Mehwish Hayat’s advice for Bollywood following ‘anti-Muslim’ Sooryavanshi

Film stars Akshay Kumar in the lead
Photo: File
Photo: File

Akshay Kumar’s Sooryavanshi is making millions but it has renewed debate over the consistent negative portrayal of Muslims in Bollywood.

Akshay Kumar’s cop drama is the first film to cross INR1 billion at the box office in just a week after the pandemic. Sooryavanshi was one of the most highly anticipated films given its ensemble cast of Katrina Kaif, Ajay Devgn and Ranveer Singh. Ranveer and Ajay have reprised their roles from previous cop flicks Simmba and Singham, respectively.

After the film was released on November 5, criticism started to mount on director Rohit Shetty for what many people called a “negative” portrayal of Muslims in the film. Previous projects of both Akshay and Ajay have featured Muslims as the antagonists, and Sooryavanshi is no different.

In his defence, Rohit argued why no one objected to his previous films with Hindu characters in villainous roles. 

He went on to say, “If there is a terrorist who is from Pakistan, what caste will he be? We are not talking about caste.”

Sooryavanshi follows a group of heroic police officers chasing terrorists who are staying in India after crossing the border from Pakistan. They are plotting attacks in Mumbai. 

President Dr Arif Alvi was one of the first big names who condemned Sooryavanshi’s “Islamophobic” content, which he called “dangerous for India”.

“In this Islamophobic hatred India will destroy itself, no less,” he wrote. “I hope and pray that sane elements within Indian society can prevent this.” 

Oscar-nominated British-Pakistani star Riz Ahmed shared an article highlighting Sooryavanshi’s problematic content and posted a Face Vomiting emoji with it.

The latest name to share views on the film is Mehwish Hayat who, just like Riz Ahmed, has spoken out against stereotypical and problematic portrayal of Muslims in cinema around the world.

Sooryavanshi is the latest film in Bollywood promoting Islamophobia,” Mehwish wrote. “The tide is turning in Hollywood and I hope that across the border they will follow suit. As I’ve said, if not positive depictions, at least be fair in the way that you show Muslims.”

The trend of showing Muslims in antagonistic roles gained momentum in Bollywood after the Uri attacks in 2016. Uri: The Surgical Strike, starring Vicky Kaushal, proved to be a massive success in 2019, and since the Pulwama attacks a month later, Bollywood has churned out several mega-budget films glorifying the Indian armed forces and raking in millions by showing Pakistan in a negative light.

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