How Pakistani Films Promote Conversion of Hindu Women Through ‘Interfaith’ Love Stories

Swati Goel Sharma and Sanjeev Newar

Nov 24, 2020, 01:53 PM | Updated 04:53 PM IST

A still from Pakistani film ‘Border’
A still from Pakistani film ‘Border’
  • Whether it’s Lollywood or Bollywood, love ‘has no religion’ only as long as the man in the ‘interfaith’ ‘love’ story is Muslim.
  • Here, we review two such films featuring Pakistani superstars, many of whom have worked in Bollywood too.
  • If the recent Tanishq advertisement and Akshay Kumar’s Diwali release Laxmii sparked outrage by Hindus over the Muslim man-Hindu woman marriage theme, it’s because popular cinema and entertainment celebrates only this theme and seldom shows the reverse, that is, the Hindu man-Muslim woman relationship.

    So-called ‘liberals’ have derided the Hindu reaction as a 'regressive' sentiment against love itself. One wonders if the same liberals would openly deride BR Ambedkar too for expressing similar concerns in his seminal 1945 work ‘Pakistan, or The Partition of India’, where he wrote, “…the Hindus are right when they say that it is not possible to establish social contact between Hindus and Muslims because such contact can only mean contact between women from one side and men from the other.”

    To substantiate his point, Ambedkar even compared this concern of Hindus with that of Europeans.

    “It is interesting to note the argument which the Europeans who are accused by Indians for not admitting them to their clubs use to defend themselves. They say, “We bring our women to the clubs. If you agree to bring your women to the club, you can be admitted. We can’t expose our women to your company if you deny us the company of your women. Be ready to go fifty-fifty, then ask for entry in our clubs,” he wrote.

    This skewed interfaith relationship pattern was one of the many reasons that Ambedkar cited to advocate complete transfer of India’s Muslim population to the proposed Pakistan.

    Indeed, going by all available data, interfaith relations or marriages between Hindus and Muslims in India have an overwhelming number of Hindu women who convert to Islam.

    However, instead of acknowledging the skewed pattern, which clearly favours Islamists, as a concern, liberals in India actively support it through their writings and speeches.

    The most potent propaganda tool is cinema and entertainment. Hence the chosen theme in the Tanishq advertisement and film Laxmii.

    An interesting but not-so-surprising observation in this regard is that if ‘secular’ Bollywood pushes this propaganda subtly, the openly Islamist Lollywood promotes it blatantly. (Bollywood means Mumbai-based Indian film industry and Lollywood means Lahore-based Pakistani film industry.)

    In this piece, we have reviewed two hit Pakistani films that have Muslim man-Hindu woman themes. Both films feature Pakistani superstar Shaan Shahid, who has acted in over 200 films and is considered one of Pakistan’s highest-paid actors.

    Though Shaan, as a writer, actor and director, has a long history of making Anti-India and anti-Hindu films, he was offered a major role by Aamir Khan in 2008 Bollywood film Ghajini. Shaan famously rejected the role.

    The first film is Border (2002). It is based on religious enmity between fictitious Major Bharat from the Indian Army and Major Khalid from the Pakistani Army (played by Shaan Shahid).

    We found the film an unbearable watch thanks to bad screenplay and direction as well as cringe-worthy over-the-top religious propaganda, but that’s besides the point.

    We are focussing on a sub-plot in the film about a love story between Khalid and an Indian woman named Preeti.

    For the uninitiated, the propaganda that Indian Armymen rape Muslim women and Muslim men are much stronger than Hindu men are common themes in many Pakistani films, and Border has both.

    The love story unfolds like this: Khalid and Bharat go to Dubai for a boxing competition that is attended by Preeti as a chief guest. She is introduced as daughter of the Indian Ambassador in Dubai named Gopichand.

    As soon as Khalid sees the Pakistani flag, his body turns (metaphorically) into iron and none of Bharat’s strong punches have any effect on him. On the other hand, one punch by Khalid sends Bharat flying out of the arena to fall at Preeti’s feet.

    Preeti is completely unimpressed by Bharat, and immediately falls for Khalid. In the next scene, Preeti is shown visiting Khalid in his room with a bouquet and asking him to write his autograph on her heart.

    Shortly later, she visits Pakistan to meet Khalid where the two fall in love. A song and dance routine follows, where Preeti sings, “Main na jaanu deen dharm ko, main na jaanu rasmein kasmein (I neither care for religion and dharma nor for rituals or tradition).

    The scene has visuals of a temple in the backdrop.

    The subtle propaganda thus far evolves into full-fledged bigotry towards the climax. At the India-Pakistan border in Kashmir, where Indian Hindu Armymen are shown raping local Muslim women, Bharat manages to trap Khalid and his group including Preeti. As he flogs a chained Khalid, a woman from the Pakistani side screams, “Don’t dare touch a Musalman fauji or you will be killed.”

    Bharat slaps the woman and she falls on the ground. An angry Preeti retorts, “Auraton par zulm karna Hindu qaum ki purani riwayat hai aur ye main achi tarah jaanti hun” (It’s an old tradition among Hindus to beat up women and I know it very well).

    Bharat doesn’t respond to the jibe, and taunts her instead: “Maathe par bindiya, man mein Musla? Chhi chhi chhi” (Bindi on forehead, Muslim man in heart? Shame). Bharat asks Preeti to spit on Khalid’s face. Preeti kisses Khalid in front of everyone present and spits on Bharat’s face instead.

    In the end, Preeti declares that she would discard her identity as “Hindustan’s daughter” and live and die as “Pakistan’s daughter”.

    The second film is Musalman (2001). It is based on the conflict in Kashmir, that Pakistan has been claiming as its own since partition. There is no room for balance or subtlety. The film begins with ’Leke rahenge Azaadi’ slogans and a Muslim woman in Kashmir telling her child to end “Hindu raj”.

