Interfaith Romantic Relationship in Films

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Interfaith Romantic Relationship in Films

Resolved or Questioned


This paper discusses five Hollywood and four Bollywood films that cover interfaith romantic relationship which are shown in different environment and circumstances. This paper is mainly an attempt to portray that there is no given solution for this type of relationship. People from different religion, custom, caste, status and cultural background gives priority to their emotion over traditional rules. The humanity is given more importance than the orthodox psychology. Most of the films discussed here have thrown the pensive question towards the audience whether they would listen to what their heart says or follow what path society compels them to walk on.


I was standing

All alone against the world outside

You were searching

For a place to hide

Lost and lonely

Now you’ve given me the will to survive

When we’re hungry…love will keep us alive

Don’t you worry

Sometimes you’ve just got to let it ride

The world is changing

Right before your eyes

Now I’ve found you

There’s no more emptiness inside

When we’re hungry…love will keep us alive…[1]

When it comes to the most sensitive emotion in human psychology, Love, an individual can do anything that is possible within his reach to express the feeling that is growing inside him. The world seems to be on one side and his emotion seems to be on the other if there is any obstacle in the way of his achieving what he truly dreams of. This enormous outburst of emotion has overcome society time to time the vary previous eras and still without following the rules, tradition or customs- individuals now prefer to listen what their heart tells them. With or without logic, the relations form being bound through only and only love for each other. This is where the interfaith romantic relationship is born. Through media mainly, this type of relationships have become popular as well as challenging among the young generation by thinking that religion should not come in between the emotion of two people. It is the mingling of two different culture and perspective about life which results the hybrid of next generation. Though not very uncommon in the old history, interfaith romantic relationship is now more open in the society and new views about this relation are being formed rapidly. The society is also learning to accept this type of relations and the offspring as well. But the main problem arises when these two people in this relationship are speaking a very different religious language[2], which is very normal and obvious. Gradually, each partner’s ethnic/cultural differences create a type of “cultural lens” through which they view the world, affecting their communication styles and coloring their perceptions of other people’s behavior. Interfaith romantic relationship proves to be prosperous stand point only when couples have developed an understanding of their own religious identities, including an ability to explain why religion is important to them and what their expectations are for the religious future of their families.

1.1 Thesis Statement:

Portraying the picture of the interfaith romantic relationships in films where in most of the cases the storyline has an open end, following the New Wave style, offering the audience an opportunity to choose their own path.

1.2 Objectives:

To study how film (a powerful medium) pushes audiences to think about the orthodox perspective about relation and religion and how this psychology opposes the right of an individual to make their own choice. Besides, how the interfaith romantic relationship gives an individual to think from a new perspective, challenging the traditional rules that society compels them to follow.

1.3 Methodology:

The films that are chosen here to analyze have the stories of those couples who in difficult circumstances and unfriendly environment made their choices to form an interfaith romantic relationship. The obstacles and problems that have been shown in these films are more or less the mirror reflection of what is still is observed in the modern society. As a literary interpretative research, this paper covers the circumstances analysis in where these protagonists are positioned along with their psychological dilemma for maintaining the relation with family, relative and the person they love. The analysis of the literary reviews of these films reveals that they had that certain question towards the society which claims to be the protector of humanity. Their gradual behavior and action they took, is the picture of the clash between their demand for the identity as an individual human being and the conventional expectation of orthodox society from every person from a particular society. It is as if they tried to come out of the cage of pseudo-independence as they gradually grew self-aware about their own right to choose own life partner, breaking the boundary of tradition. Research method here includes the psychological state of the couples and instruments used in selecting and constructing research techniques like- watching available movies, online movie reviews, and online library search, skimming, scanning, summarizing and paraphrasing of literary reviews. The paper juxtaposes the psychoanalytic theory along with perspectives of different religion. In all these films, these characters are constantly isolated, questioned and dominated by the authority which somehow forced the protagonist to step out from the traditional theory of the role of a typical citizen.

1.4 The range of study:

This paper, however concentrates on defining what an interfaith relationship actually is and how it has been portrayed in the films. Films that have pictured romantic relation in between people from two different religions have been mainly chosen here to discuss about. The main focus is how these films are showing the interfaith relations in an unsolved way where the audiences are in a dilemma whether to imagine a happy ending or the opposite. There is also the attempt to point out the fact that these films are actually implying an indirect provocation on the viewers about choosing humanity over orthodox religious perspective. This paper draws much from cultural studies, film and literature and modern religion study though obviously it is a result of mingling of the all mentioned above.

The design of the paper:

The paper has been divided into five chapters. The first chapter, that is, the present one, with the title “Introduction”, discusses the objective of the paper and makes the thesis statement; it also outlines the methodology and specifies the extent and design of the study. The second chapter, “Interfaith Relationship and The History”, deals with what an interfaith relation is and what can be known from the history about this type of relationships. In this chapter, there is also the discussion about views from different religions and behavior of the society towards those couples that are in interfaith relationship. Chapter 3 “Films with Interfaith Romantic Relationship” gives the synopsis of five Hollywood and four Bollywood movies that deal with interfaith romantic relationship. The fourth chapter “Interfaith Romantic Relationship in films: Solved or Unsolved?” elaborates the analysis of the films mentioned in the chapter three and there is the attempt to find out whether there is actually any given solution for the audience. Finally, the last chapter or “Conclusion” summarizes the paper as well as suggests the scope for further research in the related area.

