The iconic Oscar nominated movie ‘The Message’ has recently been released in India in movie theatres in its Hindi/Urdu dubbed version. But it was the perfect opportunity for the media grabbers to create controversy. MIM has been successful in getting the movie pulled out of theatres in Hyderabad. They claim the movie is ‘anti-Islamic’! Interestingly when I was a kid everyone tried hard to get a copy of the movie and view it on the VCR. The movie is perhaps the only serious attempt on the life of the Holy Prophet.
The MIMÃ‚Â claims that the movie is anti-IslamicÃ‚Â and it hurts the sentiments of the Muslims. I, who has seen the movie in full, cannot understand what is there that hurts the sentiments. No one, with whom I have talked about the movie, has ever told me that there is anything that hurts their sentiments. Rather I have found people getting excited while talking about it.
Or when there is almost a political fashion for everyone to raise a hue and cry from Jodha Akbar to Fanaa and from Aja Nachle to Parzania, MIM may have thought to make its presence knownÃ‚Â byÃ‚Â raising itsÃ‚Â issue upon ‘Al-Risalah’ (the dubber version ofÃ‚Â ’The Message’).Ã‚Â In a time when the Prophet and his Message is greatly twisted and misunderstood, the protestors may do more service by facilitating its viewing and screening at all places. But then that is not the job of rabble rousers.
The dubbed version has a different set of songs all of which are inÃ‚Â praise of the Prophet with one of them ‘Marhaba Mustafa’ superbly done by A R Rahman.
‘The Message’Ã‚Â was produced and directed in Hollywood by Moustapha Akkad around 32 years back in 1976. A reasonably successful producer in Hollywood, Akkad took the arduous task of making a movie on the Holy Prophet with the unthinkable. The protaganist was neither to be shown nor his voice to be heard! Akkad employed various techniques to successfully achieve this.
Niether the Prophet nor his main companions (Hazrat Abubakar, Hazrat Umar, Hazrat Ali or Hazrat Usman) were shown in the movie. Only a few companions were shown, prominently among whom were Hazrat Hamza (the uncle of the Prophet) and Hazrat Bilal (the former black slave who rose to much respect).
Akkad understood that the movie was entering into a completely uncharted area and he took precautions. The movie was then approved by none less than Al-Azhar university (the highest seat of Sunnis) and by the Shia scholars.
The main actors were Anthony Quinn (as Hazrat Hamza), Irene Papas (Hind) and Michael Ansara (Abu Sufyan). Ã‚Â The music was by Maurice Jarre for which it was nominated for the Oscars. It was produced on a big budget and quite successfully created the seventh century Arabia on the screen.
The movie starts from the time the Prophet receives the first revelation in Mecca and goes on to just before his death 24 years later. Its almost a three hour movie but yet it is hard to contain the event intensive life of the Prophet in that length.
The depiction of the Prophet has been done by some techniques like making the camera as the eye of the Prophet and letting the view of the other actors coming from that perspective. The other techniqusÃ‚Â used have been to show the camel on which he used to ride without the full facade or to just show his stick. Hazrat Ali has been depicted once through his famous sword Zulfiqar.
The movie definitely suffers from the non-presence of the main characters and it often gets disproportionately focussed on Hazrat Hamza. But yet Akkad did what I believe is the best anyone could have done at that time.
Ironically the man who took great pains to produce the movie and perhaps put his personal wealth in the production was killed in a brazen suicide bomb attack at a wedding party in Amman in 2005. There were 54 killed in that blast which included Akkad and his daughter. When he was killed he was planning a movie on the legendary Salahuddin Ayyubi with reportedly Sean Connery in the lead.
For those who are protesting they should listen to the honesty with which Akkad made the movie with his words ‘…I think there was something personal, being Muslim myself who lived in the west I felt that it was my obligation my duty to tell the truth about Islam‘.