While the Bollywood dominance of Khans is well known, the younger generation may not know – Bollywood was dominated by Muslim heroines too! The ‘Mother India’ Nargis, the ‘perfect beauty’ Madhubala, the innocent Mumtaz or the glam queen Zeenat Amaan…the list goes on and on.
A few years ago, working on a project, we realized the number of Muslim heroines had dwindled with time.
What could have caused it?
Cinema not being seen as respectable for women could be a reason. But then, it was far less respectable back then. Dilip Kumar changed his name for movies fearing his father’s anger!
So what explains so many Muslim women in cinemas back then?
It takes us further back – to the decline of the Mughals. One of its fallout – the decline of the Tawaifs.
Tawaifs in the Mughal era were skilful entertainers – well versed in dance, singing, theatre, literature.
The advent of British (who labelled them as prostitutes) & cinema lead to the tawaif’s decline. Many of them took their skills to the world of cinema.
Padma Bhushan awardee Begum Akhtar & Jaddanbai – mother of Nargis being amongst them.
Their success and rise to fame possibly inspiring many more to follow suit and achieve superstardom.