This is my Mulk — what I liked, and differed with, in this remarkable film

Anubhav Sinha's movie makes you question those who question Muslims. It makes Muslims question how to navigate a vortex of identities. And it questions the 'us' versus 'them' mindset hurting India so deeply now

 |  5-minute read |   06-08-2018
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The movie Mulk is a courtroom drama where an entire Muslim family has been implicated on charges of terrorism after one of the youths in the household is found to be involved in a bus bombing.

rishi-kapoor,-taapse_080618034628.jpegMulk is a tense courtroom drama which raises difficult questions. (Photo: India Today)

The Judge hearing the case, played by Kumud Mishra, represents the voice of reason and sanity in the film. As the movie draws to a close, he delivers his speech and judgment. He admonishes the Muslim family for not being able to actively check their kid’s exposure and actions – who they meet, what they hear, how they perceive the world around them. It is important to acknowledge that Islam is often misused for politics and power – this acknowledgement will be the first step towards a solution.

kid_080618042713.jpgSoft targets: More and more children see visuals online that are often deeply disturbing. (Representative image: Reuters)

I could completely relate with this as many Muslim mothers have shared similar concerns with me while I was writing my book Mothering a Muslim. Most mothers I spoke to felt especially vulnerable about their children — how does one know which well-packaged ‘jihadi’ idea will seem attractive to our children? Especially now, when they are growing up in an atmosphere of increasing intolerance, being bullied about their religion, and are being told to ‘go to Pakistan’ or being called ‘terrorist’ in the playground? How do you stop young kids from seeing disturbing visuals, like ISIS beheadings in Syria or Muslim lynchings in India? 

They get such videos forwarded on WhatsApp. They are young, impressionable, and being pushed into a corner. We as parents have to be ever more vigilant – both for the physical, emotional as well as mental safety of our children.

Further on in the movie Mulk, the Judge tells Murad Ali Mohammed, played by Rishi Kapoor, that if anyone ever questions the Muslim citizen’s equal claim over India, then to hand them photocopies of the Preamble to the Indian Constitution. The Judge further states, those indulging in bigotry are fringe elements, do not react to them. By reacting to them, you bring them to the mainstream. 

kumud-mishra_080618034911.jpgBeing rational: The judge, played by Kumud Mishra, represents the voice of sanity in the film (Photo: Twitter)

Here is where I do not agree with the movie Mulk – it is not ‘fringe elements’ who need reminders of the Preamble to our Constitution. Our not reacting to them will not stop their venom on national television, in national political rallies or in Parliament. 

This is no 'fringe'. 

But yes, I still believe many more who are silent today will someday speak up, through their words or votes, and push these elements truly to the fringe. To that effect, the contribution of the movie Mulk will be immense.

The fact that a movie like Mulk exists shows us how mainstream the conversation around 'us' and 'them' is. Who has been more wronged? Who has been the ‘real’ victim? 

Our nation seems to have been politically locked into this debate. 

Have the Muslims greatly benefited from ‘appeasement’ and is the Hindu ‘khatre mein’? As one of the closing arguments in the film goes, such debates in today’s times will only take us 5000 years back. We don’t need to be in the race for greater victim-hood — we need to be walking ahead together, that being the core foundation of India and Indian-ness.

The movie Mulk needs to applauded for walking a tightrope with a steadfast grip on script, drama and messaging. It is indeed a movie that every Indian today needs to compulsorily watch as there is much to relate to and learn from for every community and every audience. The movie makes us think about three important ideas for today’s times – citizenship, terrorism and prejudice.

When Ali Mohammed says, 'Who are you to welcome me into my own home?', we are made to think about how the rhetoric of ‘giving space’ to Muslims in India is an incorrect premise to begin with.

rishi-kapoor_080618034938.jpg'Who are you to let me live in my own house?' Mulk highlights how wrong some of our political rhetoric is. (Photo: Rishi Kapoor's Twitter)

When the anti-terror squad’s SSP, played by Rajat Kapoor, gives us the textbook definition of terrorism — Unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in the pursuit of political or social gains – we are reminded that ‘khaali kissi ko maarne se nahi hota aantankwaad’. That is, terrorism is not just the killing of human life but also, the pushing into a corner of a person or community through various forms of intimidation. Can you imagine how many different countries, religions, communities, sects, leaders of all colours could be termed 'terrorists' via this argument?

Lastly, when the judge pulls up the inspector for his single-minded obsession with the culpability of the entire family, he asks not just the ATS officer, but all the viewers to rethink how we blindside people and possibilities through our prejudices. 

These prejudices are ingrained in us through various forms of communication – via the WhatsApp ‘university’, the fake news factory, the legitimisation of fake news through television debates and political speeches, the neighbourhood uncle, the extended family cousin. 

Also, this is not one sided — it is actively prevalent in both Hindus and Muslims, and often handed down through generations, then reconfirmed and flaring up through political discourse. 

This prejudice has only one goal – to divide India and Indians into 'us' and 'them' – often timed with impending elections.

Mulk will be remembered for giving perspective to many issues in India but the one lesson that is the need of the hour is best summarised in this dialogue from the movie – ‘Apna chashma saaf kijiye, duniya saaf hojayegi’ . That is: clean your glasses, the world you will see through it will also clear up.

Also read: 'Mulk' is an engaging film — but could have hit harder

Writer

Nazia Erum Nazia Erum @nazia_e

Nazia Erum is the author of the critically acclaimed and bestselling book, 'Mothering A Muslim'. She writes on the intersections of gender, faith and politics.

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