IntroductionPopular Culturein India is a significant domain of study for it resonates with the mainstreamperspectives and notions of the Indian masses. The field which heavily borrowedthe ideologies of the Western media in the early 20th century nowsaw a shift in its imagination of the society in the later 20thcentury and the early 21st century wherein the ideas were morealigned to that of the East, even thoughthey still continued to be influenced by the oriental frameworks (Mandel 26).Indian media has henceforth been a significant medium of representation of thepopular views and understanding of the masses. This domain involves quite a lotof forms of visual culture such as the Indian Cinema, Photographs, Paintings,etc. However, the most influential and most viewed medium of it all is theIndian Television Industry and the series and dramas it produces.Indiantelevision particularly the Hindi television dramas are significantcontributors to the field of Popular Culture in India. The Hindi television dramashold an enormous viewership across the globe, significantly in the South-EastAsian countries.
It hence becomes extremely pertinent to understand and locatethe Indian Hindi Television Dramas as an important contributor to themainstream understanding of Indian Culture. From discussing about pressingissues such as child marriage (Balika Vadhu), sexism (Sasuraal GendaPhool) andfemale infanticide (Madhubhala) to patriarchy (Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hai),there is hardly any topic that has not been dealt with in the Hindi televisionindustry. However the underlying ideologies and the manner of representation ofthese 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 awoman to be either good or bad and therefore fails to represent the reality ofthe Indian masses that is originally intended to. Such is theissue with the representation of the Muslim characters in the Indian HindiTelevision industry. A vast majorityof the existing Hindi television drams quite rarely portray Muslim charactersas its protagonists and if represented, then the individual is often portrayedas a threat to the national security, a barbarian or a vicious anti-hero whoperfectly fits into the descriptions of a stereotypical negative character,similar to the popular representations of the Muslim community in the Indianpopular media (Karim 192).
However, the number of shows that even choose torepresent a Muslim character are only quite a few in itself and the those thatoffer a Muslim female protagonist are negligible. Misrepresentations affectvarious sections of the society in widely different levels taking in accordanceto the parameters of class, caste, gender etc. Hence, the Muslim womenprotagonists are largely caught in the stereotypes than the males of thecommunity while represented in the popular media platforms (Pickering 14). Thispaper is hence an attempt to identify and understand the stereotypes that leadway to the creation of extreme characterisations of the Muslim women as regressively traditional versustransgressively modern. Primary text: Qubool HaiThe lack ofample Muslim representation in the Indian Hindi television media began to begradually dealt with by popular television networks in the early 2010s andlater on, with the introduction of a few Hindi television dramas centred aroundthe lives of Muslim families constituting strong central Muslim characters. Twoof the very early Hindi television dramas released in India that chose to tellthe story of a Muslim protagonist in a positive light, quite different from theearly misrepresentations were Sajda TerePyaar Mein and Qubool Hai, bothproduced by Muslim women producers.
Hence, both the shows had in them strongand 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 plotchallenged the many misconceptions about the Muslims in the society, soonranking the TRP charts of Indian television.Set in a Muslimmilieu, the show is a family drama that cuts crosswise over eras. It is anaccount of the Muslim culture which is so rich but then generally misjudged.However, in an attempt to nullify and contest the many already existingstereotypes about Indian Muslims, QuboolHai ends up invariably creating stereotypes about the Muslim women whicharouses the question of tradition as against modernity as often seen in theforerunner.
The association of ‘primitive’ to tradition and ‘transgression ofmorals’ to modernity are two of the most important counters that Qubool Hai constantly deals with. Research PropositionThispaper focuses on the politics of stereotyping in Gul Khan’s Indian HindiTelevision drama Qubool Hai, which typifies the Muslim women characters of thetext into either of the two extremes: Traditional or Modern. Research ObjectivesTheyfollowing are the objectives sought to be achieved by this research.· To study the politics of stereotypingfemale Muslim characters in Gul Khan’s QuboolHai.· To study the implications of the ideas’traditional’ and ‘modern’ with reference to the representation of Muslim womencharacters in the text. Research QuestionsThe research isoriented to find answers to the following imperative questions.
They are asfollows:· How relevant is the idea of Tradition versus Modernity in thecontext of Gul Khan’s Qubool Hai?· What are the stereotypical associations made to the idea ofthe Muslim identity in Qubool Hai? · Why are the Muslim women characters in the drama constantlycaught in the dilemma of having to submit to either of the one presetstereotype (Traditional or Modern)? Review of literature: The following are the significant texts produced inthis field of study that shall hence enable to distinguish this paper fromvarious other approaches of research. The paper The Great Indian Soap Opera – Issues of Identity and Socio-culturalPolitics by Ruchi Jaggi, discusses about the various representations women charactersportrayed in the Indian Hindi television dramas who have began to try anddiverge away from the normative rules and structures of the society but havehowever failed miserably even after making several attempts (142). The paperalso lays focus on how these reasons in fact block the non judgemental,unbiased response on the drama from its audience. Hence, the paper attempts tosay that the existent representations of the real condition of women in thepopular Hindi television series and the many various attempts that have madeover time to break these normative ideals of patriarchy is yet again acting asa an act of stereotyping in itself.
The central idea of this paper refers toabout how the Indian Television dramas centre their contents on the lives ofwomen but however in the process of their representation, they fail to get ridof their bias of categorizing women into socially acceptable divisions. Thisnotion maybe made use of in understanding the idea of tradition versus themodern in Qubool Hai. By representingreal-life situations with sharp demarcations of good and bad, these serials slowlydeviate from the reality where boundaries between the victim and the victimizerget blurred. Hence, Qubool Hai apioneer in contesting the patriarchal norms that often tend to restrict theMuslim women community may still be understood as a drama that unconsciously conformto some of the deep-rooted commandments that control the social structure ofIndia.
