Monday, January 19, 2009

What is it about them? - The Sunday Indian Magazine Story

Right from the dawn of indian cinema, Muslim actors like Suraiya. Madhubala, Meena Kumari to Shah rukh and Aamir have dominated the silver screen. Ajay Brahmatmaj speaks to Aakriti Bhardwaj about the links between the muslim society and the indian dream factory.

Prior to independence, in the conservative Indian society, there were a lot of restrictions imposed upon girls from Hindu families; one of which was participating in performing arts. So, when the requirement of actresses went up in Hindi films, priority was given to girls of Muslim families, as they were positively inclined towards cinema. This has historical roots as even during the reign of the Mughals and the British, the tawaifs were mostly Muslims. Nargis’ mother, JaddanBai, was also a tawaif. She understood the changing times and took the first step. Girls from Parsi and Anglo-Indian families also got a chance in Bombay. Even today, traditional Hindu families prohibit the entry of girls in movies. You can make a list of actors and actresses from Hindu dominated states and the count would not be more than 10 or 15. Heroines from Punjab, Bengal and southern India have been more popular in Hindi movies. Now the place has been taken by models and girls from beauty contests.

If we talk about the heroes, then Punjab has always dominated the silver screen. It happened because of solid aesthetic reasons and it became a tradition. Film journalism often refers to ‘Hero Material’. Common meaning of ‘Hero Material’ is tall, fair, handsome, black hair, blue-brown eyes, broad forehead, pointed nose…. But actually this image of the ‘hero’ came from Raja Ravi Verma’s calendar art. Men with such built usually come from the North-West frontier. This is the same race that keeps Khan, Kapoor or Khanna as their surname.

If we go a little behind in time then after the Mughals came in India there was a rapid religion conversion in the North-West frontier. Many Hindus converted to Islam. It is not mere coincidence that those actors who took to fame post-independence like Dilip Kumar, Dev Anand and Raj Kapoor had a Lahore connection. Punjab has a very strong and active lobby in the Hindi film industry, which is why, knowingly or unknowingly, Punjabi culture has become the main culture of the Hindi film industry. However, whether it is Shah Rukh Khan, Salman Khan, Aamir Khan or Saif Ali Khan, their popularity can have nothing to do with their faith. Aamir, Salman and Saif are from the film industry so they did get initial support and a launch pad. If you notice, it did take a lot of time for Saif to establish his position and win over the audience. Aamir and Salman are good actors. As far as Shah Rukh is concerned, he came at a time when the industry needed fresh faces. He is a good performer and he took some risks which worked in his favour. Hindi films don’t work on the basis of religion but a fair section of the audience is Muslim. It is said that Salman Khan is the most popular actor among the Muslim audience.

Have you ever wondered why movies release only on Fridays? Well, it's not just aping Hollywood, but it is also convenient for the Muslims, as it is a holiday for them.

In proportion to their population in the Indian society, Muslim society wasn’t picturised in Hindi films. Films weren’t made with Muslim characters in the lead. Yes, historic Muslim characters were definitely a part of the films, but the post-independence Muslim young man was never seen romancing in a romantic movie. We have never seen a Kabir, Khursheed, Aalam, Fatima, Zohra or Shabnam in a lead role. One can count movies like "Chak De," "Dhoka" and "Fanaa" on their finger tips.

The audience of Hindi movies primarily consists of Hindus. Without announcing, our audience wants to watch the tales of Hindu heroes only, those who have the traits of our heroes from the epics. The characters of Islamic and Christian culture can’t get a leading place in Hindi films. And, this has commercial, social as well as geographical reasons."
For Complete IIPM Article, Click on IIPM Article

Source :
IIPM Editorial, 2008
An IIPM and Professor Arindam Chaudhuri (Renowned Management Guru and Economist) Initiative

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