Introduction Popular Culture in India is a significant domain

Introduction

Popular Culture
in India is a significant domain of study for it resonates with the mainstream
perspectives and notions of the Indian masses. The field which heavily borrowed
the ideologies of the Western media in the early 20th century now
saw a shift in its imagination of the society in the later 20th
century and the early 21st century wherein the ideas were more
aligned to that of the East, even though
they still continued to be influenced by the oriental frameworks (Mandel 26).
Indian media has henceforth been a significant medium of representation of the
popular views and understanding of the masses. This domain involves quite a lot
of forms of visual culture such as the Indian Cinema, Photographs, Paintings,
etc. However, the most influential and most viewed medium of it all is the
Indian Television Industry and the series and dramas it produces.

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Indian
television particularly the Hindi television dramas are significant
contributors to the field of Popular Culture in India. The Hindi television dramas
hold an enormous viewership across the globe, significantly in the South-East
Asian countries. It hence becomes extremely pertinent to understand and locate
the Indian Hindi Television Dramas as an important contributor to the
mainstream understanding of Indian Culture. From discussing about pressing
issues such as child marriage (Balika Vadhu), sexism (Sasuraal GendaPhool) and
female infanticide (Madhubhala) to patriarchy (Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai),
there is hardly any topic that has not been dealt with in the Hindi television
industry. However the underlying ideologies and the manner of representation of
these serials are largely biased in their own ways. That is, even in their diverse approach,
they fail to extend beyond the common constructs of ideology that typifies a
woman to be either good or bad and therefore fails to represent the reality of
the Indian masses that is originally intended to. Such is the
issue with the representation of the Muslim characters in the Indian Hindi
Television industry.

A vast majority
of the existing Hindi television drams quite rarely portray Muslim characters
as its protagonists and if represented, then the individual is often portrayed
as a threat to the national security, a barbarian or a vicious anti-hero who
perfectly fits into the descriptions of a stereotypical negative character,
similar to the popular representations of the Muslim community in the Indian
popular media (Karim 192). However, the number of shows that even choose to
represent a Muslim character are only quite a few in itself and the those that
offer a Muslim female protagonist are negligible. Misrepresentations affect
various sections of the society in widely different levels taking in accordance
to the parameters of class, caste, gender etc. Hence, the Muslim women
protagonists are largely caught in the stereotypes than the males of the
community while represented in the popular media platforms (Pickering 14). This
paper is hence an attempt to identify and understand the stereotypes that lead
way to the creation of extreme characterisations of the Muslim women  as regressively traditional versus
transgressively modern.

 

Primary text: Qubool Hai

The lack of
ample Muslim representation in the Indian Hindi television media began to be
gradually dealt with by popular television networks in the early 2010s and
later on, with the introduction of a few Hindi television dramas centred around
the lives of Muslim families constituting strong central Muslim characters. Two
of the very early Hindi television dramas released in India that chose to tell
the story of a Muslim protagonist in a positive light, quite different from the
early misrepresentations were Sajda Tere
Pyaar Mein and Qubool Hai, both
produced by Muslim women producers. Hence, both the shows had in them strong
and independent Muslim women characters Aaliya and Zoya respectively. However,
the earlier drama was caught in the regular stereotype of Islamic terrorism
(Saeed 6) and was soon chopped down by the television network but Qubool Hai with its fresh plot
challenged the many misconceptions about the Muslims in the society, soon
ranking the TRP charts of Indian television.

Set in a Muslim
milieu, the show is a family drama that cuts crosswise over eras. It is an
account of the Muslim culture which is so rich but then generally misjudged.
However, in an attempt to nullify and contest the many already existing
stereotypes about Indian Muslims, Qubool
Hai ends up invariably creating stereotypes about the Muslim women which
arouses the question of tradition as against modernity as often seen in the
forerunner. The association of ‘primitive’ to tradition and ‘transgression of
morals’ to modernity are two of the most important counters that Qubool Hai constantly deals with.

 

Research Proposition

This
paper focuses on the politics of stereotyping in Gul Khan’s Indian Hindi
Television drama Qubool Hai, which typifies the Muslim women characters of the
text into either of the two extremes: Traditional or Modern. 

Research Objectives

They
following are the objectives sought to be achieved by this research.

