The nationalist Muslim
'Phir kisi Salim se mat kehna, yeh mulk uska ghar nahin' - this classic dialogue from Sarfarosh continues to reverberate in Bollywood, 20 years later. Call it a reflection of times, but the Indian Muslim finds him or herself proving his or her nationalism through characters like Sehmat Khan (Alia Bhatt in Raazi, 2018), an undercover agent, who will even get married to the enemy, a Pakistani, to be of service to the nation. Murad Ali Mohammad (Rishi Kapoor in Mulk, 2018) has to prove his innocence when a family member takes to terrorism. Who can forget the women's hockey coach, Kabir Khan (Shah Rukh Khan in Chak De! India,2007)? Accused of giving away the game to the enemy state of Pakistan, the former hockey coach clears his name as he steers the women hockey team to international glory.
The oppressed Muslim
Personal battles or sexuality, a film set in an orthodox Muslim household, seems to serve the purpose of telling a story of freedom. One such being that of Insiya Malik (Zaira Wasim in Secret Superstar, 2017), who aspires to be a singer and uploads videos of her work while dressed in a niqab. A burkha and a lipstick becomes a symbol of oppression and rebellion in Lipstick Under My Burkha (2017) which addresses women's sexuality. The burkha is worn by characters, irrespective of the religion they belong to. Shabana Khan (Taapsee Pannu in Naam Shabana, 2017) overcomes an abusive past and becomes an able secret agent.
The modern Muslim
If Shahid (Rajkummar Rao in Shahid, 2013) turns his life around from being an extremist to a human rights lawyer, then Rizwan Khan (Shah Rukh Khan in My Name Is Khan, 2010) afflicted by Asperger's syndrome, goes around the world spreading the message - 'My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist' after 9/11. Psychologist Jehangir 'Jug' Khan's (Shah Rukh Khan in Dear Zindagi, 2016) religion hardly matters as he floors his patient Kaira (Alia Bhatt) and the audience with his wisdom. It is the same with Alizeh Khan and poetess Saba Taliyar Khan (Anushka Sharma and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, 2016). These modern and sexually aware women are not apologetic about their choices or their lives, even if it means leaving the men behind - Saba's ex husband Tahir Taliyar Khan and Alizeh's ex husband, DJ Ali (Fawad Khan). Wrestling champion Sultan Ali Khan and Aarfa Hussain (Salman Khan and Anushka Sharma in Sultan, 2016) carry their religion lightly.
The secular Muslim
The eternal quest and celebration of Ganga-Jamuna sangam continues. And the foremost film that comes to mind is the royal romance of Mughal King Akbar and Rajput princess Jodha (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan and Hrithik Roshan in Jodhaa Akbar, 2008). It is a historical drama based on Akbar The Great's fair and secular beliefs. It's a strain that continues in another historical film based on the passionate love story of Maratha Peshwa Bajirao and his Muslim wife, Mastani (Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone in Bajirao Mastani, 2015). Who can forget the staunch Hindu Bajrangi's (Salman Khan in Bajrani Bhaijaan, 2015) determination to help Munni (Harshaali Malhotra), a Muslim girl, reach her home in Pakistan? The bonding between people of two religions and two feuding countries met with resounding success at the box office as well as won numerous awards.
While the above Muslim characters are making their way to bring back the lost glory of Muslim characters in Hindi films, the stereotypes continue. These include classic book adaptations set against terrorism in Kashmir (Haider, 2014 and Fitoor, 2016) and underworld (Raees, 2017; Haseena Parkar, 2017 and Gangs of Wasseypur series, 2012)