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Do You Perceive The World Of Cinema As Anti-Religious?

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Recently, Zaira Wasim, who belongs to Srinagar, Kashmir and is a new face in Bollywood, denounced acting as anti-religious since it clashes with her Islamic faith. Her decision stirred up a social media debate, which is multi-layered in many ways. Her decision also highlights the inability of the modern Kashmir to keep up with the changing ethical and social values of modern India.

Cinema is an art which does not need to be portrayed as anti-religious. You can work on your own terms and conditions. Rather it can help bridging the gap between religion and secularism, as this binary is dividing the arts and literatures also and I strongly believe that art is beyond such binaries. For example, you can choose to work in a movie which addresses the subjectivity of religious mindset like how an individual seeks the path of righteousness which begins with projection and manifestation of his existence, and is strongly based upon emancipation of individual self. Films like Barfi, Haider, Khuda Kay Liye and Bol actually prove that film and glamour are not synonymous.

Yes, you can say NO to glamour but rejecting cinema altogether and saying that it is anti-religious will further enhance the gap between religious and secular ethics. For instance, you can make a film on “what kind of challenges Muslims face in the post-war on terror era?” Would it be anti-religious then? Bollywood film “My Name is Khan” actually addressed this issue.

You cannot limit the role of cinema to glamour alone. Film is the need of the hour. It conveys the message in an effective manner. The virtual world is the reality of the day. If you reject this platform, you are only denying yourself a modern mode of communication. By rejecting it you will isolate yourself and it will only harm your cause further. So, in my view, such rejection and denial serve no purpose.

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Zaira’s decision has been welcomed by ultra-conservative Muslims. Clerics are quoting her example. But what these religious scholars are actually missing out on in this episode is the real value of arts in enhancing the creative potential of an individual. It actually addresses many questions regarding the role of Arts and Literature rather the discipline of Arts and Humanities itself and its scope in the world if we imagine it to be religious and a world so full of religious faith.

The growing tendency to label arts as either religious or secular is a death-knell for the growth of discipline itself, especially in the backdrop of imagined and intended religiosity of Pakistani nation as well, because we know, many women cannot be a part of film in this country because they see it as a sinister world which according to them is against their social and religious values.

Pakistani actress Mehwish Hayat who has been awarded with Tamgha-e-Imtiaz (the highest civilian award in Pakistan) is a recent example. The responses to her achievement were reflective of this narrow mind-set of Pakistani society. She is targeted and bashed on social media on the pretext of her connection with the world of glamour and film.

If the youth like Zaira Wasim claims that film as a medium challenges the faith, more and more parents will question the validity of Arts as a discipline and will not welcome their kids pursuing their career goals in this discipline. I am recalling my late grandma who once said to me, “What purpose all these books serve in saving you from fire of hell? You are wasting your time and energies. Why don’t you go for opting a course of Tafseer (Islamic interpretation of Quran) or Tarajma (translation of Holy Quran) to have a better understanding of religion, because after all, it is only your religion which will actually help you on the day of judgment.”

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