Note : This is NOT a film review.
Warning : Long , rambling post ahead.
Now that the noise over SRK’s MNIK has subsided, I guess it is safe for me to come up with my thoughts on this movie.
First, the positives.
It was a nice film, had a nice flow, was witty at times and funny at others. Mostly, it appeared to be an honest take on the lives of people (read , muslims) post 9/11. The things I liked about it were :-
– SRK, in a role where he didn’t have to throw back his head, arms spread out, and breathe in deeply with a dimpled smile to woo his lady love. What a relief!!
– Kajol, looking good, acting every bit her age in a role which was believable.
– SRK, who surprisingly, knows his ‘Kalmas’ , ‘Surahs’ and ‘Duas’ in Arabic. His recitation and diction were impeccable. I had this impression of him being a totally non-religious person. But the way we uttered those prayers were truly authentic. By the way, its not easy to mug up arabic prayers from the Quran. It can come only through year’s of practise in reciting them.
–No irritating dance and song numbers. THANK GOD!!!
– Zarina Wahab. I had no idea I was sick of watching Rakhi, Farida Jalal and Reema Lagoo in motherly roles, until I saw Zarina Wahab. What a refreshing change indeed!!
And now for the negatives …..
The points I will list here are not the real negatives per se, but they are the points where I feel the movie scores low. I have reasons for those points and I’ll try to make my views clear. Most of the readers may not agree with them, but then , it is natural. At many points, I may go off on a tangent and appear to discuss another matter altogether or I may appear to be ranting, but believe me, its all rooted to this movie.
Anyhow, here goes :-
– I couldn’t understand why an innocent Muslim has to be portrayed by an Autism patient. Couldn’t we have SRK playing a normal healthy muslim who is innocent? It is a known fact that autistic patients, irrespective of any religion, are devoid of hate/crime . They are truly innocent. If the director wanted to prove that there are innocent muslims out there who are targeted wrongly, he could have done so more convincingly with a normal muslim, one, who is more capable of expressing how it feels to be targeted wrongly. But I guess, it wouldn’t have worked at the box office. The director knows that the majority of the population holds muslims guilty for all crimes under the sun and doesn’t want to shake that notion. Else, who would come to watch his movie?? The minorities? I doubt.
– too mush of Islam. Which I guess is needed, but not like this. Not wrapped up in candy floss and bundled and thrown at us this way. I agree we muslims chant our ‘Surah’s ‘ anytime we feel like. We recite the prayer ,‘Inna lillahi wa inna ilahi rajioon’ (We come from this earth and we go back to the depths of this earth) when we hear of someone’s demise. We give ‘zakaat’ * (religious tax) every year which is other than the regular ‘Khairat’ (charity).
When we were kids in school, we had the entire Ramayan and Mahabharata as a part of our syllabus. We had separate books for the two. And I wondered then, why didn’t we have more information on Islam or Christianity or even Sikhism?? Why were these religions relegated to a single paragraph each? Why not cover more on it? Though, the books did manage to mention , even in that confined space, that Islam permits four marriages (the innumerable terms and conditions are conveniently ignored ) and eating meat (There are Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Parsis and most other religions which don’t prohibit meat-eating. Yet, this ‘Meat-Eating’ title is reserved for muslims. Why??)
Anyhow, I digress.
My point is, the movie was more like a lesson is Islam, where the director preached every possible facet of the religion in a span of 3 hours. Well, 3 hours aren’t enough to understand Islam, but for a movie which a public pays to watch, it was too much. Either way, it didn’t work.
– The not-so-plausible romance. Well, Rizwan Khan is cute. He’s persistent. He’s in love. Its easy to see why he falls in love with Mandira. But tell me, why does she fall in love with him?? Why does she marry him?? Because he shows her the San Francisco skyline at dawn? It was cute to see SRK doing the blushing act when Kajol asks him to marry her…but all the while, I couldn’t help having this niggling thought that the proposal just didn’t click! Or was I the only one?
– Supporting characters. How desperate were Sumit Raghavan, Arif Zakaria, Praveen Dabas , Navneet Nishan and the rest to pick up roles that gave them a maximum of 2-3 minutes of screen time? Was the banner that was the bait or was it the tag of acting in a ‘monumental-coming-of-age-movie’ by Karan Johar (by the way, I personally feel, KJ came of age long time back when he made KANK. If that isn’t being grown up, what is?)
