January 15, 2008

Javed Akhtar on Hindi films

Dreams don’t offer realism . . . but they are relevant nonetheless as they are often a reflection of our thoughts. In a way, cinema is like a relevant dream as well . . . on decoding it one can unearth the collective psyche of the society.
-- Javed Akhtar

Source: An agencyFAQs report on a talk Javed sahib gave in Mumbai a couple of weeks ago. In addition to the lovely analogy reproduced above, he also made some very interesting and provocative - arguably more provocative than strictly accurate - comments on the history of Hindi films, and in particular of the portrayal of Muslims in Hindi films.

Here's another excerpt:
Further, he insightfully declared that for several years after partition, no film with a Muslim protagonist was made. Finally, in 1960, ‘Chaudhvin Ka Chand’ came along which broke this trend, followed by ‘Mere Mehboob’, both of which has Muslim characters as heroes. “These films, to my mind, were dangerous, because they created ‘Super Muslims’ or unreal Muslims,” Akhtar stated. For instance, such films showed Muslims to be understandably pathans or nawabs living in large ‘havelis’, who talked only in poetic lingo, wore sherwanis all day long, indulged in Mujras/brothels, and sported beautiful women at their arms. “This created a world that never existed!” exclaimed Akhtar.

So then, one saw the era of two categories of Muslims. “The first was who we saw on cinema. The second was my neighbour – an owner of a cycle shop,” smiled Akhtar. This real life Muslim then started believing that his ancestors may have really led the kind of life shown on screen. “As one can see, both these Muslims were far away from reality,” Akhtar said.
It's a nice tight theory, except that there were plenty of films about Muslim characters in the 1950s, as Javed sahib is surely well aware. It would be interesting to ask him how to account for those, or distinguish them as exceptions to his main point. Still, it's an interesting read.


Beth Loves Bollywood said...

This isn't the point at all, but that is a very unflattering picture of Señor Akhtar. It reminds me of Bruce McCulloch's "Cabbage Head."

Filmi Geek said...

Hoo-kay ... not sure what happened there, I thought it was a fine picture when I chose it but the colors are a little befuckled.