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Abstract

In the postcolonial nation state that is India, cinema has become an important tool for propagating the idea of nationalism. In recent times, one of the most controversial components of Hindu nationalism has been the hate campaign against what is termed as ‘love-jihad’, which is deployed as a weapon to mobilize, polarize, and communalize citizens. The Indian Hindi-language film industry, popularly known as Bollywood, has also become a controversial site. In this paper, I argue that if ‘Indian nationalism’ is to be represented as ‘Hindu nationalism’ and ‘Indian culture’ as ‘Hindu culture,’ it logically follows that this majoritarian construction needs the minority ‘Other’ to reinforce this notion of nationalism and culture. To make my point, I shall critically look at the representation of Muslims in contemporary Bollywood films. My analysis deploys Edward Said’s notion of representation and knowledge as imbricated in issues of power, class, and materiality. Using Said’s theoretical framework of Orientalism, this paper elucidates how specific popular Bollywood films in the historical genre have dealt with the liminality of the Muslim ‘Other’ in the nation-space by either representing Muslims in stereotypical ways or by vilifying their image. This paper adopts the textual analysis method (that is, it reads the films as texts). I posit that the representation of Muslims in Bollywood films could be divided into two broad segments: representation of Muslims in the context of ‘love-jihad’ and the effect of ‘love-jihad’ on Bollywood.

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