Whatever the case, it was sad to see talented veteran actors, who have held their own in substantial movies, being relegated to the sidelines in roles that could have been performed by any 2-bit actor. Sheer waste of talent!!
– Reel after reel depicting Rizwan’s heroism and tenacity. I can’t help but roll my eyes in dismay at the way in which he’s the ONLY one in the whole of America to come to the rescue of residents of Wilhelmina. He’s the one who’s not afraid to offer ‘namaz’ even at the risk of missing his bus (irrespective of the fact that at no other point in the movie was he shown praying.Or did I miss out that part??).
Also, at no point in his journey does he run out of money. How much did he manage to carry in that sack of his?
– The gentle, subtle insinuation that all whites are mean and the blacks are decent, loving peaople. Why the disparity?? Aren’t blacks equally proud of their country and vary of terrorists?? Then how come they all trust Rizwan , whereas the whites hate and suspect him at sight??
Coming back to the issue at hand, about the treatment meted out to muslims. Well, it didn’t all start with 9/11, did it? It started a long time before that.
With Dad being in the armed forces, I never really had a chance to see what discrimination on religious basis feels like. But I did get to taste it once I got to staying on my own. Like the time I was hunting for a PG accommodation during my post-graduation days. I had classmates who were paying guests and they introduced me to their land-lords. There were rooms available and when I used to enquire about them, I was welcomed warmly. Surprisingly, ALL the vacancies got filled in as soon as they heard my name. Too much of a freaking co-incidence!! And oh, there was this one lady who was honest enough to state that she didn’t want to entertain a muslim. Frankly, I was too shocked to even ask why!
When I narrated this tale to the BF, he just smiled ruefully. “Welcome to he real world”, he told me. And then he started off on how, throughout his childhood, he was subjected to discrimination. Like the time his teachers called his parents to school and asked them to pull him out of it because they couldn’t see him going anywhere in future, and it would save the parents the hassle if they could kindly get him a job in a garage or some such place so that he learns to earn his living. This, in spite of the BF being the most popular boy in his class and getting elected as class representative year after year, in spite of him being an excellent sportsperson, in spite of him scoring the highest in the IQ test held in his school . Thankfully for the in-laws, better sense prevailed and they made sure that the BF and his siblings got the best education possible.
This is just one incident in his life. There were many more like this. When he was sent on site the first time, he had to make his own living arrangements which would be later reimbursed by the company. The BF had gone with a hindu friend. Surprisingly, his friend got a PG accomodation within 2 days, and though that place had vacancies, they wouldn’t give it to the BF. Obviously, the BF’s friend was quite embarrassed and ready to give up the place himself. But the BF convinced him to stay back and hunted for another place on his own. One place did take him in eventually…..it was a place rented by muslim students.
Another fellow student and subsequent colleague had a much more sad tale to narrate. He was in Ahmedabad during his school days. His class teacher, mind you, had named all the muslim boys in the class (there were four of them) by the names of Pakistani cities. So my friend was titled Karachi. The teacher, and the rest of the class used to call these boys by their given names. Sometimes, the teacher even went to the extent of asking these “Pakistanis” to go back to their country (whatever that means)! I wonder how it would have felt for a young impressionable mind to face such mindless hate so early in life. I know that when I faced it, I was quite broken. My stern belief in being Indian and being accepted for what I am,was at stake. There were people who actually felt that I wasn’t worth being in their presence. What was my crime? That I was a muslim!!!
I did speak to many of my muslim cousins, friends, colleagues to find out if they have faced any such situation. And should I be surprised to know that they ALL had their own sorry tales to narrate? That they all rued the fact that they have to put in more effort, more patience, just to be accepted for who they are?
Somehow, the movie MNIK touched all these raw nerves and yes, inspite of it being tacky in more ways than one, it is doing good business. It is watched again and again by people in muslim dominated countries. It is watched by people like the BF and my friend/colleague who know that they are discriminated against, for no fault of theirs. It is watched by all those muslims who believe that they are innocent , and not terrorists.
Question is, does anyone believe us?
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