By M Kanishka Narang (Bangalore, Karnataka, India)
Patriotism these days is confused with Nationalism. While the former entails a healthy respect and regard for one’s country, the latter is the refuge of the scoundrel. While patriotism does not stifle dissent, nationalism forces citizens to toe the line of the majority, or face the consequences. This is strikingly evident in the India of today where people of the minority community are being lynched on the mere suspicion of eating or transporting beef. Even if eating beef is a crime in some states, no one has the right to take the law into their hands and deliver mob justice.
In India, as in many other countries dotting the globe, terrorism poses a serious security threat to governments and people. While the violence that terrorists unleash is unpardonable, Muslims are identified with terrorism and are spoken of in the same breath as Osama Bin Laden or Hafeez Sayyed. Simply put, while most terrorists might be Muslims, the reverse is not true. Sadly, once this stigmatisation begins, Muslims are forced to turn apologists for the cowardly acts of a few misguided youth. Worse still, they might turn to violence themselves. The community carries the burden of proving tits love for the country. This invariably leads to frustration and a sense of rejection.
Mulk, which means homeland in Hindi, is a movie centred around the above theme. Murad Mohammed, played by Rishi Kapoor is a Muslim lawyer in Allahabad with a good name in the community. He is admired for his integrity, broadmindedness by people from all faiths, including Hindus. He strikes a friendship with almost every member of his mohalla. Arti, played by Tapsee Pannu, is a Hindu married to Murad’s son. She is welcomed into the Murad family and treated like a daughter despite her non-Muslim lineage.
But things change drastically for Murad’s family when his nephew Shahid, played by Prateik Babbar gets indoctrinated and joins the ISIS. He plays a key role in a bomb blast that kills 25 innocent Hindus. Within a matter of days, he is shot dead in an encounter by the police.
As TV channels work overtime exposing the terrorist Shahid’s links to the Murad family, the friendly Allahabad neighbourhood suddenly turns hostile. People even gather and pelt stones at his home. The police refuses to file a case against the mob, saying that no one was actually killed and that Murad and his family are suspects in a terror case. The community casts aspersions on Murad family’s patriotism and integrity. Despite the taunts, Murad and his family do not compromise on their principles. They go so far as to refuse Shahid’s body for the final rites.
The courtroom scenes are also a commentary on the popular mood against minorities in India. The Prosecution lawyer, played by Asutosh Rana, is scathing in his criticism of Muslims. He mocks their religious practices and customs, accusing them all of being terrorists. He argues that since Islam promotes polygamy, the only way the high number of Muslims make ends meet is through Jehad. His arguments are laced with sarcasm and contempt for the community. Tapsee Pannu, despite starting on a shaky wicket goes on to puncture the prosecution’s arguments. She manages to prove that the case against Murad’s family is motivated not by justice but by prejudice.
The characters in Mulk are fleshed out beautifully and the Director Anubhav Sinha does a good job of portraying the lazy correlation that people make between the Muslim community and terrorism. Rishi Kapoor ultimately emerges like a Ram in the entire Ramayana of the movie. I would highly recommend watching Mulk as it explores the theme in depth without missing the nuances. What is more, it is very relevant to the India of today.