTII would have got a lot more attention,” Madhupal adds.

The people with whom Jameela associated were all great – she had acted in Tamil and Hindi cinema at a time when women from Kerala rarely did. She’d speak about working with Jayalalithaa in her last film, Nadhiyai Thedi Vandha Kadal. About meeting MGR. About her connections in Hindi cinema – Jaya Bachchan, then Jaya Bhaduri, was her senior at college, who used to rag her in fun, Jameela would write later.

“In Bollywood and Marathi cinema, FTII graduates are treated with a lot of respect. Somehow in Malayalam cinema, FTII graduates in acting – or for that matter actors coming out of any such prestigious institute – rarely find a place for themselves. Madhu sir (who studied at the National School of Drama) is an exception. Jameela, for some reason, could not represent the change in Malayalam cinema. It is actors like Jalaja who became representative of the new wave back then. It’s said Jameela was supposed to act in John Abraham’s Agraharathil Kazhutha but that too didn’t materialise. She was just not placed in cinema properly,” Sreebala says.

The actor seemed to fade away as the years passed. After the 80s she was limited to performing on the mini screen.

“She was not ready for any of those terms you hear about – ‘compromise’ or ‘adjustment’. She also never tried to gain opportunities through her friendships. All I could say is she was really under-utilised by Malayalam cinema. This was a pioneer, a woman taking a big step in 1969. What Malayalam cinema did to her is wrong,” Prem Chand says.

(Courtesy: The News Minute)

Terrorism in India: Is it a Muslim Monopoly?

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 02 August 2013 | Posted in , , , ,

By Dr Javed Jamil

Recently, some of the statements made by Congress Muslims made headlines. These statements that apparently sought to link the creation of Muslim terrorist outfits to anti-Muslim riots were dismissed by Congress and widely criticized in media.

The trend in recent years has been that while the Hindutva lobbies and the media try to project all terrorist violence as Muslim, some Muslim leaders and mediamen behave as if a Muslim cannot be a terrorist at all. Both are extreme positions that need to be dismissed with the contempt they deserve. The truth is that while the majority of terrorism related violence in India in last 40 years has been non-Muslim, some terrorist attacks might have been perpetrated by Muslims. But If we count the deaths in terrorist attacks allegedly by Muslim outfits, these do no cross 1500. These include all the major attacks including the serial Mumbai attacks after Babri Masjid demolition and 26/11 attack in Mumbai.

The following is the list of famous attacks that have been attributed to Muslims:

Terrorist attacks in Mumbai include:

·  12 March 1993 - Series of 13 bombs go off, killing 257
·   6 December 2002 - Bomb goes off in a bus in Ghatkopar, killing 2
·   27 January 2003 - Bomb goes off on a bicycle in Vile Parle, killing 1
·  14 March 2003 - Bomb goes off in a train in Mulund, killing 10
·   28 July 2003 - Bomb goes off in a bus in Ghatkopar, killing 4
·   25 August 2003 - Two Bombs go off in cars near the Gateway of India and Zaveri Bazaar, killing 50
·  11 July 2006 - Series of seven bombs go off in trains, killing 209
·   26 November 2008 to 29 November 2008 - Coordinated series of attacks, killing at least 172.
·  13 July 2011 - Three coordinated bomb explosions at different locations, killing 26

Terrorist attacks elsewhere in Maharashtra

·  13 February 2010 - a bomb explosion at the German Bakery in Pune killed fourteen people, and injured at least 60 more
·  1 August 2012 - four bomb explosion at various locations on JM Road, Pune injured 1 person

29 October 2005 Delhi bombings

Three explosions went off in the Indian capital of New Delhi on 29 October 2005, which killed more than 60 people and injured at least 200 others. The high number of casualties made the bombings the deadliest attack in India in 2005. It was followed by 5 bomb blasts on 13 September 2008.

2001 Attack on Indian parliament

Terrorists on 13 December 2001 attacked the Parliament of India, resulting in a 45-minute gun battle in which 9 policemen and parliament staff were killed. All five terrorists were also killed by the security forces and were identified as Pakistani nationals.

Uttar Pradesh

2005 Ayodhya attacks

Following the two-hour gunfight between Lashkar-e-Toiba terrorists based in Pakistan and Indian police, in which six terrorists were killed, opposition parties called for a nationwide strike with the country's leaders condemning the attack, believed to have been masterminded by Dawood Ibrahim.

