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Bollywood goes saffron
By M Ghazali Khan, London

Cast: Sunny Deol, Amisha Patel
Director: Anil Sharma

It was Hitler’s Cabinet Minister for public Enlightenment and Propaganda Joseph Goebbels, who had propounded the theory of repeating a lie as many times as it may appear to be true. His practice has become a golden rule for pseudo liberals and all those who believe in and practice fascism. In India anti-Muslim organizations and crypto Muslim haters have found a great benefit in this rule.

Among the lies that they have been constantly repeating since 1947 and the propaganda with which they have been poisoning innocent minds since then is the distortion of historical facts in general and the events that forced the Muslims to demand for a separate Muslim homeland in particular. Three generations of Indians have grown up hearing the story that Muslims alone were responsible for the partition of India, creation of Pakistan and inciting communal violence in those days of virtual madness. The intermittent cycle of anti-Muslim riots since then is merely the expression of the deep hatred with which innocent minds have been infested.

Until recently Bollywood films were somewhat safe from this tendency. However, realizing the effectiveness and impact of electronic/audio-video media, especially the films, during the last few years anti-Muslim elements have engaged themselves in a clever and subtle propaganda against Muslims and Islam. But the producers of recent controversial film G[h]adar: a Parem Katha (Mutiny: A love story) has given a new twist to this rather sophisticated propaganda so much so that a liberal secularist like Shabana Azmi found some of the scenes as provocative.

The film, set in the partition era begins with a scene of Pakistani soldiers giving notice, on loudspeaker, to the Sikhs and Hindus to leave for India by a certain time and an elderly Sikh handing packets of poison to his daughters and instructing them to consume it "laikin kisi musalman ko apni ismat na lootne dena" (but do not let any Muslim to defile your honour).
The emigrating Sikhs and Hindus are attacked by Muslim mobs. The narrator's voice then explains to the viewers, "aur is trah lakhon Hindu apne hi desh men ghar se be ghar ho gaey". ("And this is how millions of Hindus became homeless in their own country). A train full of mutilated bodies reaches Amritsar on which a graffiti in Urdu reads, "Kafiro kaatna Muslamano se seekho" (O, you non-believers learn from Muslims how to slaughter"). It enrages Sikhs and Hindus to retaliate. They go on the rampage and start killing Muslims.

Among the angry Sikhs is a young truck driver Tara Singh. He has known Sakeena, the daughter of a wealthy Muslim businessman and Muslim League leader Ashraf Ali Khan, since her days in a convent school in Shimla. Both of them had felt attracted towards each other. Tara Singh’s own family has been killed by the Muslims and he is roaming around in rage when he comes across Sakeena who is being chased by other members of the Sikh community. He comes to the rescue of Sakeena and gives her shelter in his house. The girl is so much impressed by his character that she refuses to go to Pakistan and join her rich uncle in Lahore. Despite their anger against the Muslims, Tara Singh’s uncle and auntie reluctantly allow him to marry Sakeena. She settles with the Sikh family and gives birth to a son.

Two or three years later Sakeena sees in a newspaper the photograph of Ashraf Ali Khan and learns that her father had succeeded in escaping to Pakistan and had been installed as the Mayor of Lahore. She comes to the Pakistani High Commission in Delhi and informs her family on phone that she had married a Sikh and had a son from him. The cunning and "ungrateful" politician circulates the story to the Pakistani press about the atrocities of the Sikhs on his daughter and her bravery. The daily Jang, serializes her harrowing tale on its first pages. On the other hand Ashraf Ali Khan cheats Sakeena to visit him in Pakistan leaving her son and husband in India and promises to have them there three days later. But in Lahore she is forced to marry her cousin, an army officer. She opposes it and resists all of the threats and pressures when her "brave" husband reaches at the scene and demonstrates heroic bravery. On the advice of a Qazi (religious minister) he agrees to accept Tara Singh as his son in law if he is converted to Islam. In front of a gathering of hundreds of civilians and army personnel the Qazi asks Tara Singh if he was willing to accept Islam. "Sab se bada mazhab apne beevi bachchon ko bachana hai" (The biggest religion is to save ones wife and children) Tara Singh retorts. Qazi angrily asks him if he was accepting Islam or not. "Yes" replies Tara Singh. But Ashraf Ali Khan is not yet satisfied. "Islam qabool karne se pahle yeh to dekh lo ke yeh Musalman hone ke qabil bhi hai ya nahin" (Before he accepts Islam let us test if he is worthy of it or not.") he says. He then himself asks Tara Singh to say "Islam Zindabad" and reluctantly Tara Singh complies. He then asks him to pronounce, "Pakistan Zindabad." Tara Singh again fulfils the demand with some hesitation. But being asked to say "Hindustan Murdabad" (death to India) infuriates Tara Singh.

Displaying Rambo-like bravery he snatches his wife and son away from the "heartless" Muslims butchering many of them. He is searched by the Pakistani intelligence and is confronted by the Pakistani police, army and air force personnel. But anyone who comes in his way is eliminated.

As the film comes to an end most of the Pakistan army soldiers are killed by Tara Singh, Ashraf Ali Khan shoots at Sakeena from a helicopter. She is injured and thereat-paternal love overwhelms the father. He asks her for forgiveness. He then turns to Tara Singh and says, "Mujhe Maaf Kardo Beta, Damaad ko to ankhon par bithaya jata hai. Main to sab se bade mazhab insaniyat ko bhool hi gaya tha" (Forgive me my son, sons-in-law deserve the highest love and respect from their in-laws. I had forgotten that the greatest religion is humanism) .
To show his secularism and impartiality the director has shown one or two good characters among Muslims too.

While Muslims in India have condemned the film as anti-Muslim, its director Anil Sharma and actress Amisha Patel claim that they have reportedly received phone calls from places such as Lahore and Karachi praising the film. A review on the film in the Pakistani magazine Mag is enough to substantiate their claims.

Most strange, bizarre and ignorant comment on the film has come from one of the most articulate and well-informed leaders of the Muslim community in India, Sayed Shahabuddin. According to Khushwant Singh (Hindustan Times, 28 July) in his explanation to Karan Thapar as to why the Muslims wanted the film to be banned, Sayed Sahib said that the Muslims specially the Shias found it objectionable because its heroin bore the name of Sakeena which was the name of Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) grand daughter.

Ms Patel who boasts of doing her research and gaining enough knowledge about Muslim culture is even unable to pronounce simple Urdu words properly. Even the name of the film Gadar (Ghadar, Mutiny) has no relevance to the era in which it is set. Anyone who has even rudimentary knowledge of Indian history, the mere mention of the word Ghadar would make him think that the subject was about the famous uprising of 1857 by the Indians against British colonial rule.

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