Film : Maha Chor
Year of release: 1976
Director: Narendra Bedi
Writer: Narendra Bedi
Producer: Narendra Bedi
Cast: Rajesh Khanna, Neetu Singh, Prem Chopra, Aruna Irani, Manmohan, Manorama, Anwar Hussain, Kamini Kaushal, Viju Khote
This 1976 film promises to be an action-comedy starring Rajesh Khanna in a double role. But when Bollywood uses the term ‘comedy’ to describe a movie, you can expect jokes about the Dharmic faiths in store.
Within five minutes of the film, we know that Raju is a Robinhood-like thief who steals from the rich and provides for the poor. He loves secularism so much that he has built an identical temple, mosque and church in his area out of various heists. However, when a Sikh character comes into the scene, he scoffs at him with “Theek hai, tu taxi chala”.
What was the need for such stereotyping against Sikhs? Can’t a Sikh man do anything besides driving taxi?
Pro-Congress political messages pop up repeatedly during the film. You can’t miss noticing “Vote for Congress” boldly scribbled on the walls in his mohalla. This backdrop is especially prominent when he is wiping the tears of a blind, aged woman. But even though Raju rushes to console Muslims, his attitude changes regarding Hindus.
Raju likes Neetu. He poses as a pandit to stop her forced wedding to antagonist Prem Singh. The villainous Prem Singh becomes a fawning devotee when pandit ji enters because only evil people value Hindu rituals. Prem, pandit ji and wedding guests wear footwear around the havan-kund in this scene masked as humour. The pandit is a ‘dhongi’ lusting after Neetu and harasses her later in a song called “Ram tera bhala kare”.
Criticism and Review as per Section 52 of Indian Copyright Act, 1957. pic.twitter.com/TR2zBe7KJZ— Gems Of Bollywood Fan (@GOBFanclub) June 5, 2021
The pro-Congress, secular Raju has no qualms whatsoever in portraying Hindus as molesters and Sikh couples as horny. He and his gang seem convinced that followers of Dharmic faiths are not worthy of as much dignity as those of Abrahamic religions. Will the same scenes be written on mischievous maulvi or fraudster pastors? Think.
In the movie’s name, the prefix for a thief is ‘maha’ (Sanskrit for great, often used to address Hindu deities).
As the final nail in the coffin, this film also has a quintessential Hindu-hating element: the main protagonist curses Hindu Devi/Devata, accusing them of being powerless. Raju is frustrated for a forgettable reason. So, he goes to a mandir and lectures the murti of Devi Ma there. This scene is so typical of Hindi films from this era that we wonder if there are any popular films without this scene. However, we wonder if writer Narendra Bedi would have written an angry rant against Jesus/Prophet?
With popular culture peddling anti-Hindu narratives that label Dharmic followers as fraudsters or lusty, we can see who is really at the receiving end of such toxic impressions. Will Bollywood take responsibility for Hinduphobic attacks? This coterie didn’t even utter a word when sadhus were lynched in Palghar.
This movie was released when the Emergency was in force, and the establishment monitored and controlled the content meant for public consumption.