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Bollywood and Hindu Nationalism: a never-ending tale

Updated: Dec 5, 2021

After the demolition of the Babri Masjid in 1992, the spread of Hindu Nationalism drastically increased within India where the Indian identity was exclusively seen to be as a Hindu. Secularism became merely a concept and Bollywood became a source of not only entertainment, but something much larger.

After the change within the Indian political landscape, especially with the rise of political parties such as Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Bollywood became the perfect medium for spreading the idea of Hindu Nationalism within the Indian societal realm. Absurdly fake portrayal of Pakistanis, depiction of Mughals as barbarians, and introduction of religious heroes to instill a sense of Hindu identity are just some of the ways Bollywood transformed.

One of the ways Bollywood films seek to define being an Indian as a “true Hindu” is through a depiction of Muslims and Pakistan in a bad light. In many films such as “Bombay” and “Mission Kashmir”, Muslim characters are made to be terrorists with further links to Pakistan. In other words, Islam is considered as an ideology which threatens the sanctity of the sacred Hindu land, India. Furthermore, it is imperative to consider that such portrayals do not incline with reality at all; for example, in most movies, Pakistan is shown as a rural place with mostly men wearing Shalwar Kameez and wearing scarfs around their necks. The absurdist part is them referring to one another as “Janaab” which rarely ever happens in reality.

Even though these small details might seem to be insignificant, it is imperative to realize the consequences they might have on the audiences. With rising mob lynching and false accusations against Muslims in India, the producers of the Indian cinema have a greater responsibility on their shoulders. Where on one hand, we have actresses like Kangana Ranaut who are capitalizing their political careers based on this Hindutva Ideology, we need others to make a better example in countering such ideologies. Nonetheless, with the deteriorating state of what Bollywood once was and the rise of Hindu Nationalism within India, the future certainly seems to be scary.

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