With the politics of polarisation gripping our daily lives, especially on social media, director Anubhav Sinha has come up with Mulk throwing light on topics all of us should look at. The film deals with the issue of terrorism and prejudice against Islam that has divided the society down the middle.
In his fight for the empowerment of Islam, a young Shahid (Prateik) executes a bomb blast in a bus and gets killed in a police encounter. His family in Varanasi faces a social boycott and is even charged with abetting the terror act. And here begins a series of events that put the spotlight on everything that is wrong within our society and system.
The movie strongly depicts the Islamophobia that has plagued our society, but it strives for balance by showing the mirror to Muslims too. Shahid is convinced that Islam is in danger and Jihad is the only way forward. His uncle Murad Ali Mohammed (Rishi Kapoor), meanwhile, believes Jihad is being erroneously used as a tool by misguided Muslims for their own benefit.
Murad’s character is so high on values and principle and that he refuses to accept the body of his nephew, who he believes was a traitor. The scene did get applauded for the sense of patriotism in this Muslim man, but also reminded me of the times when real life Murads were absent in India.
Mulk is not the first film dealing with prejudice against Muslims. Shaurya, Chak De, New York, the list is long. However, seldom does it go into the root cause. “Kya aatank ko sahadat kaha jaa sakta hai,” asks Murad Ali when advised by a group of Muslims to be proud of Shahid’s death. Many can call them fringe who can’t differentiate between shadat (sacrifice) and aatank (terrorism), but the voices against those fringe are sometimes so soft-spoken they can’t be heard.
Sinha has strived to strike the balance seldom seen on screen. While he paints Ashutosh Rana as a Hindu public prosecutor whose hate for Islam clouds his arguments in court, even he raises some interesting points like the rationale behind Muslims celebrations on Pakistan’s victory in a cricket match. “Agar Pakistan ke jeet pe patakhey phodogey, to Pakistani to kehlaogey hi,” replies Murad when told about the ‘go to Pakistan message’ written on his walls. Later in the climax, the judge directs Murad: ”Sambhaliye apne bachhon ko.”
While addressing the marginalisation of Muslims, the film also points fingers at the political origins of the conflict. “If you want to understand the roots of the religious divide, look at the calendar and spot the upcoming election schedule,” the judge says.
While politicians do little to bridge the gap and treat the festering wounds, films like Mulk come as a breath of fresh air. Bollywood could do well with more such films on the issues that really matter for us.