It’s a sign of how explosive the Ayodhya mosque verdict in India could be that several Hindu and Muslim film stars in Bollywood have issued a public appeal for calm once the decision is announced. As we’ve posted here on FaithWorld, an Indian court is due to announce on Thursday whether Hindus or Muslims own land around the Babri mosque, which Hindu nationalists demolished in 1992. The Hindu-Muslim riots that followed killed some 2,000 people. (Image: Priyanka Chopra in screengrab from ANI/Reuters video)
Bollywood, the Bombay (now Mumbai)-based Hindi-language film industry, walks a tightrope in making mass-audience films in what may be the most religiously diverse country in the world. Some of the most popular Bollywood stars are Muslim, although the majority of viewers are Hindu (Muslims make up 13% of the Indian population). Like the actors and actresses in this appeal, many of them publicly work, play and love (see here) across the religious divide. But tensions like those after the Ayodhya mosque riots — including riots in Mumbai itself — have left their scars. Some Muslim writers (see here and here) say suspicion of Muslims is a recurring theme in Bollywood films.
In the video below, the stars mostly speak in Hindi sprinkled with occasional English words. That’s nothing unusual and can be useful as well. For example, when actress and former Miss World Priyanka Chopra says (at 00:48) that “in our country all religions have been living together for so long…”, she uses the English word “religion.” That was a neutral alternative to local words she might have used with either a Hindu (dharma) or Muslim (din) background. (Image: Screengrab of Farhan Akhtar from ANI/Reuters video)
The other speaker, actor-director Farhan Akhtar, urged the media not to “sensationalise” the news of the verdict and switched to English for the rest of his message.
Ranbir Kapoor, Ajay Devgan, Farhan Akhtar, Zayed Khan, Anil Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra cooperated with Mumbai Police for the appeal, delivered last Thursday evening when the verdict was originally expected the following day. The national release of “Anjaana, Anjaani,” a romantic film starring Ranbir Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra, has been put off until Oct. 1 to avoid opening during any tensions.