Sunday, September 07, 2008
Where does Aamir lead us?
Aamir is being celebrated as a brilliant film by many critics and common viewers alike. The film has also done very good business at the box office, rather unusual for an offbeat film like this.
I am not too concerned about this nor am I suprised at it, but I am worried when it gets labeled as a film that breaks the stereotype of Muslims in Bollywood, and in the psyche of the Middle class (majorly Hindu) India in general. I had heard some people talk of the 'sensitive portrayal of Indian Muslim' in this film, and then there was this article Beyond prisms of prejudice by Ziya Us Salam [The Hindu Magazine, Sunday 24 August 2008].
That is a matter of concern because Aamir in fact upholds precisely those very stereotypes.
Which is why I felt it was only natural for this film to have such a 'universal' appeal among the Middle class Hindu India.
In one line, the film's premise is that Muslims are out to terrorize the nation. 'Brothers' sending in money from all over the world, the kingpins misleading the educated youth by brainwashing them and using them as pawns, the ordinary poor Muslims on the streets silently approving of all this with a smile on their face that they know this is how it works. And we have an exception in the lead character of the film who turns from a victimized, helpless position to be a real Aamir (leader) by refusing to be part of it.
[If that weren't enough, the film tells us through its hero -- Aamir, the real leader -- that he has overcome difficulties by his hard work and become a doctor working abroad, and that is the way to go for the community to get out of the poverty and bad living conditions. Is it any surprise if it finds many takers among the anti-reservation warhead of the elite Brahman class?]
Honestly, I feel this guy is much more dangerous than a bearded terrorist Muslim villain of Bollywood. (We have seen this 'achche Muslims bhi hote hai' caricature also many times in mainstream Bollywood itself).
Aamir might have its directorial high points (I particularly liked the presentation of the villain), but let us not give it the sensitive film tag. This film takes the rotten path, feeding the most insensitive and unhealthy of the psyches precisely what they crave for. That is it.
If you want to catch a more sensible film on a similar theme, try Mumbai Meri Jaan.
[Image edited from a poster at the film's web site]
[Thanks to my friend Bhakti who took me for Aamir]