Monitoring Desk: “Every third frame of the movie “Sooryavanshi,” is a bloodcurdling Islamophobic image which is ruling the box office here in India. The film stokes the dangerous “love jihad” conspiracy, which paints Muslim men as colluding to seduce or kidnap Hindu women or girls and convert them to Islam”.
This is observed by Rana Ayyub who is an Indian journalist and author of “Gujarat Files: Anatomy of a Cover Up.”
In her Opinion “Why an Indian film’s success at the box office should worry us all” published in Washington Post, she writes “Sooryavanshi” is one of the most successful films in India after the covid-19 lockdowns were eased. Its success contributes to the climate of hate and discrimination that India’s estimated 200 million Muslims must face every day.
She observes that the character belonging to an upper-class Hindu gives lessons of patriotism while the Muslim characters are portrayed as anti-social, terrorists, anti-human. Muslim characters is ungrateful, with long beard and skull cap. Each time the protagonist sermonizes the Indian Muslim to fall in line, the audience in the theater where she saw the film whistled and applauded.
The film does not even pretend to mask its agenda — which is the right-wing Hindu nationalist agenda of Modi’s government. It justifies the abrogation of the special status accorded to Kashmir, where thousands of youth were detained and an Internet blackout was imposed in 2019. Like the government, the film argues that the abrogation of Article 370 of the Indian constitution has wiped out terrorism from the valley.
If the filmmakers had read any news about Kashmir, they could have had a brush with reality. But who wants to talk about reality when the purpose is propaganda?
Propaganda sells, obviously. News just gets in the way.
Recently the police in India filed a case against 102 Twitter accounts that include journalists, activists and lawyers who spoke out against the anti-Muslim violence that unfolded in the northeastern state of Tripura in October. Hindu nationalists vandalized mosques and attacked Muslim homes, but the Tripura police went after those who spoke against it, accusing them of sedition.
For weeks in New Delhi, Muslim Friday prayers have been obstructed by Hindu nationalists. The Muslims were finally displaced, and a grand Hindu prayer service was organized in the presence of a leader of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Nov. 5.
In this context, a film like “Sooryavanshi” is not just entertainment. The film makes a point of repeating attacks carried out by Muslims, ignoring the numerous episodes of violence carried out by Hindu radicals. Kumar’s protagonist speaks about the 1993 blasts in Mumbai but conveniently ignores the 1992 anti-Muslim carnage that preceded it. He conveniently ignores the 2002 riots of Gujarat, the Malegaon blasts of 2006 that killed Muslims after Friday prayers and the Malegaon blasts of 2008, where retired officers in the Indian army were implicated.
In India, Muslim seminaries and organizations are being hounded by the Modi government for allegedly spreading terror in the country using foreign money. In the film, a Muslim scholar and priest who runs an organization is seen as the mastermind of a terrorist nexus that receives funding from Pakistan. The filmmakers should have at least given writing credits to Modi and his allies.
Disappointingly, the film is produced by Karan Johar, a well-respected director who made a film called “My Name Is Khan.” That movie addressed the demonization of Muslims post-9/11. But that was before Modi. Johar’s new worldview is celebrated by the government; he recently received one of country’s highest civilian honors in the presence of the prime minister and his powerful minister of home affairs, Amit Shah.
“Sooryavanshi” is dangerous. After watching it, it’s impossible not to think of Nazi Germany, where Hitler cultivated a film industry that paid obeisance to him and made propaganda films against Jews. In a sane world, India’s film industry — and actors, directors and producers from all over the world — would denounce it for its criminal and brazen Islamophobia. But maybe I’m asking too much. If Bollywood continues this aggressive descent into nationalism and hate, it will have blood on its hands. No box office record will be able to change that.