Magadheera and the Honorable Muslim

So, I finally watched, Magadheera, yay!  It’s just as good as everyone said it would be, like Bahubali but only slightly less so.  And the hero has beautiful hair and the heroine is spunky and the special effects are super, and it has one sequence that was just jaw-droppingly beautiful:

It starts out just “kill a 100 men so you can show off a lot!”.  But then it turns into this sort of endurance effort to show the triumph of the human spirit and soul and nobility, because he is proving himself to his ancestors and his warrior spirit.  And then it goes from being bravado to triumph of spirit, to just pure “I must do this for the person I love.”  It didn’t even feel romantic to me, more in that “mother lifts a car off her child” kind of arena.  Which is why it was so powerful, it turned into something completely selfless and loving and triumphal.

Anyway, I don’t want to talk about any of that.  No, what I find interesting in the clip above is the how the Muslim enemy leader comes to respect our hero’s bravery and achievements.  Which was a huge relief, because it meant the Muslim character in this movie was going to be an “Honorable Muslim” instead of a “Rapacious Muslim.”

The Honorable Muslim has a much longer history in Indian film, going all the way back to colonial times.  For instance, the ruler in Pukar (1939) who is horribly conflicted when his own wife runs afoul of his laws and he must decide whether or not to punish her.  These Muslims are learned, intelligent, respectful of bravery and love, and above all, they follow the rules.


The greatest of these, of course, was the Emperor Akbar in Mughal-E-Azam.  In the climax, he weighs all of India against a promise he made to a lowly serving woman twenty years ago, and finds that keeping his word weighs more than his power and empire.


Hrithik was a recent, hotter, version of the same ruler.  And like the Prithviraj original, he was still obsessed with right and wrong, promises and vows, and doing the right thing.


But, unfortunately, this version of the Muslim ruler is becoming more and more dangerous to present in India.  Jodha-Akbar was greeted by riots.  More recently, just the suggestion of a TV serial on the life of Tipu Sultan was greeted by this terrifying interview with the BJP national secretary.

So when I was watching Magadheera and suddenly the rampaging Muslim hordes were introduced, with all their green silk everywhere (green silk=both super Muslim and super degenerate), I got very nervous.  And then we get to this scene, where we have the bloodlust crazed Muslims desperately fighting against our lone brave Hindu man who is trying to protect his threatened woman.  Now I am not just nervous, but a little disgusted and wondering if I need to start boycotting Rajamouli.

But then he turns it around!  Thank goodness!  Our honorable Muslim ruler recognizes the nobility of our hero and stands by his word!  And the ultimate message ends up being that the real threat comes from the uppercaste/class Hindu who is just using the artificial threat of the Muslim to support his own ends.

So, SPOILER, I guess:  We find out at the end that Magadheera is not a disgusting piece of fundamentalist propaganda.

14 thoughts on “Magadheera and the Honorable Muslim

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  9. Americans are not impacted by the destruction on thier religion caused by nawabs in a thousand years of invasions, partition of nation, wars and terrorism caused by Pakistan and so on. So your reaction (nervous, disgusted, wondering, boycotting) is understandable and I don’t find fault in it. But the reaction or emotions of an average Indian may not be the same. Infact when I watched the muslim guy lost 100 of his soldiers but appreciates our hero and also does his funeral as per Hindu rituals, it was very absurd and ridiculous. Then the muslim is reborn as christian Solomon after 400 years? LOL how is it compatible with either religion’s judgement day theory.


    • I kind of liked the mish-mosh of religions theory. It matches better my understanding of religion, that it is a guide to reach the divine and we can all use different paths. I liked this character who was an enemy, but could still respect his opponents. And give them a funeral based on their beliefs, not his own. And then be reborn in a different community, but still confirming to his old code of ethics.

      As an American, what really makes no sense to me is thinking of the Muslim community as non-Indian in some way. Because in American history, we have such a strong sense (despite what the radicals are trying to say now) that once you are here, you belong. The idea of going back almost a thousand years and saying that a community is “other” because they only arrived 800 years ago, or really caring about something that happened 500 years ago, is what I have the hardest time processing. America has such a short history, we tend to forgive and move on very rapidly. Maybe too rapidly, there are arguments that a more brutal punishment post-Civil War instead of immediately welcoming the southern states back into the Union could have lead to a better America today.

      On Sat, Jun 24, 2017 at 7:16 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



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  12. Just want to add something about Akbar and Tipu Sultan. Akbar was an honourable, kind and just ruler. And he is held in high regard for this. On the other hand, Tipu Sultan was a zealous, religious fundamentalist and a bigot who was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Christians and Hindus, not to mention the forced conversions. There are still communities in Kerala living outside their homeland whose ancestors have fled his repression. Outrage over him is completely justified. Maybe you should read more about Indian history and politics before being sanctimonious and poking around things that you don’t fully understand.


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