2010 Varanasi blasts

On 7 December 2010, another blast occurred in Varanasi, that killed immediately a toddler, and set off a stampede in which 20 people, including four foreigners, were injured.  

2006 Varanasi blasts

A series of blasts occurred across the Hindu holy city of Varanasi on 7 March 2006. Fifteen people are reported to have been killed and as many as 101 others were injured.


2008 Bangalore serial blasts occurred on 25 July 2008 in Bangalore, India. A series of nine bombs exploded in which two people were killed and 20 injured. According to the Bangalore City Police, the blasts were caused by low-intensity crude bombs triggered by timers.

2010 Bangalore stadium bombing occurred on 17 April 2010 in M. Chinnaswamy Stadium, Bangalore, India. Two bombs exploded in a heavily packed Cricket stadium in which fifteen people were injured. A third bomb was found and diffused outside the stadium

Major Bombings

September 13, 2008: Serial blasts in Delhi killed at least 24 people and injured more than 100.

May 2008: Eight serial blasts rock Jaipur in a span of 12 minutes leaving 65 dead and over 150 injured.

August 2007: 30 dead, 60 hurt in Hyderabad 'terror' strike.

September 2006: 30 dead and 100 hurt in twin blasts at a mosque in Malegaon.

July 2006: Seven bombs on Mumbai's trains kill over 200 and injure 700 others.
October 2005: Three bombs placed in busy New Delhi markets a day before Diwali kill 62 people and injure hundreds.

August 2003: Two taxis packed with explosives blow up outside a Mumbai tourist attraction and a busy market, killing 52 and wounding more than 100.

September 24, 2002: Militants with guns and explosives attack the Akshardham Hindu temple in the western state of Gujarat, 31 killed, More than 80 injured.

March 1993: Mumbai serial bombings kill 257 people and injure more than 1,100.

As can be seen, the number of deaths in all these attacks does not cross 1500. Now let’s have a look at the other terrorist attacks in the country.

Deaths related to Naxalite violence

Security forces
Total per period

Based on the above displayed statistics, it can be determined that more than 11,700 people have been killed since the start of the insurgency in 1980, of which more than half died in the last ten years. The unofficial figures put the toll several times higher.

In the violence related to Sikhs, several hundreds have been killed by Sikh militants. In Hindu-Sikh riots following the assassination of Indira Gandhi, more than 10000 Sikhs died.

Then there are killings related to ULFA. According to a Wikipedia report, .” In the past two decades some 18,000 people have died in the clash between the rebels and the security forces.

So it can be seen that the violence involving Sikhs, Naxalites and ULFA has killed more than 40000 people in last 30 years.

Hindu violence is not confined to India. In Sri Lanka, more than 60000 people have died in Tamil related violence.

In Nepal, Maoist violence has also killed hundreds.

There are people who try to argue that Naxalites, Maoists and ULFA activists are not religion-inspired. But the truth remains that they are all Hindus according to demographic records. And violence is violence, whether related to communal sentiments or to any other cause. Violence in the name of religion cannot be described as more condemnable than that related to any other ideology. Violence has to be condemned in proportion to the casualties it causes. Moreover, the killers of Sikhs in Delhi riots and those of Muslims in various riots have been the hardcore believers in Hindu scriptures. This does not in any way mean that Hinduism or any other religion is responsible for such violence. This shows that mutual hatred often leads people to indulge in violent attacks against one another. The majority communities or powerful groups anywhere in the world routinely indulge in riots or the government forces act on their behalf. The weaker communities and groups resort to terrorism and other forms of hit and run strategies.

In my previous article on riots, I have already shown that the number of Muslims killed in riots in India is at least three times the number of Hindus killed.

