A bonanza of Hindi films with Muslim themes in Abu Dhabi

February 24th, 2009 - 7:25 pm ICT by IANS  

Jodhaa AkbarNew Delhi, Feb 24 (IANS) From Mughal romance “Jodhaa-Akbar” to drama “Mere Mehboob”, a courtesan’s tale “Umrao Jan” to historical “Mirza Ghalib” - Hindi films with predominantly Muslim themes will be in the spotlight at a festival in Abu Dhabi starting Thursday.
“This festival is one of the launch events for New York University’s (NYU) new university in Abu Dhabi, UAE,” Ira Bhaskar, co-curator of the festival and workshop, told IANS.

The festival is called Muslim Cultures of Bombay Cinema and celebrates the rich influence of Muslim cultures on Hindi films from the 1930s to the present.

Professors Richard Allen, chair of Cinema Studies Department at NYU, and Bhaskar, Cinema Studies Department of the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, have jointly curated the festival.

All the films will be screened with English subtitles.

Some of these movies have never been subtitled into English, and Bhaskar says that films like Sohrab Modi’s “Pukar” and Mehboob Khan’s “Najma” were especially subtitled for the festival.

“Apart from the above two, ‘Mirza Ghalib’, ‘Chaudhavin Ka Chand’, ‘Mere Mehboob’, ‘Garm Hawa’ and ‘Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro’ are also subtitled for the festival,” she added.

Getting the rights of the films, especially those over four decades old, was not an easy task for the organisers.

“It was not easy, but we have got good support from the various agencies which are custodians of these films,” said Bhaskar.

In the last few decades, the portrayal of Muslims in movies has taken a dramatic turn. Earlier, Muslims appeared as noblemen, emperors, nationalists and cultured members of society.

Muslim writers also dwelt on subjects such as courtesans, who were central to many films. Now the Muslim face that emerges in most of the movies is that of a terrorist.

“Films reflect contemporary discourses - for instance the current links with crime and terrorism. But films also counter such misperceptions. ‘Jodhaa Akbar’, for instance, uses Akbar and his marriage to Jodha through an imaginative retelling of history to highlight the contemporary aspiration for communal harmony,” said Bhaskar.

Although there is a decline in the influence of Urdu, Bhaskar says Hindi films help preserve it in some way.

“Yes, Urdu has been and continues to be nurtured by Mumbai cinema,” she said.

The festival is being organised by the New York University Institute Abu Dhabi in association with Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage (ADACH) and the Indian Embassy.

Ashutosh Gowariker will be the special guest and will attend the opening ceremony in Abu Dhabi.

In addition, Professor Philip Kennedy, faculty director of NYU Abu Dhabi, Indian Ambassador Talmiz Ahmad, Richard Allen and Ira Bhaskar will be present there.

Other well-known Bollywood personalities to attend the the almost month long festival are J.P. Dutta, Shyam Benegal, Saeed Mirza, Khalid Mohamed, M.S. Sathyu and actress Farida Jalal.

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