Secularism returns to Bollywood: Mahesh Bhatt

Retired director Mahesh Bhatt has some reflections on secularism in Bollywood cinema on Sabrang. He lauds the 'golden years' of Hindi cinema -- the 1950s and 60s. This was when poet-lyricists like Sahir Ludhianvi and Kaifi Azmi wrote some of the most memorable classic popular songs in Indian history -- in rich, flowering Urdu.

Bhatt also believes that Bollywood went through a 'dark' phase in the 1990s, with a trend towards anti-Muslim cinema. The main example he gives is Gadar, though one can can easily think of some others: Sarfarosh, Fiza, Mission Kashmir. (My colleague Amit S. Rai has an essay on these films of late 1990s "cinepatriotism" at Shobak.)

Bhatt feels that moment may be over, and he cites the popularity of last year's colorized version of the classic Dilip Kumar film Mughal e-Azam as proof. I might also add Main Hoon Na, which tried to make Nehruvian secularism seem hip again.

Let's hope he's right.