Ranveer Singh’s latest film has him portray an aspiring Muslim rapper ‘Murad Sheikh.’ ‘Gully Boy,’ written and directed by veteran Zoya Akhtar who has always steered away from Bollywood’s big-budget masala films that despite box office success, fail to leave a mark on audiences. ‘Gully Boy’ helms the new age dawn of cinema in Bollywood, with a more gritty and realistic approach to telling stories, thundering the larger looming cloud of terribly mindless movies that have blinded most filmmakers.
However, Ranveer Singh’s recent post of his look for the film garnered severe criticism, with many saying it’s fracturing an already crumbling portrayal of Muslims across South Asia.
The fact that he’s wearing kohl has always been the pinnacle of many Muslim characters in Bollywood’s history, be it a hero or a villain.
Many were triggered, upset that Bollywood’s persistent portrayal of Muslims was regressive.
Understandably, Bollywoood has had a history of portraying Muslims in a bad light, in particular, Pakistani Muslims for example in ‘Ek Tha Tiger,’ or ‘Main Hoon Na.’
How Indians portray Muslims in Movies vs how they are in reality: pic.twitter.com/CrlNLVCE4V
— ☕️ (@Rizviobviously) February 7, 2019
This is how Bollywood should portray them. pic.twitter.com/lQqnZDPM0m
— Gabru (@Gabru____) February 8, 2019
In bollywood movies kohl is necessary 4 everyone who wants looks like muslim..
— Ammar Mughal (@Ammar_Mughal) February 7, 2019
No muslim guy use surmah at eye like tht..lol whts tht stereotype..
— Maroof | معروف (@That_PengaliGuy) February 8, 2019
However, critiques might be wrong to condemn the picture, because the film is in fact allegedly attempting to fight stereotypes.
“Gully Boy’ depicts Ranveer’s character as an aspiring rapper, despite being a Muslim in burgeoning hip-hop India. Zoya told ‘The Guardian’ “we’re using extremely popular actors to tell a narrative that wouldn’t normally be for a mainstream audience, and that’s what will sell it.” Yes, most Muslims have progressed and while many might not specifically relate to Ranveer’s character, Zoya emphasized how “there’s never enough critique of Indian society happening here.”
The film sheds light on a particular marginalized class of Muslims in India, however many are still wary of how the film might portray these characters, given the dire circumstances within Modi’s India.
According to ‘Fact Checker,’ 76 percent of hate crime victims in the past ten years have been Muslims, with an astonishing 90 percent of these accounted for ever since Modi came into power in 2014. Muslims, or “beef eaters” live in fear in many parts of the more impoverished parts of India. Hindu nationalist BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) has been ushering Hindus to physically attack Muslims – and it doesn’t end there. India’s deeply rooted Islamic history and culture have been either removed or biasedly rewritten in provinces run under the BJP.
The trailer however shows both characters fighting the compounding tropes that many Muslims suffer, and that must be credited and taken into account.
For this disenfranchised Muslim class, India is a terrifying reality for them. So what we’re waiting for is how authentic these Muslims will be shown and whether or not this film does, in fact, curtail the anti-Muslim prevalence in India, or feed into it.