Enrichment Lecture (E-Series) Sufism in Indian Cinema by Dr. Syed Haider

The next in the series of Enrichment Lectures being organised by the Department of English took place on May 25, 2020. The invited speaker for the lecture was Dr. Syed Haider, Head of Academic Subjects and Quality Lead, Royal HollowayLondon (UK), who delivered an insightful talk on "Sufism and the Aesthestizisation of Muslims and Islam in Bollywood".


The fulcrum around which the Talk revolved was an analysis of Muslim representation and the narrative treatment of Islam in Indian cinema (Hindi films, in particular). Dr. Haider shared that such a representation is a way of reflecting on Muslimhood in contemporary India, something that both shapes and is shaped by the social imaginary that constitutes the Indian public sphere.


Dr. Haider further emphasised the co-existence of the political and the aesthetic spaces of Muslim modernity through the example of two Bollywood films, viz. Meenaxi: Tale of Three Cities and The Dirty Picture. He elaborated on intricate details of Sufi elements in the multi-narrative picturization in Meenaxi and how the film also faced strong opposition for having employed goddess-like qualities in the title-song for its description of a mortal woman.


Dr. Haider also pointed out the fact that in The Dirty Picture, on the other handthere were not many elements of aesthetic Islam representation, but the song "Mera Ishq Sufiana" - though apparently ill-placed - offsets the narrative, lending elegance and authenticity to a kind of love that transcends carnality. And, that is the beauty of Sufism, which aestheticizes the representation of the cinematic imagination as part of a social dialectic.


The session was then followed by a round of Q&A wherein students from the undergraduate and the postgraduate courses as well as the teachers interacted with the Speaker.