Religion

I am an NRI, translated into: no-real Indian.  I follow Indian cinema in my quest to find only one million original films before humanity as we know it disappears.  I will use the term Indian cinema sparingly because I only have access to Hindi films, not Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, Marathi, Kannada, Gujarati and other languages.

One of the criticisms levelled at political parties in South Africa is their blatant canvassing for votes in churches just before a general election.  Members of the Zion Christian Church (ZCC) with headquarters in Moria, in the Limpopo Province have resigned themselves to the fact that they will see mainstream political parties during an election year.  

Kwa-Shembe, with headquarters in KwaZulu-Natal Province also has millions of followers who are only visited when South Africans go to the polls.

Manil Suri, in his novel The Death of Vishnu has a character Mr. Jalal, who is trying to find the essence of religion.  He wants to answer certain questions.  Why do people starve for religion?  Why do they hurt themselves for religion?
 
Indeed, why do they kill one another for God?  Indian cinema has always told uplifting and sad religious stories.  I saw a very painful film at the Toronto International Film Festival when I lived in Canada.  Unfortunately, I don’t remember the title because I was not into Indian cinema at the time.

A Hindu woman married a Muslim man, or was it the other way round?  The husband was a teacher or a journalist I don’t remember, but they moved away from their village to the city and had twin boys.  One day, the Muslim grandfather came to visit them. 

A conflict flared up between Hindus and Muslims while he was in a street with his grandsons.  They must have been eight.  I don’t recall where they found vermillion but they rubbed it on the grandfather’s forehead.  The mobs saw the red dot and left them alone. 

Nandita Das explores the plight of children in her film Firaaq.  A little boy Mohsin (Mohammad Samad), about five years old loses his parents in a religious conflict.  The woman who finds him in the streets asks him if his mother was wearing black clothes.  He says she was wearing a sari.


Mohsin later runs away from her when he sees her husband Sanjay (Paresh Rawal) beating her, but learns something from her, identity for survival.  She tells him he can use his real name Mohsin when he is in her kitchen, but Mohan outside the kitchen.

Her advice comes in handy when he meets ruffians in the bombed city and they ask him who he is.  A child’s mind never fails to surprise me.  I don’t know how Mohsin came to the conclusion that they are Hindu because he says his name is Mohan.

Firaaq showed me the other side of religious conflict.  I have seen many films such as Kurbaan and Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Sathiyo, which depict sophisticated, well-travelled, educated and technology savvy Muslims who fight for their religion.  

I haven’t come across films that show ordinary Muslims who struggle for a living like their Hindu brothers.  

Firaaq does. 


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