In the last few years there have been various movies coming out of Bollywood trying to tackle the issue of terrorism and often claim to Ã¢â‚¬ËœremoveÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ stereotype about Muslims.Ã‚Â But they miserably fail to do that.
The central point of their failure is in the characterization of the key players in the movie. The issue of Islamist terror is linked with Islam. Ã‚Â The terrorists or the extremists base their justification by their twisted interpretation of Islamic teachings and the Islamic critics point out that since the motivation of the extremists is from Islam, hence Islam inherently has a violent streak.Ã‚Â
The point where these movies failed was that in almost all the cases the person who stood out against this was either because he was a modern educated Muslim or he was a non-Muslim. Ã‚Â In the former case, it is not combined with his knowledge coming out of any theological understanding of Islam. Ã‚Â And that leaves the stereotypes and the confusion intact. This is why My Name is Khan is such an important movie.
My Name is Khan (MNIK) is not the perfect film. There are parts which could have been better as well as the movie could be edited out a bit. But it promises to be the film which tackles the subject head-on and comes out triumphantly. Ã‚Â The protagonist, as well as various other supporting Muslim characters, is shown comfortable living the typical Muslim life. They do prayers, they wear Hijab, and they have a social life outside the Muslim family and are inspired from their traditional family upbringing with no inclination towards any larger Ã¢â‚¬ËœplotÃ¢â‚¬â„¢.
This is unlike Subhash GhaiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Black & White or the much critically acclaimed Aamir.Ã‚Â In both the movies it looked that too many players in the whole Muslim community were plotting. In Black & White other than the elderly Urdu Poet almost all the other characters were either scheming a plot or spitting out some venomous talk. It was left for a Hindu Urdu Professor (who had deep belief in Hindu-Muslim harmony and could recite some Quranic verses) to challenge these Muslim youth. There is no Muslim character that sees a problem with the misguided youth and can counter them (other than the elderly poet who dies due to the shock as soon as he discovers). There is hardly any character that even does it at a human level leave aside at the religious level. Ã‚Â Those who quote Quran quote the extreme interpretation.
Or in Aamir, where the character is a medical doctor in UK, who is shown as hardly being very comfortable with his Muslim background, who has lived in Mumbai but has never gone through the ghetto underbelly. And when he goes there he is nauseated, when he passes through the meat bazaar he finds himself to be completely out of place.Ã‚Â Whenever the master planner is shown he is eating loads and loads of meat (and it is accentuated in a way as if that is the only thing he does as well as there is something wrong with eating meat). Ã‚Â Never to say, through the whole movie it was not clear why the doctor was chosen to execute the plot when any henchman among the plotters could have themselves done it.Ã‚Â Overall, the movie has a great story to tell but the way it is told just ends up in reinforcing many of the stereotypes.
Kabir KhanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s New York shows a Muslim with a cosmopolitan background but is at least consistent in what it depicts. It remains at a human level without getting much into the religious angle. But it has an elitist feel to it and is hardly able to tackle the issues which are going through the masses in the Muslim communities. Ã‚Â Yet it did reasonable justice for the subject it chose.
Kurbaan was a disaster. Ã‚Â It not only had too many flaws in its storytelling but it also had almost all the things to reinforce stereotypes rather than removing any. Any Muslim character who lived an ostensibly Ã¢â‚¬ËœIslamicÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ life was a plotter. Ã‚Â The only Muslim characters that were against violent reactions were those of the reporter couple. Ã‚Â Both were modern educated with hardly having any religious counter to the venom spouted by the other Muslim characters. The plot missed an excellent opportunity to do this in the character played by Kareena Ã‚Â Kapoor. Instead of showing her as a Hindu girl from Delhi stuck amidst terror-plotting Muslims, it could have shown a Muslim girl from Delhi having experienced the syncretic Indian Islamic life standing out against the misguided bunch and taking them on in their own game. But perhaps the script writer had no idea of where the larger picture was going in the context of the chosen subject.
I continued to look for that movie which takes the issues head-on, acknowledges the problems within the Muslim community, states out what is discussed under the closet but then counters it not from outside but from inside. Ã‚Â The counter stand being taken not from a Muslim who derives his counter-points from outside his traditional upbringing or from a non-Muslim who derives his position again from outside the Muslim life. I continued to look for a movie where the central character that stands out against this does it not in spite of his upbringing and religion but because of it. MNIK does this to quite an extent. And that is what makes it so special and thanks to Karan Johar and Shah Rukh Khan to realize and depict this with clarity on the screen in a major movie.
MNIK is the story of Rizwan Khan, an Indian Muslim immigrant to USA who is disabled by AspergerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Syndrome.Ã‚Â When he is separated from his wife, Mandira, in the post 9/11 America he takes her word by heart that he will return back to her only when he meets the President and says to him Ã¢â‚¬ËœMy Name is Khan and I am not a terroristÃ¢â‚¬â„¢.Ã‚Â He journeys through the American landscape following the itinerary of the President to meet him and goes through different situations and experiences.
Watching the promos it looked that including AspergerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Syndrome in a movie about post 9/11 America was just trying to follow a new trend initiated by Tare Zameen Par and Paa. But actually watching the movie, one will find that it contributes in a way which would have been tough otherwise. Due to his special kind of autism, Rizwan thinks in black and white, right or wrong and has little appreciation of social nuances. That leaves him to do things coming straight out of his heart, whether it is doing Namaz in open public space, reciting the Surah Ikhlas while passing airport security, paying his Zakat at the 9/11 charity donning the traditional Muslim dress and saying it so, calling the doctor a liar at the Los Angeles mosque or criticizing the dish of his neighbor on her face. Ã‚Â
AspergerÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Syndrome is not common enough to say if Shah Rukh did complete justice to the character but he does definitely break his usual acting style and tries out something different successfully. Ã‚Â The other two characters which come out strongly and are superbly executed are those of Mandira (Kajol) and RizwanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Ammi (Zarina Wahab).Ã‚Â Various other characters have been etched out which look authentic Ã‚Â and taken straight out of daily life be it that of the RizwanÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s brother, his sister-in-law or the motel owner.
There is a lot of authenticity and research in the movie.Ã‚Â In small details, like the American Muslim household of first generation elderly Indian/Pakistani immigrants discussing on the dining table, the throwing of the three stones on the doctor in the mosque depicting the ritual of the stoning of shaitan (Satan) during the Hajj or the Muslim shopkeeper glued to the TV to see a fellow Muslim being shown in positive light in the news.
Ã‚Â The music of the movie is of great quality particularly the songs Allah Hi Rahem and Noor-e-Khuda.Ã‚Â The trio of Shankar Ehsaan Loy does a great job with music as well as Niranjar Iyengar with the lyrics. In particular, in Allah Hi Rahem, the lyrics, music and the singer Rashid Khan take the song to a high level. Ã‚Â The cinematography at times gives an epic feel to the movie.
The movie looks a bit extended towards the end where the portion post Georgia cyclone could have been edited out with a quicker ending.Ã‚Â But overall, with all its pitfalls, it is an important movie which Fox Searchlight should release in the mainstream US cinemas as it has a universal story to tell.Ã‚Â