Link of Terrorism with Riots

While it will be wrong to assume that the anti-Muslim riots and Babri Masjid demolition were the only factors responsible for the rise of some alleged Muslim terrorist organizations, it will be totally out of place as well to dismiss this factor altogether. Some analysts have argued that “terrorists” are the product of a certain mindset. They may be partially right. But it is also right that such a mindset needs fuel to prosper, and events like Babri Masjid demolition and Gujarat riots multiplied with a widespread feeling of discrimination provide sufficient fuel for that purpose to be achieved. While on one hand, terrorism, in fact violence of all hues and colours, whoever the culprits, whoever the victims, whatever the place, has to be condemned in no uncertain  terms, on the other hand, all the factors related to the rise of terrorism of any colour have to be addressed if it is to be controlled. The role of the precipitating factors, the media in fanning hatred, the politicians, community leaders and executives, the military and the police – all have to be analysed. On top of tem, all communities have to be socioeconomically empowered and all kinds of discrimination have to be eradicated. Only then we can hope of a lasting peace.

[Dr Javed Jamil is India based thinker and writer with over a dozen books including his latest, “Muslims Most Civilised, Yet Not Enough” and “Muslim Vision of Secular India: Destination & Road-map”. He can be contacted at doctorforu123@yahoo.com or 91-8130340339]

Web series Newyorkustan aims to open minds of non-Muslims

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 30 April 2012 | Posted in , , , ,

By Mark Lepage

The neighbours are not who we thought they were. Welcome to Newyorkustan, the first of its kind: a US programme on contemporary American Muslim realities.

This is not to be confused with reality TV. That's All-American Muslim - the TLC network show that trains the cameras on the Islamic community in Dearborn, Michigan, the largest in the US - or Shahs of Sunset, the Bravo network version about a group of Iranian-Americans living in Beverly Hills.

Newyorkustan is a drama seeking a deeper truth - a shoestring-budget web-TV series with the arc and power of narrative, about a small Muslim congregation, set against the teeming backdrop of Queens, New York. The young stars Gabriel (Vinny Anand) and Amir (Bilal Beydoun) fight to save their local mosque while developers, politicians and other adversarial parties scheme to pull the land out from under them.

The plot follows Amir, a Muslim-American, as he struggles to define his identity at the intersection of piety, politics, culture and love, wrestling with conservative/liberal forces, with Michelle (Axita Patel) representing the progressive voice. De Castro explores the American Muslim double-bind.

Progressive Muslims get heat from both sides - from the right wing, for being extremist, and from Muslims, for being too liberal. These are the contradictions in practising the fastest-growing religion in America while remaining an alien in your adoptive - or native - land.
Did someone say alien? Newyorkustan director Steven De Castro can push that further. He's not even Muslim. Raised Catholic "and not even religious", De Castro developed and executed the project "totally as an outsider - that's my strength".

A Filipino from DC, De Castro is a New York trial lawyer by trade who worked as a paralegal in the Jersey City Human Rights Commission. He was culturally politicised in 1994, after the arrest of Omar Abdel Rahman, who was eventually sentenced to life for conspiracy in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

"Some folks in Jersey City wanted to go further than that - they wanted to evict the mosque" where "the Blind Sheikh" had preached, in a commercial building above a pizzeria. Jersey City went after the mosque for what De Castro calls "alleged zoning violations".

"Since I served as a human rights commissioner, I saw it as a violation of religious freedom," De Castro says. He fought City Hall, which backed off, "but I was canned. It was the proudest firing of my life".

And it was a spark. De Castro wanted to enter and affect the cultural debate, but not as a legal activist. "There's a difference between advocating for a group, and humanising them. I wanted to be a filmmaker," he says.

This, then, is a labour of love, among other virtues.

Newyorkustan was initially a Muslim crime story, but, "I didn't want to do it with stereotypes", De Castro says. "I wanted to teach people something about folks they didn't know."

Which took him to Imam Shamsi Ali, and the folks he knows.

Ali is the imam at the Jamaica Muslim Center mosque in Queens, "the most diverse county in the world". Indeed, with 135 different languages spoken, Queens is a boiling, roiling collision of cultures. The JMC has a congregation of 2,000, drawing from a larger pool of 10,000, a subset of the 800,000 Muslims in New York who have their own subdivisions and sources. They are African, Middle Eastern, European, South Asian (Ali is from Indonesia) and American.

De Castro sought Ali out several years ago and showed him a script. "I acted as a kind of 'cultural guide'," Ali says, opening doors and offering a sounding board. "I think he's a very fair-minded person. Willing to learn." And Ali saw in Newyorkustan an opportunity to "capture modern Muslim life" and even correct some misconceptions. "It's said that women are not allowed in mosques, but in Indonesian culture, there are often more women than men. Or that Muslims cannot have dogs."

