Problematic framing.

Mughal: e: azam, set in Emperor Akbar's court, is revered as one of the best movies to come out of India. Yet, a few weeks ago, the board of Uttar Pradesh ordered the removal of chapters on the Mughals from Indian history books. This seismic shift in Indian narratives and portrayal of Muslims has been taking place since Modi came into power. Its latest victim? The biggest film industry in the world. So how and why did Bollywood become so unrelentingly hateful towards Muslims and Pakistanis?

Let's start with the biggest hits of 2023. In Pathaan, the highest: grossing Indian movie of all time, the villain is a general from the Pakistan Army. In Farzi, the highest: grossing Indian TV show of all time, the villain is an Indian Muslim, but has a mysterious boss above him who speaks in 'Pakistani' Urdu, indicating that even in India's internal issue of fake currency, there's a foreign power behind it. This show recently broke the 'most: watched' record of Family Man, a show where the villain changes every season, but its first and most critically acclaimed season villainized-you guessed it-Pakistan.

The villainization of Pakistan isn't new. In the same way that Hollywood changes its villains based on whoever is bothering them at that time (sometimes the Russians, sometimes Arabs), Bollywood has historically shown most villains to be Muslim 'terrorists' in all their surma: wearing, janaab: uttering glory.

However, the recent change is how exactly they show who the villain is. Previously, 'anti: Pakistan' movies were fewer in number, low in star power, and would often tank at the box office. They would rarely show or take Pakistan's name. The villain terrorizing the population would often be a rogue ex: soldier, a freedom fighter from a banned terror outfit, or someone loosely linked to Pakistan. What is different now is the rise of direct, blatant, and accusatory narratives with which Bollywood movies are targeting Pakistan. The bad guy is the government, the army, the ISI, and by extension, the people of Pakistan. It is as if Modi's Hindutva did not just enter politics in 2014 but made a glamorous debut in the Indian film industry.

Bollywood can easily be divided into pre: Modi and post: Modi eras. Bollywood after Modi is visibly aggressive and nationalist in its narratives. Actors have stopped commenting on political issues and filmmakers have issued apologies for casting Pakistani actors. Movies have become ultra: nationalist in their tone...

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