    The usual anti-Hindu and anti-India propaganda themes, characteristic of popular Pakistani cinema, such as Indian Armymen killing innocent Muslim children and raping Muslim women, and one Muslim man is stronger and braver than an entire Hindu mob, are all there.

    The film features Zeba Bakhtiyar and Jawed Sheikh, both Pakistani superstars who have appeared in Bollywood films as well.

    While Bakhtiar featured opposite Rishi Kapoor in the 1991 film Henna produced by RK Studios, Sheikh is a regular in Bollywood even after Musalman.

    The long list includes Namastey London with Akshay Kumar, Om Shanti Om with Shahrukh Khan, Apne with Dharmendra, Road in Sangam with Paresh Rawal, Tamasha with Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone.

    Jawed Sheikh (centre) with Imtiaz Ali (left) and Ranbir Kapoor (right) during the shooting of film Tamasha
    Jawed Sheikh (centre) with Imtiaz Ali (left) and Ranbir Kapoor (right) during the shooting of film Tamasha

    The romantic sub-plot in the film is about a Pakistani Hindu woman in love with a Muslim collegemate, much against her ‘bigot’ father’s wish. The Hindu father, keeping with the tradition in both Lollywood and early Bollywood, is shown as greedy, cunning, bigoted and narrow-minded.

    In the opening scene, the tilak-sporting father is shown telling the woman to stay away from Muslim men. She replies, “Aap Musalmano se itni nafrat kyun karte hain?” (Why do you hate Muslims so much?). She also says that Kashmir should be given to Pakistan.

    In college, she meets her boyfriend Shahid and tells him, “Main apne pyaar ke liye apne mazhab ki deewar bhi gira dungi (I will even demolish the wall of my religion for the sake of our relationship).”

    Shahid replies, “…Pyaar ka koi mazhab nahi hota. Pyaar to ek ibaadat hai (…Love has no religion. Love is only worship).” A tilak-sporting Hindu man named Kundan interrupts the couple and chides the woman: She is a Hindu and the man is Muslim, she should show some concern for tradition. The woman tells him that she is in 'love' and she cares for no tradition.

    When her father tries to fix her marriage with Kundan, she declares that she belongs to Shahid and Shahid alone. An angry father asks his wife to take her to the temple to instill some sense in her, to which the woman says that she would go to the temple herself and confront the gods.

    The next scene shows the woman dancing in front of a (poorly sculpted) idol of Lord Shiva in the temple, clad in a backless choli and a short skirt. She points a finger at the idol and says, “Reet Riwazon ko main na samajhun, main na jaanu deen dharam ko (I care neither for tradition nor religion).”

    By the end of the song, she declares, “Ishq ka mazhab koi nahi hai… Ek hai tu tere naam hazaaron. Tu hi Ram tu hi Rahman (love has no religion…you are one but have thousands of names. You are both Ram and Rahman).”

    In short, a subtle declaration that she has decided to embrace Islam.

    She is not the only Hindu woman to convert to Islam in the film. In a climax scene, daughter of a Hindu governor named Sita calls Hindus 'liars' and expresses regret that she is born into the Hindu faith and not in a Muslim family. In front of her father, she tells a Maulvi, “Maulanaji, main Musalman hona chahti hun (I want to become a Muslim).”

    Chants of ‘Allah Allah’ play in the background. The Maulana erupts with joy and says, “Subhanallah! Toh Bismillah padhkar Kalma padho beti” (Great! Then say Bismillah and read the Kalma, daughter). The woman reads the Kalma right there and becomes a Muslim.

    This is how Pakistani films aggressively propagate conversion of Hindu women to Islam through ‘interfaith’ love stories. The propaganda is multi-layered.

    Hindu women are shows as ‘secular’ as they keep repeating that Ram and Rahman, and Ishwar and Allah, are same. No such sentiment is ever expressed by Muslim men. Hindu fathers are portrayed as not only greedy, weak and liars, but also born bigots who hate Muslims. Muslim men are shown as being stronger and better than Hindu men.

    It’s pertinent to note here that let alone in its films, a Hindu man-Muslim woman relationship is unheard of in Pakistan, unless the man agrees to convert to Islam, such as in the case of Bollywood actor-producer Raj Kapoor’s first cousin Jugal Kishore Mehta, who became Ahmed Salman in order to marry a Pakistani Muslim woman.

    Bollywood films with Hindu man-Muslim woman themes such as Gadar, Ishaqzaade, and Raanjhanaa have been banned in Pakistan. In case of Raanjhanaa, the Pakistani censor board clearly mentioned the reason in writing as, “The film portrays an inapt image of a Muslim girl (played by Sonam Kapoor) falling in love with a Hindu man and having an affair with him.”

    The censorship was despite the fact that in most of these films, Hindu men have been shown as being ready to adopt Islam.

    It may be noted here that Bollywood has made several films on Muslim man-Hindu women relationships including Pinjar, Mr and Mrs Iyer, Jodha Akbar, My Name Is Khan, Kedarnath and now Laxmii. However, a few daring acts where filmmakers treaded the forbidden path, did not end well. Violent mobs rampaged on streets In Bhopal against the Sikh man-Muslim woman love story in Gadar, and filmmaker Mani Ratnam had a bomb thrown at his house for showing a Hindu man-Muslim woman love story in film Bombay.

    For reasons unknown, Bollywood is increasingly toying with interfaith love stories, though with the same one-sided acceptance of interfaith relationships and propagation of Hindu woman-Muslim man bond as in Lollywood. In short, whether it’s Lollywood or Bollywood, love‘ has no religion‘ only as long as the man in the interfaith relationship is Muslim.

    Only, Lollywood is more blatant.

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