Straight Angle™: Shyam Benegal and Secularism...
Monday, January 17, 2005

Shyam Benegal and Secularism... 

Today was our Founder's day and the special guest was Shyam Benegal....and his topic for the T.A.Pai Memorial Lecture was "Secularism in Indian Cinema"....nice topic and its really my turf and I can really appreciate many of the issues he raised in the speech....like the depiction of Minorities (Muslims, Sikhs, Christians etc...)...especially Muslims immediately after the partition...he says that Muslims were dealt with Kid gloves throughout the hindi cinema till the 1971 Bangladesh war..this he reasons that the then directors were sensitive that any awkward referrences to the muslims would incite passions and would lead to riots....but this changed with the Bangladesh war, with the two nation theory disproved and thus the percieved need to protect the minority interest in the country too....then the Cinema started showing Muslims in proper light...he is of the opinion that South Indian cinema has been very straight forward towards Muslims....he cited the example of Malayalam and Tamil film Industry....though I am able to agree with his observation with respect to the Malayalam Industry, when it comes to Tamil Film industry, I dont think there has been any thought on the depiction of Minority community....I havent come across a single hero from a Muslim household till now...Even Bombay had a Hindu Hero(but then you can argue the Heroine is Muslim...but then the story is about Hindu Muslim Problem...so I think that wouldnt serve as a good sample....)....thinking of it, there had been no Muslim hero in tamil films...also, whenever a Muslimi is shown(baring a few Puratchi Kalaingar movies, where the enemy is invariably a pakistani, then you have barely any chance other than a Muslim villan), he would be shown as a law abiding citizen, praying five times a day, no booze, no smoke guy, with clean habits and all....similarly, any Orphaned child would go only to a church and inavariably any calamity would be handled by a church...also when there has to be a confession, the hero invariably goes to a church and all those stuff....why should this stereotyping happen....do the Film people think, they are putting a minority community in a safer place by showing them as nice people??.....what is the thinking in the media about the Muslim(for that matter, any Minority) Identity in India???
Does the media say that "Look these people are minority, so they might be trumpled by the Majority, so we are the only ones to protect them and its our duty to create a good image about these people"....is this the media's thought process....if the media would want to think these people as equal citizens, then why do it want to create an image???.....The Media doesnt seem to have any inhibitions, when it comes to painting a Majoritian practice in bad light(It might not be that bad atlast)....
How many advertisements have come with Minority theme???....Why should the ads be only Hindu ads???...Does this mean that only when the Minority can bring money would there be ads on them??....
Another issue that comes to my mind is how easy it is to say Hindi Cinema as Indian Cinema....Whenever Indian Cinema is referred, it invariably denotes only Hindi Cinema...also it seems that when Satyajit Ray was awarded the Lègion d'Honneur award, he said he is a Bengali Director....this created a flutter and he had to explain that he meant the Language in the sense, he takes only Bengali films and not Hindi films....now go back to the starting of this paragraph....


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