Saturday, December 11, 2010

Mumbai Victimized Again - by Bollywood

by Mark Tapson
Two years ago this past Thanksgiving weekend, a team of well-trained, drug-fueled jihadists launched a horrifying attack in Mumbai that has been called “India’s 9/11.” As the terrorists blazed a trial of carnage that stretched on for three days, Aamir Khan, a major Bollywood star, sermonized on his blog that "Terrorists are not Hindu or Muslim or Christian. They are not people of religion or God."

Too many of us keep clinging to that same lofty, non-judgmental cliche, and yet the fundamentalists waging violent jihad, and justifying it with chapter and verse, don’t seem to be getting our politically correct, religiously tolerant memos. And we don't seem to be taking to heart their shouts of “Allahu akhbar!”

On the other side of the world, Brad Pitt seemed even more in the dark than his Bollywood counterpart. After watching TV footage of smoke billowing out of the very room in which he’d once been a guest at the Taj Hotel in Mumbai, he said of the terrorist attacks "I can't begin to make any sense of it, but I'm sure they are doing their best to uncover what was at the base of it."
Seven years after 9/11/01 and he can’t begin to make any sense of it? Allow me to clear things up for you, Brad and Aamir: what’s “at the base of it” is terrorism waged against non-believers and rooted in Islamic theology (coincidentally, “al Qaeda” itself means “the base”).
Now a Bollywood drama addressing the Mumbai massacre has begun. I was curious to see what it's focus would be, and whether it would take Hollywood's well-worn route of moral equivalence or confront this savage ideology head-on. Initially I was intrigued to read lead actor Anupam Kher's description of the theme of the film, Kuch Log:
Out of every terror attack, a story comes out which depicts the life of an individual whose photographs are not printed in any newspaper. Their faces are always in the dark. This movie is based on such people whose lives are affected due to the terror attack.
Quite true. After every terrorist assault or disrupted plot, the media bombard us with the names and faces of the perpetrators, while the victims, those who should most be memorialized, are lost in obscurity, their lives and deaths and identities reduced to tally marks on an ever-growing counter of the victims of worldwide jihad. So a feature film that focuses for once on terrorism’s victims, that honors their tragedy, and that personalizes the rippling, crippling impact of evil, would be a noble endeavor.

But this isn’t that movie. Kuch Log will not be about the victims or survivors of the Mumbai atrocity; it will be about an individual in the Muslim community and how the attacks impact them. Director Mahesh Bhatt says that his intention in focusing on such a character is to change the mindset of Indians who are prejudiced against Muslims, who believe that “the people belonging to [the Muslim minority] have links to terrorism.”

I haven't seen a script or heard any further description of the project. But based on this, it seems the filmmakers have chosen to devote their storytelling skills and resources to depicting the Muslim community as the real victim, the target of Islamophobia and bigotry and ignorance.

Bigotry is reprehensible. And other Muslims themselves are victims of Islamic extremism. But the Mumbai innocents whose bodies were shredded by bullets or grenades; the rabbi at the Jewish center and his pregnant wife who were sexually tortured and murdered; the survivors whose lives will never be the same – their nightmare is less deserving for these filmmakers? Instead, audiences will be entreated to sympathize with those Muslims who may face bigotry that is, frankly, a result of their co-religionists’ bloody fervor.

Hollywood has yet to take a bold, unequivocal stance against Islamic terror. Apparently Bollywood is following its lead. Meanwhile, the names and faces of the true victims will remain in the dark.

(This article originally appeared at NewsReal Blog, 12/11/10)