Friday, June 1, 2012

"Mera kalma hai tu, Azaan hai..."

Anyone who is familiar with the Indian entertainment industry will undoubtedly notice the popularity of Sufi-inspired music and settings within Hindi films. And especially to me, as an enthusiast of both Islamic societies around the world and of secular Indian society, the intersection of Islam and the secular institution of "Bollywood" interests me a great deal.

But what's new about this? Absolutely nothing. Urdu and Sufi-inspired art made its way into the Indian entertainment industry since before Independence. Many lyricists, musicians, singers, and actors were Muslim. Moreover, figures like Mughal-e-Azam's cast of Madhubala and Dilip Kumar were originally from Peshawar. At the time of Partition, much of the Muslim talent in the industry decided to remain in India, and some even adopted Hindu names when Hindu-Muslim riots enveloped the region.

But this is a completely divergent - though important - story.

If nothing is new about the participation of Islamic influences in the industry...why am I writing this post? I'm writing this in response to a song  which isn't exemplary or iconic in any manner, but it illustrates the spark in my mind with relevance to this topic.

The song is "Rab Ka Shukrana" from the film Jannat 2. And from this song, I want to highlight a set of lines from the chorus:

तू ही अब मेरा दीन है, इमान है 
تو ہی اب میرا دیں ہے، ایمان ہے 
You are my religion, you are my faith

रब का शुक्राना 
رب کا شکرانہ 
Thanks to God

मेरा कलमा है तू, अज़ान है 
میرا کلمہ ہے تو، اذان ہے 
You are my kalma, you are my azaan

रब का शुक्राना
رب کا شکرانہ 
Thanks to God

So what's special about these lines? In my opinion, four words -- deen, imaan, kalma, azaan. It's normal to hear rich Urdu metaphors in Bollywood songs, but these seemed very direct to me. For example, kalma refers to the Islamic testimony that 'there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is his messenger'. Also, the azaan is the famous (sometimes infamous) Muslim call to prayer. 

With such strong Islamic imagery presented in such a sultry song (reference the video) -- one would expect Deobandis or Salafis somewhere in world to have announced a fatwa for likening such sacred concepts to such worldly contexts. It happened with Atif Aslam's "Tere Liye" when the word "khudaaii" was misunderstood to mean "God." It also occurred with AR Rahman's "Chaiyya Chaiyya" when some interpreted the line "PaaoN ke neeche jannat hogi" as slandering the Muslim notion of heaven.

But with "Rab Ka Shukrana" I could only find one lonely voice of protest under the title 'Shirk in Jannat 2 song. 'Shirk' refers to the condemned notion of idolatry and polytheism in Islam.
I was just listening the song Rab ka shukrana .. . i highlighted blasphemous lyrics in the song "rab ka shukrana". i strictly condemn this blasphemous song, it was kind of distorting our beloved religion islam . this pathetic song was sung by a hindu singer mohit chuhan . he and all the crew included in making this song were not suppose to hurt sentiment of billions of muslims . . it should be banned . This film is named as jannat 2 . I just hope that all the Muslims around the world will endorse me. I want all of you to listen this song before posting a comment. Thanks
The fact that neither conservative Muslims, nor right-wing Hindutva parties (like the Shiv Sena) are more opposed to the presence of Islamic rhetoric (or its misappropriation) on the big screen is very encouraging. Perhaps there is greater understanding in society, but I strongly doubt it. I think, at the moment, India's troublemakers have realized that there are more important issues to address as their constituents are protesting the increase in prices and the decrease in the value of the Indian Rupee. 

As for the atheist in me...I couldn't care less about what's idolatry and what's not. It's good music, it's poetry. 

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