This post has been self-published on Youth Ki Awaaz by Ali Qalandar. Just like them, anyone can publish on Youth Ki Awaaz.

Good Or Bad, Kasab Or Kalam ONLY: How Sooryavanshi Dehumanises Muslims

More from Ali Qalandar

Note: This article might have spoilers.

A Rohit Shetty film that has as many dying Muslims as flying cars, Sooryavanshi is yet another film with incredibly righteous policemen with anger issues and physics-defying stunt capabilities.

Yet again, police violence and vigilante tactics are played for laughs and hoots. Though they have always seemed at least tone-deaf, Sooryavanshi also turns to become an apologist– The film is rife with gleeful and made-to-look funny scenes of police brutality.

Flying cars in a Rohit Shetty film
A Rohit Shetty film has many flying cars. Photo: News Nation English

It identifies yet another common target, provides a simplistic solution, and celebrate the cops doing the killings. So many killings that it just becomes repetitive after a point.

Sooryavanshi is an act of fiction, framed in the aftermath of some events of the past. What it still does is very dangerously blur the lines. While trying to remain within the realms of fiction, it very subtly insinuates things that suit a pre-existing and pretty real narrative and it shows.

In one scene, very casually, it just happens to have mentioned how the abrogation of Article 370 has made cross-border infiltrations impossible. In another scene, it justifies how artists from Pakistan like Fawad Khan and Atif Aslam have had to leave India due to the actions of their countrymen, without any mention of what exactly made them leave.

The issue here is when a piece of fiction conveniently suits a narrative, true or not, that is constantly being built around us. Sooryavanshi conveniently pushes that narrative.

It at times tries to provide us with a more balanced outlook that turns out to be superficial. But it successfully and relentlessly plants seeds of suspicion against a particular community.
One may not call it propaganda but the least it is, is indoctrination.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Youth Ki Awaaz (@youthkiawaaz)

A Kasab Or A Kalam?

Sooryavanshi has turned out to be yet another polarised view of a minority living in the of a majority. Minorities are often relegated to a dichotomy of good or bad, wherein they must prove their loyalty to the nation over religious affiliation to access the right of citizenship and belonging to the Indian state.

The film tries to put on a balancing act at times but fails to do so. Like it tries to go into maddening complexities of conflicts, though only lip service, by informing us that the villain’s son was killed by the Indian Army. It fails to do so and gives us an extremely superficial outlook and unfortunately, many times does fall into the good Muslim- bad Muslim trope.

“Iss desh mein jitni nafrat Kasab ke liye hai, utni izzat Kalam ke liye (As much as India hates Kasab, it respects Kalam)”, says Akshay Kumar’s character while confronting one of the antagonists.

It reduces an entire community to two binary sides– Muslim can either be Kasab or Kalam and there’s nothing in between. They are dehumanised to the extent that their identity is reduced to what they can do for and against the nation.

If it doesn’t seem to be a problem to you, ask yourself: How often do we see such contrasting representations of a majority community in movies?

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Youth Ki Awaaz (@youthkiawaaz)

The Problem Of Association

Other than putting a community to fit a black and white narrative and completely ignoring the grey, it paints a picture clear as day of what the black and white is supposed to look like.

In one scene, the “Good Muslim” is the lead’s former colleague Naeem Khan, a now-retired policeman with over three decades of service. He happens to just have come back from Ajmer Sharif, which works upon a stereotype and puts an angle on what a good Muslim is.

In contrast to the clean-shaven former policeman with zero religious markers in Naeem Khan, is the “Bad Muslim”, Kader Usmani. Usmani is shown as the stereotypical topi-wearing Muslim cleric – with a long beard, upper lip shaven, with a prayer mark on his forehead.

The only Muslims shown offering prayers are the terrorists, the only ones engaging in religious acts are the terrorists. On the other hand, the only occasions where stereotypically appropriate Muslims are shown to be good is when they’re helping the police, or, in another scene, when they’re helping Hindus.

As if, they are the only ways a visibly Muslim person looking person becomes non-threatening.

Moreover, in the film, Kader Usmani, one of the villains, is shown to be a Marathi Muslim, living in the middle of Maharashtra, yet one who fluently speaks the North Indian dialect of Urdu. Every antagonist in the movie, all of whom are Muslim, no matter where they’re from, speaks fluent Urdu.

In a time of Jashn-e-Rivaaj, one need not wonder where the association of a centuries-old Indian language to a particular religion or a certain type of people comes from.

If all these insinuated religious associations weren’t enough, the film makes sure no doubts are left. With the terrorists being thrashed with Hindu shlokas playing in the background.

A still portraying the good Muslim- bad Muslim trope in Sooryavanshi
A still portraying the good Muslim- bad Muslim trope in Sooryavanshi.

Sowing Seeds Of Mistrust

Sooryavanshi focuses a great deal on themes like “the enemy within”, “sleeper cells that could be anyone around you”. The enemy could be anyone around you and that enemy is a hundred per cent Muslim, according to the film.

If Sooryavanshi is taken at face value, many would begin distrusting Indian Muslims who wear religious markers, pray regularly, have religious markers at home or those who speak up against oppression– because a “good” Muslim would blindly go about their work for thirty years without speaking up or speaking out, as the film bluntly suggests.

It carelessly flukes its responsibility and plants a seed of mistrust at a time when what may be needed is quite the opposite.

Hum Hindustani

Sooryavanshi, though slightly better balanced, is no different than what we have seen before in terms of representation. It tries to tread its path to success by riding on a certain prevalent sentiment, reinforcing irrational fears and beliefs.

In the climax, the 1960 song ‘Hum Hindustani’ is played to go with scenes that portray religious harmony. In a place where literal “kal ki baatein” could mean the least of decades of discrimination, how could one just “chhodo” (leave) it? You may desperately want to warm up to the sentiment but is it possible? The film that itself paints a grim and polarising picture of some fourteen per cent of Hindustanis keeps asking one to forget.

In that regard, the film itself might have to be a “kal ki baat”.

Note: The author is part of the Sept-Nov’21 batch of the Writer’s Training Program

You must be to comment.

More from Ali Qalandar

Similar Posts

By Neha Yadav

By Prithvi Vatsalya

By Adivasi Lives Matter

    If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at actnow@youthkiawaaz.com

      If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at actnow@youthkiawaaz.com

        If you do not receive an email within the next 5 mins, please check your spam box or email us at actnow@youthkiawaaz.com

        Wondering what to write about?

        Here are some topics to get you started

        Share your details to download the report.









        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        Share your details to download the report.









        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

        Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

        Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

        The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

        Read more about his campaign.

        Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

        Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

        Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

        Read more about her campaign.

        MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

        With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Read more about her campaign. 

        A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

        As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

        Find out more about the campaign here.

        A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

        She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

        The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

        Read more about the campaign here.

        A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

        As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

        Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

        Find out more about her campaign here.

        Share your details to download the report.









        We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

        A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

        A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

        Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

        A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
        biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

        Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
        campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

        Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below