I’ll be seeing Padmavat tonight, mainly because I haven’t been able to go see a movie in a while, and here it is. A large part of the reason it will no doubt get a big box office, here it is and there hasn’t been anything else for a long time. And also, my friend Dina is free to go with me and I haven’t seen her in almost a month. But, to counteract what I am beginning to hear about Padmavat, I am going to give us a little reminder of all the wonderfully strong female characters that there have been in Hindi film, and all the wonderful historical Muslim characters there have been.
The “Muslim Social” was a standard genre for decades before slowly fading away in the 90s. Plots set in the glorious high culture of Lucknow with elegant courtesans and noble landowners and so on and so on. Here is an all time classic song from an all time classic Guru Dutt film in that setting.
And of course that same era saw Mughal-E-Azam, set in the glory of the Mughal Empire and the founding of modern India.
Another later version of that same glory came in Jodha-Akbar.
Until recently there was slight movement even in modern set films, more and more interreligious romances and Muslim heroes and heroines. Where it wasn’t even the point of the film. Break Ke Baad for instance, which wasn’t a great movie, but it did have a casual interreligious romance.
Daawat-E-Ishq, which WAS a perfect movie, and also was set entirely in the Muslim community.
And of course My Name is Khan, speaking the unspoken and using glorious Islamic hymns to do it.
And before that, another Shahrukh film that acknowledges his religious identity, Chak De, India.
Okay, something slightly happier! Salman’s casual Muslimness in Sultan, not the point of the film, but there in the background in visits to Masjids and in the way they are married.
Another happy marriage one! From a slightly arty film, Tehzeeb. In its own way, a descendant of the poetic intellectual classic Muslim socials.
And finally a glorious cheerful ode to inclusion, which I may have to watch straight through to cheer myself up tonight (unless Bhansali surprises me), Amar Akbar Anthony!
UPDATE: Totally forgot until I remembered in the comments, Bhansali himself has done a Muslim social in the past, Saawariya, which includes this lovely song.