Nuances of Muslim Representation in Hindi Cinema
Harish Wankhede
READING THE MUSLIM ON CELLULOID: BOLLYWOOD, REPRESENTATION AND POLITICS by Roshni Sengupta Primus Books, New Delhi, 2020, 340 pp., 1250.00
December 2020, volume 44, No 12

Representation is a tricky word as there can never be an authentic representation. Any act of representation conceals a lot and only offers a timid glimpse of reality. Cinema is well known for such deception. It often claims to be a reflexive comrade that would showcase the social complexities—not only to entertain—but also to educate the audience. However, the film critics have noted that cinematic representation is often half baked and severely distanced from the realities of our day-today life. The stories of popular films are often based on the stereotypical binaries of good versus evil, the characters are surreal, inauthentic and imaginary and they are told mainly to satisfy the cultural and social desires of the dominant classes.

From this perspective when we examine the representation of Muslims in Hindi cinema, it becomes obvious that we are often looking at the most congealed and essentialized versions of the community. Roshni Sengupta reviews the Muslim question in Hindi cinema and provides a comprehensive map and detailed chronology to make sense of the stereotypes associated with the Muslims in Hindi cinema. She historicizes the question of Muslim representation and looks into crucial political events on national body that has disciplined the Muslim lives here. Her attempt is to understand the current predicament of the Muslims, especially after the rise of Hindutva fundamentalism and how their representation is framed, restructured and essentialized. She has therefore opted to examine the post-1991 period—mainly the twenty-two years (p. 21) with an argument that the Muslim representation cannot be understood without knowing the global political turbulences in the last three decades.

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