·       
To study the politics of stereotyping
female Muslim characters in Gul Khan’s Qubool
Hai.

·       
To study the implications of the ideas
‘traditional’ and ‘modern’ with reference to the representation of Muslim women
characters in the text.

 

Research Questions

The research is
oriented to find answers to the following imperative questions. They are as
follows:

·       
How relevant is the idea of Tradition versus Modernity in the
context of Gul Khan’s Qubool Hai?

·       
What are the stereotypical associations made to the idea of
the Muslim identity in Qubool Hai?

·       
Why are the Muslim women characters in the drama constantly
caught in the dilemma of having to submit to either of the one preset
stereotype (Traditional or Modern)?

 

 

 

Review of literature:

The following are the significant texts produced in
this field of study that shall hence enable to distinguish this paper from
various other approaches of research.

The paper The Great Indian Soap Opera – Issues of Identity and Socio-cultural
Politics by Ruchi Jaggi, discusses about the various representations women characters
portrayed in the Indian Hindi television dramas who have began to try and
diverge away from the normative rules and structures of the society but have
however failed miserably even after making several attempts (142). The paper
also lays focus on how these reasons in fact block the non judgemental,
unbiased response on the drama from its audience. Hence, the paper attempts to
say that the existent representations of the real condition of women in the
popular Hindi television series and the many various attempts that have made
over time to break these normative ideals of patriarchy is yet again acting as
a an act of stereotyping in itself.

The central idea of this paper refers to
about how the Indian Television dramas centre their contents on the lives of
women but however in the process of their representation, they fail to get rid
of their bias of categorizing women into socially acceptable divisions. This
notion maybe made use of in understanding the idea of tradition versus the
modern in Qubool Hai. By representing
real-life situations with sharp demarcations of good and bad, these serials slowly
deviate from the reality where boundaries between the victim and the victimizer
get blurred. Hence, Qubool Hai a
pioneer in contesting the patriarchal norms that often tend to restrict the
Muslim women community may still be understood as a drama that unconsciously conform
to some of the deep-rooted commandments that control the social structure of
India.

The
text Islamic Peril: Media and Global
Violence and Covering Islam: How the
Media and the Experts Determine How We See the Rest of the World by K.H.
Karim, discuss the problem of stereotyping the Muslim identity in and around
the world as a prominent image of terrorism and warfare (176). The 9/11 episode
may be understood as a critical moment that has re-emphasized this orientalist
idea of the ‘violent’ Muslim (Said 108). This has resulted in a frequent
depiction of the Muslim community across the world with a negative
generalization wherein the Muslim communities are looked upon as anti-nationals
and are depicted as inducers of communal riots and violence. This representation
was later adapted into the world media through popular mediums such as
television, films, etc. which chose to reiterate the commonly accepted
stereotypical image of the Muslim identity. Khan’s Qubool Hai, tries to provide an approach different from the
normative characterisation of the issue of misrepresentation quite unlike its
pioneers.

The
paper Stereotypes of Indian Muslims by
Yousaf Saeed attempts to probe into the categorization of the Indian Muslim
community through a framework of what may be understood as the orientalist idea
of ‘primitive’ and the notion of the ‘civilized/ modern’.

Qubool Hai
tries to challenge the norms and preset boundaries of its female characters by
trying to redefine what may be called as stereotypical in nature. For instance,
the character of the female protagonist Zoya is portrayed as an advanced,
lively, new-age young lady who questions generalizations. She is a young lady
who listens to all but however exert her own agency and ideology at the end of
the day. She knows and regards her way of life but takes effort to abide by the
norms and structures set by the patriarchy. Asad, male protagonist is a rigid
orthodox man in his conviction and ideology. He has disavowed love and has
created a strong wall around himself away from human relationships. He can be
understood as the symbol of patriarchy who has the agency to set certain
parameters and guidelines to evaluate the moral righteousness of the Muslim
women in the drama. Asad and other patriarchal characters of the show such as
Ayan and Rashid generalises the Muslim women in the drama as categorises them
into either two of the two categories – “traditional or modern”         (Saeed 12).

