‘Mulk’ – An Artifice of False Equalisations



Cinema is a persuasive influencer.

It catches you behind the knees and sweeps you away. You let the flow take you where it will. Once you have been deposited on firm ground though, you must take a mental step back to look at the forest, not keep clinging to the log you rode as you tumbled downstream.

The premise of Mulk is bold and daring. In a country that is drowning in an orgy of political correctness, the premise of the movie stands out in high relief. Talk about belling the cat!

The story reveals at a fast clip and there is no needless dawdling. The makers of the film don’t try to spoon-feed you with histrionics and loud acting. The characters are well chosen and look in-character. I was particularly impressed with the character of Bilaal Mohammed (played by Manoj Pahwa). He looks like the simple, big hearted affectionate man that he is. His love for his brother is palpable. His mental trauma when in police custody, makes you clench your fists in a rush of protective rage.

When brought in for questioning, the dazed, vacant look in his eyes, the trance-like, monotonous manner in which he repeats, Hum Bilaal Mohammed hain. Shahid aatankwadi thha. Hum uske baap hain. Humko kuchh nahi pata, just about breaks your heart. You want to whisk him away from that pain and let him go back to being the generous simpleton that he was.

The movie brings out most of the points of contention between Hindus and Muslims. Whether it is the question of the azaan blared on loudspeakers five times a day or the way Muslims are supposedly told to ‘Go to Pakistan’ at the drop of a hat, the movie trots them all out. To the best of its limited scope, it also tries to find middle ground.

Actually, the finding the societal middle ground seemed to be the theme of the movie… initially. In the person of the judge, the society happily exonerates Murad Ali Mohammed of the charges imposed on him. But not before he – and the Muslim community through him – is asked to keep an eye on their kids lest they get co-opted by jihadis. A slap on the wrist and that’s all there is to it.

The audience goes home happy because the community, from which boys are taken to be groomed into instruments of destruction, has been reprimanded. What more could one ask for? The middle ground has been found! How perfect!

That’s when you take a look around the place you have been deposited in by the rapidly flowing water.

 

(Source: MumbaiLive)

Aarti (played by Tapsee Pannu) is a Hindu girl and is Murad Ali’s daughter-in-law. It is she who fights the case of Bilaal Mohammed and Murad Ali Mohammed to get them acquitted. When she and Aftab married, there were no objections from the families of either side. Yet, after two or three years of marriage, when the couple decide to start a family, he insists that the children to be born must be Muslim. Naturally, she cannot understand it why the religion which wasn’t an issue at the time of their marriage has become an issue when it came to the kids. Two members of the family who knew of the issue, both try to convince her that Aftab was right. To them it was self-evident that the kids born into the marriage must be Muslims. Incidentally, the issue is left unresolved, in the movie.

The treatment of the character Santosh Anand (played by Ashutosh Rana), the public prosecutor, is a study in how to whittle down a giant. Ashutosh is a powerful, forceful and intense actor. In the movie, his character was made a laughing stock. His arguments, even acceptable ones, are invalidated because he is made to deliver them in a manner that makes them sound ridiculous.

The giveaway is the allusion to the 1984 riots against Sikhs and the 1993 Bombay riots to offset the perception that almost all riots find the Muslims at odds with and as aggressors against another community, that the entire narrative is meant as a studious exercise for exculpating one particular community. But these misappropriations aside –since neither was the 1984 riot a case of animus between two communities and nor were the belligerents in the 1993 riots Hindus– since when have riots and concerted acts of jihadi terrorism been identical? One is born of a mob frenzy almost always instigated with an overt act of aggression and a response from survival instinct, the other is a carefully planned act of deliberate violence by a few individuals prompted and legitimised by a religious ideology. There can be no similarity between the two. Yet, a decided attempt was made to make the two look the same.

The taunt to ‘go to Pakistan’ that is on occasions dealt to Muslims at their patent allegiance to religion over country, is portrayed artfully in the manner of xenophobic hostility against immigrants in Western countries –true or alleged– as the worst form of offence comparable with and almost justifying acts of terrorism.

In the movie, terrorism is defined as the unlawful use of violence and intimidation specially against civilians in pursuit of political or social aims. With this definition, the whole issue of jihadi terrorism is normalized by saying the other societal conflicts like untouchability which are not religion-specific, claimed violence against adivasis and oppression of higher caste against lower castes, are also acts of terrorism.

In a supercharged courtroom scene, the audience is delivered a subliminal message, right across their windpipe. The message is, ‘who are you to throw the first stone. Look within yourself first’ – in effect rebuffing all criticism of Islamic terrorism at once!

The battle is lost right in that moment, without firing a single argument. The soldiers weren’t asked to surrender; they threw their arms away voluntarily because they did not think they had the moral right to be armed. This is how you defeat the opposition, not with better arguments, but by turning them against themselves.

No doubt it was a master stroke. Likening terrorism to other social evils, was excellent strategy. There are two ways to shorten a line. Since rubbing out the line was prohibited, a longer line was drawn next to it. When I am told that the crime of a loaf of bread stolen by a starving man is at par with the crime of a premeditated murder, or that a bullied boy who hits out in retaliation to defend himself is same as the brute who has intimidated and battered him repeatedly over time, there is nothing left to say.

 

Director Anubhav Sinha (Source: SpotBoye.com)

Yet, in the movie, the audience is irritably told to understand the difference between the beard of a good Muslim following his sunnat and the beard of Osama Bin Laden. Why, pray?

If you can equate isolated instances of violence against ‘Dalits’ (reports of which are highly dubious to begin with) with a planned bombing that killed hundreds of people, or an attack like that of Mumbai’s 26/11, why may the owners of two identical looking beards not be taken to share the same ideology?

Mr Anubhav Sinha is to be congratulated though. He made a valiant effort to prove that a bomb is as dangerous as a punch delivered in a fist-fight. Perhaps the ruse did work on some people.

 

 

Cover Picture: (Source: Clipper28)

 

Author: ‘Dagny Solis a passionate bibliophile. Her love for the written word is deep and enduring. She is a writer/ blogger and freelance editor. She edits fiction and non-fiction including novels, corporate communications and documents, as well as short stories, articles and blog posts. She has three almost adult children who try to keep her in line in matters of behavior and apparel. She can be contacted at: dagnysmail@gmail.com

Published: Aug 10, 2018

 

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