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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.

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.

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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. 

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