The
text Stereotyping: The Politics of
Representation by Michael Pickering throws open the ideas of tradition and
modernity, which according to Pickering are generally used as parameters to
stereotype the Muslim women as either a victim at the hands of the barbaric
Muslim men or as a liberated woman who wilfully transgresses the boundaries of
her religion to exert her agency. The problem here arises as the subject is
forced to identify with one of the two extreme methods of representation which
invariably leads to the creation of another stereotype.

This
paper investigates how the dialect of custom and innovation or tradition and
modernity affects the identity of Indian Muslim women in Gul Khan’s Qubool Hai. The observation requests a
basic enquiry to see how this idea invokes the question of the problem of
misrepresentation of the Muslim identity. Rather than observing the identity of
the Muslim women as one that has the capacity to contain both the contrasts of
convention and innovation, Indian Muslim women are regularly displayed as
incapable of this conjunction      (Pickering
16).

Method

This
paper will attempt to make use of a text based analysis to understand the
manner in which stereotyping the female Muslim characters in the Indian Hindi
Television dramas shall typify them to the extreme ideas of : traditional or
modern and not anything in between. Hence by engaging with primary text Qubool Hai through a semiotic analysis,
that is, by examining the various signifiers and their overt and covert
implications, the signified meaning of the text, which is indicative of the
inherent issues of misrepresentation, stereotyping and typifying in the text
maybe understood.

Methodology

Orientalism:
Edward W. Said’s Orientalism is be utilised to understand the idea of
stereotyping of the Indian Muslims under the general umbrella term of eastern
Muslims or Arabs. This idea renders the associations of the terms ‘barbaric’,
‘savage’ and ‘uncivilized’ to every follower of Islam in the East (Said 109) .
While the Islam and Muslims were heavily stereotyped and immensely
misrepresented, the Muslim women faced the larger lot of all the
generalisations. Said’s extremely biased views of the Muslims shall be
understood to have led to the creation of regressive image of Islam and its
followers in “Western media’s imaginaries of Islamic fundamentalism” (Pickering
28). These include the turban and shroud worn by Muslim men, individuals
prostrating in Islamic supplication, Arabesque plans, scimitars, deserts,
camels, etc. However, the extent of redundancy of these misrepresentations are
quite few in comparison to the hijab worn by Muslim ladies, which most often
than not subject to constant criticism of it being primordial in nature (Said
84). This idea may be used to realise the innate problem of identification of
the hijab clad Muslim characters as primitive in thought and action in Gul
Khan’s widely acclaimed Muslim drama Qubool
Hai.

Double
Oppression/ Marginalization: Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s theory about the
‘doubly oppressed’ may be made use of to understand the agential limits set to
the female Muslim community who are subjugated and oppressed both by the
patriarchy and the religious extremists (Spivak 9). The can hence be identified
to encounter a ‘twofold tie’ of religious and sex segregation that the Muslim
ladies have been found to confront on the pretext of social suspicions and
generalizations. Their agency is heavily controlled and are most often than not
left secluded even in feminist forums. From British Colonial period to
thereafter this minority community is hence often seen to be either ascribed as
primordial by the feminists or uncivilized by the patriarchy, depending upon
the extent they try to exert their agency.

Implications of the research

Misrepresentations
and stereotyping the female Muslim characters in the Indian Hindi television
dramas maybe understood to have lead to the creation of the extremes: tradition
and modernity, as two binary opposite roles that the Muslim women are forced to
occupy, hence tactfully making the audience identifying these characters as
either primordial or transgressive. These observations are validated by
examining Gul Khan’s popular Indian Hindi television drama Qubool Hai, a pioneer in representing strong Muslim central
characters ever in the history of Indian Hindi television media. This shall
hence help one draw the implication of the existence of a rigid religion based
politics and patriarchal hegemony in the Indian Hindi television industry, that
time and again ensures the representation of subjugated female Muslim characters
in popular dramas. Also, the resonating similarity in the characterisation of
the image of the female Muslim characters to the oriental constructions maybe
understood as the result of re-representing the stereotypical associations made
about the Muslim community into the popular mainstream media. This shall hence
help widen the research possibilities of the study by examining the English
television media to understand the origin and politics of stereotyping the
Muslim female characters, which later led to the construction of traditional
and modern images as the only two roles that a Muslim women is identified with
in the Indian Hindi television.