Friday, February 01, 2013

Vishwaroopam protesters, irritants without a cause

So I went and heard what Kamal Haasan had to say, and watched his film Vishwaroopam. After watching it, I think the protests against the film were complete rubbish, and entirely unwarranted.

The film is an action thriller on the theme of international terrorism. It is set in New York and the region now known as AfPak, meaning the badlands of Afghanistan and Pakistan.Both the main villain in the movie, played by Rahul Bose, and the hero, played by Kamal Haasan, are shown to be Muslims. This Good Muslim vs Bad Muslim formulation itself is perhaps not very imaginative, but that is the worst that can reasonably be said against it.

As mainstream entertainment cinema, it does what it is supposed to do, which is entertain. There is plenty of action, a bit of song and dance, and a dash of suspense.
It cannot reasonably be considered more offensive than plenty of other films that have been made on the subject of terrorism in recent years, including many that played to packed halls in India. For example, Aamir Khan's Fanaa had him playing a Kashmiri terrorist, which is certainly closer to home than Rahul Bose playing an Afghan terrorist.

We also see similar stories playing out in the daily news with rather alarming frequency, and have, for at least the past 13 years. It's been on TV, there are enough and more clips online, and those who are especially unfortunate have seen some of it live, in places like Mumbai, for example. Those acts have been perpetrated by terrorist groups that operate in the name of Islam. It is known around the world as Islamist terrorism (and if there are terrorist acts by Hindu extremists in the name of Hinduism, it should be called Hindutva terrorism. Denial never changes truths).

As Javed Akhtar pointed out, those fringe elements from the Muslim community who are protesting the film now for showing a certain kind of terrorism in fiction did not come out in protest when there was actual terrorism in the name of Islam in fact. They are accusing Kamal Haasan of projecting Islam in a bad light, but what light do the real actions of Al Qaeda, Taliban and the Lashkar-e-Tayyeba and their ilk project Islam in? People's impressions of Islam have been formed, and ruined, by the actions of those groups, not the cinema of Kamal Haasan.

The kind of people who are protesting now are the ones who give their community a bad name. They should be told to shut up, because they are annoying and silly.

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