Riz Ahmed disgusted, Arif Alvi disappointed by ‘Islamophobic’ Indian film ‘Sooryavanshi’

While filmmaker Rohit Shetty has responded to the backlash he is receiving for his Muslim villains in Sooryavanshi, British actor Riz Ahmed has expressed disgust and Pakistani President Arif Alvi, disappointment, in the ‘Islamophobic’ Indian film starring Akshay Kumar.

In his clarification-cum-counter narrative presented to The Quint, Shetty had asked why his Hindu villains in previous films did not draw similar ire. He went on to assure that there was no specific agenda behind making villains out of a certain caste or religion. But an article in the Washington Post explains why Sooryavanshi’s success at the box office should worry us all and Ahmed, as well as Alvi, shared it on their Twitter with the prior making a disgusted face while the latter wrote, “Dangerous for India. In this Islamophobic hatred, India will destroy itself. No less, I hope and pray that sane elements within Indian society prevent this.”
 

Alvi went on to quote Milton Kandera, who had said, “The first step in liquidating a people is to erase its memory. Destroy its books, its culture, destroy its history. Then have somebody write new books, manufacture a new culture, invent a new history. Before long that nation will begin to forget what it is and what it was… The struggle of man against power is the struggle of memory against forgetting.”
 

Rana Ayyub, who had written the article highlighting the ‘Islamophobic’ elements in Sooryavanshi, tweeted about the same, reinstating that one of the biggest films in Indian theatres today, is “yet another exercise in criminal Islamophobia that seeks to normalise Narendra Modi’s anti-Muslim agenda. She claimed that it “feeds into the Muslim as terrorist narrative.”

Starring Kumar and Katrina Kaif, with cameos by Ranveer Singh and Ajay Devgn, the project became the first to be screened in Indian cinemas after an 18-month hiatus due to Covid-19. Sooryavanshi bagged 100 crores in its first week of release after cinema-starved audiences rushed to see it on the big screen.
While Shetty’s directorial garnered rave reviews, many criticised it for portraying Muslims as the bad guys. And after keeping mum on the matter, the filmmaker addressed the issue in an interview with The Quint. “If I ask you one question, Jaikant Shikre (in Singham) was a Hindu Marathi. Then in Simmba, Durva Ranade was a Maharashtrian. The negative forces were Hindu but why isn’t that a problem?”

Shetty further added, “If there is a terrorist who is from Pakistan, what caste will he be? It [the debate] has changed my view about a few journalists whom I used to like. That oh, they are portraying it like I have seen in brackets somebody writing bad Muslims being preached by upper-caste Hindus, which is very wrong. We never thought that way.”

The filmmaker then questioned if there was a sleeper cell that the film is talking about, what caste would it represent? He went on to claim that if the portrayal was wrong, everyone would have objected to it “but only a small segment did. If they are objecting, it is them who need to change the perspective and not us.”
Ayyub, in her Washington Post story, called a scene in Sooryavanshi, where a young Muslim man, who watches his wife being killed in the name of jihad, “nauseating.” She mentioned how the head of the terrorist group, who came to recruit this man, killed her in cold blood. Soon after, the viewers can see the husband and other men praying as they gear up for an attack.

“The film stokes the dangerous ‘love jihad’ conspiracy, which paints Muslim men as colluding to seduce or kidnap Hindu women or girls and convert them to Islam. But other Islamophobic tropes are the center of the film,” she added, reinstating how Kumar, “a big fan of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and an actor famous for his jingoistic, hyper-nationalist films,” was starring in it.

In March last year, Kumar had told PTI, that to him, there was “only one religion and that was being Indian,” and his upcoming film Sooryavanshi would reflect that. The actor claimed the film’s story would not view the world through the lens of religion. “I don’t believe in any religion. I only believe in being Indian and that is what the film also shows. The idea of being an Indian and not about being a Parsi or a Hindu or a Muslim, we haven’t looked at it on the basis of the religion,” Kumar had asserted.
Asked if the film was more relevant in times of communal unrest in India, the actor said, “It is a coincidence, we haven’t made it deliberately. But, yes, it is very much a relevant film today.”

However, according to Ayyub, “The film does not even pretend to mask its agenda,” as every third frame presents a bloodcurdling Islamophobic image. She notes that while the upper-class Hindu character played by Kumar gives lessons in patriotism, “the Muslim antagonist responds with hate. He is ungrateful, with a long beard and skull cap. Each time the protagonist sermonises the Indian Muslim to fall in line, the audience in the theatre, where I saw the film, whistled and applauded.”

On the contrary, according to OpIndia, both Sooryavanshi and Family Man are being dubbed ‘Islamophobic’ shows by ‘liberals’, despite “peddling fiction and portraying Islamic terrorists as victims of atrocities committed against them by Hindus.” The Indian portal called Ayyub a ‘habitual fake news peddler’ who “took offense at the portrayal of Muslims in the movie.”

However, it’s safe to say that Washington Post would not partake in entertaining or propagating any “fake news” via its platform.

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