Thursday, May 15, 2008

Honest work

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the first Pakistani film to be released in India, Khuda Ke Liye. According to the reports, the film has been doing well--which is a good sign as it is supposed to be a thought-provoking film ( I have not seen it yet--will have to wait for the DVD).

Writing about the film, Tavleen Singh notes in her column in The Indian Express:

What interested me most about the film was that in seeking to show Islam in a good light, it accidentally exposes the prejudices that make moderate Muslims the ideological partners of jihadis. In painting America as the villain of our times, the prejudices against the West that get exposed are no different from what Mohammad Siddique, one of London's tube bombers, said in the suicide video he made before blowing himself up. In the video, that surfaced during the trial now on in London, he describes himself as a soldier in the war against the West: 'I'm doing what I am for Islam, not, you know, for materialistic or worldly benefits.'

In Khuda Kay Liye, the prejudices against India come through as well. The hero, when he lands in Chicago, finds that his future wife does not know that Pakistan is a country. When he tries to explain where it is geographically, he mentions Iran, Afghanistan and China before coming to India. It happens that India is the only country she knows and Taj Mahal the only Indian monument she has heard of. 'We built it,' says our hero, 'we ruled India for a thousand years and Spain for 800.' As an Indian, my question is: who is we? Those who left for Pakistan or the 180 million Muslims who still live in India? If we pursue this 'we' nonsense, we must urge the Indian Government to bring back Harappa and Mohenjo-daro and Taxila. And that is only the short list.

Pedaram sultan bood. My father was a sultan. That attitude belongs to the past. But unfortunately, some people still love to live in the past's reflected glory.

Anyway, I wanted to talk about the observations of Naseeruddin Shah, one of the actors in this film. He is India's one of the finest actors and has acted in this film. Why he chose to do this film? He gives a very honest account of it:

We were not fanatics, but I had been brought up in a very orthodox home. My mother’s only solace and source of pleasure was prayer. As children, we were all taught to read the Quran but not to understand it. I remember even then that as the maulvi interpreted the holy text, I thought it ridiculous. His interpretations were full of fire and brimstone and talk of kafirs doomed for hell. I had many Hindu and Christian friends, who I knew to be very good fellows, and I wondered why they must suffer while we Muslims, no matter what we did, would only suffer a mild purgatorial period before we were all accepted into a sylvan heaven. According to him, everything was haraam: music, watching films, wearing western clothes, shaving, drinking, growing hair above the lips.

All of this bothered me intensely. What is the azaan but music; what is the recitation of the Quran but music? Did our holy book really condemn our women to look like penguins, deformed and shapeless in uniform black? The maulvi had 13 children: how were they to be reared? That is what should have been worrying him instead of all his talk of the afterlife.

Those two pages I read of Khuda ke Liye hooked me. They expressed everything I felt about my religion and culture. It was neither devout nor dismissive. It was an argument for what I believed in. I said yes immediately.


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