Thetext Islamic Peril: Media and GlobalViolence and Covering Islam: How theMedia 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 aroundthe world as a prominent image of terrorism and warfare (176).
The 9/11 episodemay be understood as a critical moment that has re-emphasized this orientalistidea of the ‘violent’ Muslim (Said 108). This has resulted in a frequentdepiction of the Muslim community across the world with a negativegeneralization wherein the Muslim communities are looked upon as anti-nationalsand are depicted as inducers of communal riots and violence. This representationwas later adapted into the world media through popular mediums such astelevision, films, etc. which chose to reiterate the commonly acceptedstereotypical image of the Muslim identity. Khan’s Qubool Hai, tries to provide an approach different from thenormative characterisation of the issue of misrepresentation quite unlike itspioneers.Thepaper Stereotypes of Indian Muslims byYousaf Saeed attempts to probe into the categorization of the Indian Muslimcommunity through a framework of what may be understood as the orientalist ideaof ‘primitive’ and the notion of the ‘civilized/ modern’.Qubool Haitries to challenge the norms and preset boundaries of its female characters bytrying 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 ladywho listens to all but however exert her own agency and ideology at the end ofthe day. She knows and regards her way of life but takes effort to abide by thenorms and structures set by the patriarchy. Asad, male protagonist is a rigidorthodox man in his conviction and ideology.
He has disavowed love and hascreated a strong wall around himself away from human relationships. He can beunderstood as the symbol of patriarchy who has the agency to set certainparameters and guidelines to evaluate the moral righteousness of the Muslimwomen in the drama. Asad and other patriarchal characters of the show such asAyan and Rashid generalises the Muslim women in the drama as categorises theminto either two of the two categories – “traditional or modern” (Saeed 12).Thetext Stereotyping: The Politics ofRepresentation by Michael Pickering throws open the ideas of tradition andmodernity, which according to Pickering are generally used as parameters tostereotype the Muslim women as either a victim at the hands of the barbaricMuslim men or as a liberated woman who wilfully transgresses the boundaries ofher religion to exert her agency.
The problem here arises as the subject isforced to identify with one of the two extreme methods of representation whichinvariably leads to the creation of another stereotype. Thispaper investigates how the dialect of custom and innovation or tradition andmodernity affects the identity of Indian Muslim women in Gul Khan’s Qubool Hai. The observation requests abasic enquiry to see how this idea invokes the question of the problem ofmisrepresentation of the Muslim identity. Rather than observing the identity ofthe Muslim women as one that has the capacity to contain both the contrasts ofconvention and innovation, Indian Muslim women are regularly displayed asincapable of this conjunction (Pickering16). MethodThispaper will attempt to make use of a text based analysis to understand themanner in which stereotyping the female Muslim characters in the Indian HindiTelevision dramas shall typify them to the extreme ideas of : traditional ormodern 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 covertimplications, the signified meaning of the text, which is indicative of theinherent issues of misrepresentation, stereotyping and typifying in the textmaybe understood. Methodology Orientalism:Edward W. Said’s Orientalism is be utilised to understand the idea ofstereotyping of the Indian Muslims under the general umbrella term of easternMuslims 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 immenselymisrepresented, the Muslim women faced the larger lot of all thegeneralisations. Said’s extremely biased views of the Muslims shall beunderstood to have led to the creation of regressive image of Islam and itsfollowers in “Western media’s imaginaries of Islamic fundamentalism” (Pickering28). These include the turban and shroud worn by Muslim men, individualsprostrating in Islamic supplication, Arabesque plans, scimitars, deserts,camels, etc.
However, the extent of redundancy of these misrepresentations arequite few in comparison to the hijab worn by Muslim ladies, which most oftenthan not subject to constant criticism of it being primordial in nature (Said84). This idea may be used to realise the innate problem of identification ofthe hijab clad Muslim characters as primitive in thought and action in GulKhan’s widely acclaimed Muslim drama QuboolHai.DoubleOppression/ Marginalization: Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak’s theory about the’doubly oppressed’ may be made use of to understand the agential limits set tothe female Muslim community who are subjugated and oppressed both by thepatriarchy and the religious extremists (Spivak 9). The can hence be identifiedto encounter a ‘twofold tie’ of religious and sex segregation that the Muslimladies have been found to confront on the pretext of social suspicions andgeneralizations. Their agency is heavily controlled and are most often than notleft secluded even in feminist forums. From British Colonial period tothereafter this minority community is hence often seen to be either ascribed asprimordial by the feminists or uncivilized by the patriarchy, depending uponthe extent they try to exert their agency.Implications of the research Misrepresentationsand stereotyping the female Muslim characters in the Indian Hindi televisiondramas maybe understood to have lead to the creation of the extremes: traditionand modernity, as two binary opposite roles that the Muslim women are forced tooccupy, hence tactfully making the audience identifying these characters aseither primordial or transgressive.
These observations are validated byexamining Gul Khan’s popular Indian Hindi television drama Qubool Hai, a pioneer in representing strong Muslim centralcharacters ever in the history of Indian Hindi television media. This shallhence help one draw the implication of the existence of a rigid religion basedpolitics and patriarchal hegemony in the Indian Hindi television industry, thattime and again ensures the representation of subjugated female Muslim charactersin popular dramas. Also, the resonating similarity in the characterisation ofthe image of the female Muslim characters to the oriental constructions maybeunderstood as the result of re-representing the stereotypical associations madeabout the Muslim community into the popular mainstream media. This shall hencehelp widen the research possibilities of the study by examining the Englishtelevision media to understand the origin and politics of stereotyping theMuslim female characters, which later led to the construction of traditionaland modern images as the only two roles that a Muslim women is identified within the Indian Hindi television.