Skip to main content


Swapping musicals for propaganda

The Bollywood smash hit Sooryavanshi

We should all be worried about Sooryavanshi, says Rana Ayyub in The Washington Post. The Bollywood film is “ruling the box office here in India”. It’s also a terrifying look at my country’s attitude to Muslims – “every third frame of the film is a bloodcurdling Islamophobic image”. The Muslim characters are either predators, seducing and kidnapping Hindu women, or terrorist masterminds in disguise. And the hero is an upper-class Hindu whose mission is to school the unruly Muslims in Indian patriotism.

It’s no surprise. India’s Hindu nationalist PM, Narendra Modi, is determined to stamp out Islam in Bollywood. He bullies film directors into making pro-Hindu content and blacklists Muslim actors. It matters because films are influential. In the cinema where I saw Sooryavanshi, the audience “whistled and applauded” every time the Hindu hero sermonised a Muslim to fall in line. Outside the cinema, I felt aware that in New Delhi this month, Muslim prayers have been repeatedly obstructed by Hindu nationalists. Sooryavanshi should be a warning. “After watching it, it’s impossible not to think of Nazi Germany, where Hitler cultivated a film industry that paid obeisance to him and made propaganda films against Jews.” Bollywood must stand up to Modi. If it carries on like this, “it will have blood on its hands”.