Or that they are hellbent on destruction.

When Mohamed Merah, the French Muslim who admitted to murdering soldiers and Jewish citizens in Toulouse, was gunned down in a police firefight, Ali had just signed on to a joint statement with the New York rabbi Marc Schneier on "defeating the common enemy of prejudice". "It saddens me for many reasons. Our religion is misused as the justification for these terrible acts," he says. And said acts can only exacerbate tensions: as the joint statement reads, a recent Gallup poll found that "43 per cent of Americans admit to at least 'a little' prejudice against Muslims".

Is it, then, hard to be Muslim in America?

"No," Ali says. "For me, America is basically a good place to practise our religion because we're free. And to be Muslim, you must be free."

And this, of course, is an election year in the land of the free, so Newyorkustan won't be without its challenges. The title, for instance, reads like a Tea Party member's nightmare. However, Siraj Huda, one of the actors on the show, says "the object is to reach a neutral audience. Not necessarily non-Muslim, but neutral".

Huda plays Mr Atoue, the Lebanese landlord of the mosque. "He's not a very devout Muslim - he likes gambling. He's very money-minded," Huda says. Reflecting such unorthodox realities of modern life back to the core audience for the show may help it reach a wider audience. "I don't think that the show is preachy, so it should work." Especially here. "New York is open to so many cultures. It wouldn't be possible to make the show elsewhere," Huda says.

Likewise, the web. At 45, De Castro wasn't interested in "the years-long process" of dealing with network executives, "and then it never gets made". A web series is faster and cheaper - but then again, De Castro put up all the money. The first season cost US$10,000 (Dh37,000) "and everybody gets paid". With five episodes (each four to nine minutes long) in the first season done and a goal of 18 episodes in total, his series was an official selection to the 2011 Manhattan International Film Festival.

"You know, [polls say] that most Americans have never had a Muslim friend," De Castro says. "But most Muslims count a non-Muslim among their best friends."

So there remains a disconnect, although not in De Castro's case. It prompts the unasked question: you're not Muslim, so why should you care?

"When I was fired as human rights commissioner, someone stood up and spoke out for me in City Council," De Castro says. "It's my turn to tell stories that haven't been told."

• For more information, visit www.newyorkustan.com

(Courtesy: The National, UAE)

Muslim themes in Bollywood

Posted by Indian Muslim Observer | 10 November 2011 | Posted in , , ,

By Ishtiaq Ahmed

There is no doubt that the Bombay cinema has on the whole played a very progressive role in upholding the vision of India as a multi-religious, pluralist society

The Bombay film industry or Bollywood is the biggest producer of dreams on celluloid in the world. Such dreams define standards of beauty and aesthetics, good and bad, identity — historical and contemporary. Considering the fact that Islam and Muslims have been present in the Indian subcontinent for at least 1,300 years, and the Muslims constituted one-fourth of the Indian population till 1947 and now some 15 percent, it is not surprisingly that Bombay cinema has a long history of probing themes that focus on the imprint of Islamic culture (Islamicate Cultures of Bombay Cinema, New Delhi: Tulika Books, 2009).

Ira Bhaskar and Richard Allen have tried to identify landmark Bombay films dealing with Muslim themes. In doing so, they draw upon the notion of ‘Islamicate’ to conceptualise the phenomena they study. Following Marshall Hodgson who originally coined the term, they understand it to mean “the social and cultural complex historically associated with Islam and the Muslims, both among Muslims themselves and even when found among non-Muslims” (Islamicate Cultures of Bombay Cinema, pg 3). In other words, it is not Islam as a religious system but as a cultural framework that Islamicate seeks to capture and shed light on. Thus for example, wine-poetry is not Islamic, but there is a long tradition of using such imagery in Islamicate poetry.

The authors identify four genres of Islamicate cultures taken up in Bombay cinema: the Muslim historical, the Muslim courtesan film, the classic Muslim social and the new wave Muslim social and after. The authors theorise that Bombay cinema has explored these genres in the light of the secular-nationalist state project associated with the Congress-led freedom movement, which came to be known as the Nehruvian state project. This assumption is cogent and legitimate in that the film industry like other forms of popular culture and opinion-making and opinion-building media normally uphold the national project and reflect adherence to it as well as deviations from it.

