Once, the Hindi film industry. a.k.a Bollywood, was known for its landmark cinema throughout the world. However, lately it is being recognised for becoming propaganda machinery. A spate of films in recent years have been released on the silver screen, generating controversy with scripts spewing communal hate in the guise of cinema.

In the latest group of films against Muslims, a new film called “Hamare Barah” is set to be released and is about a Muslim woman taking her father to court to allow her mother the right to terminate a risky pregnancy.

The film stars actors like Annu Kapoor, who was once the anchor of a popular television show “Antakshari”. The film’s trailer was released recently and has already managed to fan hatred among the communities.

Gone are the days when Bollywood made films that were entertaining, and socially relevant. Now, some films are made to only stir controversies, and attack one community.

From ‘The Kashmir Files’ (2022) to ‘The Kerala Story’ (2023) propaganda films have been released with the intention of spreading misinformation, laced with hate speeches.

Propaganda cinema has always been associated with autocracies like North Korea, Russia and Nazi-era Germany. However the genre has been gaining speed in India now.

Speaking to The Citizen about the trailer, Darab Farooqui, screenwriter and filmmaker, known for films like ‘Dedh Ishqiya’ and ‘Ae Watan Mere Watan’ said that the film is not only sharing misinformation about Islam, the lack of research is visible.

“The worst part is these people do not even understand what they are making. At least have a scholar or a researcher who could tell them about Islam. The idea behind the film is just dehumanisation of Muslims,” Farooqui said.

He said that the idea of such propaganda films seems to present Muslims as monsters. When The Citizen first told him about the film Farooqui was not even aware. “Let me go and watch the trailer first,” he said.

On calling back, Farooqui laughed and said, “A monkey has a better IQ than these filmmakers.”

Directed by Kamal Chandra, ‘Hmare Baarah’ was initially titled 'Hum Do Humare Baraah', but had to be retitled as per the directive of the Censor Board. This is Chandra’s first film.

It may be seen as cringeworthy for some, but if the recent conjuncture is to be seen then such propaganda films are being consumed by the masses. This was seen by the commercial success of ‘The Kashmir Files’ and ‘The Kerala Story’. Screenings of such films saw people spewing hate comments against the Muslims.

However, according to Syeda Hameed, social activist and a former member of the Planning Commission of India these films are usually flops that show the Muslim community as “monsters”.

Speaking to The Citizen, Hameed shared her frustration over the trailer. “It is disgusting. It is a very complex thing. These films make no box office money, they make no impact, and [this film] has an actor like Annu Kapoor, who I thought was a very secular person. It goes on to show how disgusting all this is,” Hameed said.

Not just ‘Kashmir Files’ and ‘Kerala Story’, other propaganda’ films promoting the right-wing ideology have been released since last year. These ideas are prominent themes in recent releases such as Swatantra Veer Savarkar, Jahangir National University, Article 370, Mai Atal Hoon.

“I have a list of about 10 films and only three films, ‘Kashmir Files, Kerala Story’ and ‘Hamare Barah’ are the only one’s people know of. This is just driving a wedge between Muslims and Hindus. They are showing Muslims as the most backward, literally like scums. I don’t even think they know what the Quran says,” Hameed added.

‘Hamare Barah’ is pushing the idea that Muslims have multiple children, and claim that it is written in the Holy Quran, to an extent that a woman’s health does not matter.

“Everything about the trailer is so far away from reality,” Farooqui said. He added that there is no denying that in current times the market for such films is also thriving.

“The majority of the people who are swayed by the propaganda kind of reaffirm their prejudices. There are enough people who are ready to consume films like ‘Kerala Story’ or ‘Kashmir Files’,” the filmmaker added.

There has been much conversation happening in regards to whether Muslims will overpopulate Hindus. The propaganda has been spread by the right wing as well as many leaders of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP).

In mid-May, a working paper released by the Economic Advisory Council (EAC) to the Prime Minister made its rounds in the media. The 67-page paper in the EAC-PM Working Paper series, “Share of Religious Minorities: A cross-country analysis (1950-2015)”, authored by Shamika Ravi, Abraham Jose, and Apurv Kumar Mishra, argues that minorities in India are not just protected but also thriving.

This, according to it, was proven by their increased share in the population over a 65-year period. According to the report, the share of Indian Muslims in the country’s population has soared by more than 43 percent since 1950, which was the key takeaway from a new working paper.

The report was released amid the Lok Sabha elections that are ongoing in India, and looks at global demographic trends between 1950 and 2015. It relies on statistics from the Association of Religion Data Archive (ARDA), a free online database of global religious data.

It concludes that in the period studied, the share of the Muslim population in India increased by 43.15 percent, from 9.84 percent to 14.09 percent. By contrast, it says, the share of the majority Hindu population decreased by 7.82 percent between 1950 and 2015, from 84.68 percent to 78.06 percent.

The share of India’s Christian population rose from 2.24 percent to 2.36 percent – an increase of 5.38 percent; and the Sikh population by 6.58 percent, from 1.74 percent in 1950 to 1.85 percent in 2015.

The report mentions that the share of India’s Buddhist population has grown from 0.05 percent to 0.81 percent, but skips the percentage increase – nearly 1,600 percent, per this methodology – for the community.

However, the report has been criticised by experts who said that the data was not released by an authentic database.

Meanwhile, the National Family Health Survey-5 released in 2022 found that the fertility rate among Muslims has seen the sharpest decline among all religious communities over the past two decades.

The Population Foundation of India also noted that “the decadal growth rate for Muslims had decreased from 32.9% in 1981-1991 to 24.6% in 2001-2011. This decline is more pronounced than that of Hindus, whose growth rate fell from 22.7% to 16.8% over the same period.”

This idea has been quashed by experts who said that from the statistics point of view, the idea that Muslims will surpass the Hindu population is bogus.

“I have spoken to professors who have worked on such issues and they have said it is all nonsense. It feels like they just want to drive Muslims to the ground,” Hameed said.

She went on to say that she is a proud Muslim. “I don’t wear a hijab but I am a practicing Muslim and I am proud to be one. These films do not show reality, but lie,” Hameed added.

Farooqui on the issue of the film said that this is a political issue and should be looked like one as well. “The only solution to this issue is political. Law and order intervention is also required,” he added.

The film’s trailer has also created an outrage on social media with netizens saying this is another hate propaganda against Muslims.

Meanwhile, actor Kapoor while addressing the backlash against the film told ANI “Nobody has watched the film but our actors are being given life threats, abuse and criticism.

“The film has been passed by the Censor Board. Opposing something in democracy is a right but issuing life threats and rape threats should not be allowed.

“There should be punishment for this. Watch the film first and then form an opinion. The film talks about motherhood, about population.”

The movie is set to release on the big screen on June 7.