Proceeding thus, the authors present a selection of films that represent the four genres they have identified. The Muslim historical has been noteworthy for presenting Muslim rulers of India as patriotic Indians, notwithstanding the foreign origins of their dynasties. This was especially a view that the Congress Party tried to foster. Another characteristic they symbolise is justice. Films such as ‘Pukar’ (1939), ‘Mirza Ghalib’ (1957), ‘Mughal-e-Azam’ (1960) and ‘Jodha Akbar’ (2008) represent both the Indian-ness of the rulers and their sense of justice and propriety. The authors mention A R Kardar’s ‘Shah Jahan’ (1946) but it is not discussed in their select list.

With regard to the Muslim courtesan genre, ‘Pakeezah’ (1971), ‘Umrao Jaan’ (1981), ‘Tawaif’ (1985), ‘Sardari Begum’ (1996), and ‘Umrao Jaan’ (2006) are presented. I wish a favourite of mine, ‘Zindagi Ya Tofaan’ (1958), had also been included, but the authors went for the more spectacular portrayals of a culture form that gained fame/notoriety for contradictory peculiarities — on the one hand, a manifestation of fine manners, elaborate etiquette and exquisite aesthetical sensibilities as well as a decadent system of female oppression — the courtesan being the perfect embodiment of these two qualities.

The classical Muslim social explores contemporaneous themes — focusing on the tensions and contradictions between a conservative cultural ethos and opportunities and possibilities that modern society offers for change and progress. The plot revolves around tensions within the family, especially the Muslim women living in purdah (seclusion) and the promises that education holds for them, as well as the larger question of the Muslim community partaking in the creation of a modern Indian nation — secular, composite and pluralist. The emphasis in the classical Muslim social is on the predicaments of the upper and middle classes. ‘Najma’ (1943), ‘Chaudhvin ka Chand’ (1960) and ‘Mere Mehboob’ (1963) are the three films that are discussed in this study.

The fourth genre, new wave Muslim socials and after, is a very useful genre that the authors have devised. Although it is a continuation of the Muslim social, the emphasis shifts markedly from an idealised nawabi culture concerned with the honour and status of a landed elite to the issues of “social discrimination, economic deprivation and communal violence that ordinary Muslims faced on an everyday level” (pg 91). It represents the tensions and contradictions that evolved in the Nehruvian nationalist project as a result of two major developments: one, the partition of India that dealt shattering blows to the notion of a composite Indian nation comprising all religious and ethnic communities, and two, the deviations from that project by mainstream politicians willing to pander to populist majoritarian sensibilities. The net result has been an accentuation in the alienation of minorities, especially of Indian Muslims. For this genre or category of films the authors have chosen ‘Garam Hawa’ (1973), ‘Salim Langde pe Mat Ro’ (1989), ‘Mammo’ (1994), and ‘Fiza’ (2000).

It would have been interesting to learn what the authors think about the limitations of the Nehruvian state project in a society where conservative religious and ethical principles render inter-religious love hot potatoes and marriage a taboo. As far as I can recall, even the mainstream new wave cinema that emerged in the late 1960s as a form of stark realism and was noted for a radical critique of the sordid social and economic conditions, police brutality and rampant corruption of the political class shied away from such subjects. This is of course not surprising because the film industry cannot but tread with great caution when probing subjects that society is not yet ripe to accept as normal behaviour. Cinema is a good measure of social trends.

On the other hand, there is no doubt that the Bombay cinema has on the whole played a very progressive role in upholding the vision of India as a multi-religious, pluralist society. In that context the four genres that Bhaskar and Allen identify are testimony to the continuing presence and importance of the Muslim community in a secular-democratic India: a challenged and assailed nationalist project, but resilient and steadfast, and hopefully in the long run stable and norm-setting in South Asia.

Indian films have been crossing the border quite successfully. Pakistani film enthusiasts are likely to have seen all or most of the films discussed in this study. For them, this excellent commentary should be a most welcome contribution to a subject on which very little has been written.

[Ishtiaq Ahmed has a PhD from Stockholm University. He is a Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Stockholm University. He is also Honorary Senior Fellow of the Institute of South Asian Studies, National University of Singapore. He can be reached at billumian@gmail.com]

(Courtesy: Daily Times, Pakistan)

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