Interfaith Relationship and the History

Interfaith romantic relationship, traditionally called mixed relationship, is relationship (either religious or civil) between partners professing different religions. Some religious doctrines prohibit interfaith relationship, and while others do allow it, most restrict it. An ethno-religious group’s resistance to interfaith relationship can constitute a form of self-segregation. Interfaith relationship typically connotes a relationship in which both partners remain adherents to their distinct religion, and as such it is distinct from concepts of religious conversion, religious assimilation, cultural assimilation, religious disaffiliation, and apostasy. Nevertheless, despite the distinction, these issues typically are raised and need to be dealt with in the context of planning an interfaith marriage. However the term interfaith relationship generally refers to partners who follow different religions. But the term can also be used to refer to a relation between partners who follow different traditions within the same religion. The entire larger world religious has long ago split into more than one denomination or tradition. In the case of Christianity, differences in beliefs and practices among its tens of thousands of faith groups are so great that some observers consider Christianity to be a grouping of religions which share the Bible, the name Christian but little else. Some relationships, like those between a Catholic and an Evangelical Protestant, or an Eastern Orthodox and a liberal Protestant can be as difficult to resolve as those between spouses of different religions.

In Judaism, interfaith relationship /marriage were historically looked upon with very strong disfavor by Jewish leaders[3], and it remains an enormously controversial issue. The Talmud and later authorities prohibit non-Jews to Jews, and discuss when the prohibition is from the Torah and when it is rabbinic. In 1236, Moses of Coucy induced those Jews who had contracted marriages with Christian or Mohammedan women to dissolve them. In 1844, the Rabbinical Conference of Brunswick permitted Jews to marry any adherent of a monotheistic religion, as long as any children of the marriage would be able to be brought up as Jewish. This conference was highly controversial; one of its resolutions called on its members to abolish the Kol Nidre prayer, which opens the Yom Kippur service. One member of the Brunswick Conference later changed his opinion, becoming an opponent of intermarriage and/or interrelationship. Any non-Jew who wants to can become a Jew. Traditional Judaism does not consider marriage between a Jew by birth and a convert as intermarriage. Hence, all the Biblical passages that appear to support intermarriages, such as that of Joseph to Asenath, and that of Ruth to Boaz, were regarded by the classical rabbis as having occurred only after the foreign spouse had converted to Judaism. Some opinions, however, still considered Canaanites forbidden to marry even after conversion; this did not necessarily apply to their children.

Orthodox Judaism refuses to accept any validity or legitimacy of intermarriages, and tries to avoid assisting them to take place. Conservative Judaism does not sanction interrelationship, but encourages acceptance of the non-Jewish spouse within the family, hoping that such acceptance will lead to the spouse’s conversion to Judaism[4].

Reform, Progressive (known in the USA as Re-constructionist), and Liberal Judaism do not generally regard the opinions of the classical rabbis as having any force, and so many rabbis from these denominations are willing to officiate at interfaith relationship; they do, though, still try to persuade intermarried couples to raise their children as Jews. As with many religious denominations, however, there are a few dissenting voices; in 1870 some Reform Jews published the opinion that inter relationship is prohibited[5].

In the early 19th century inter relationship was comparatively rare – less than a tenth of a percent (0.1%) of the Jews of Algeria, for example, practiced exogamy, but since the early 20th century, rates of Jewish inter relationship have increased drastically. In the United States of America between 1996 and 2001, nearly half (47%) of relationship involving Jews were inter relationships with non-Jewish partners, and a similar proportion (44%) existed during the early 20th century in South Wales. The possibility that this might lead to the gradual dying out of Judaism, much like the historic fate of Arianism, is regarded by most Jewish leaders, regardless of denomination, as precipitating a crisis; some religious conservatives now even speak metaphorically of interrelationship as a silent holocaust. Overall, there is a relatively high level of resistance to interrelationship in Judaism and this often constitutes a form of self-segregation – preventing Jewish communities from integrating and merging with surrounding populations around the world.

Hinduism declares that there are always innumerable paths to God, and that one’s belief or perception of God is an individual matter and best left to the individual to decide his own path. Interfaith relationship is uncommon in India, especially in the rural areas. There are many social rules surrounding marriage and individuals are under enormous pressure to marry within their caste and religion, though almost all prefer to marry within their community on the belief that they share common beliefs and practices. To break such rules could cost the support of friends, family, and community; a heavy price in such a community-oriented society. In developed and metro areas it is much more common to see marriage between different caste and religion, but even there social pressures (especially from parents) often discourage interfaith relationship[6].

Interfaith relationships, especially between Hindus and Muslims, often have been the bone of contention and have resulted in communal riots in India. Many claim the extreme activity of Love Jihad by Islamists where Non-Muslim females (especially Hindu) are targeted for conversion to Islam by feigning love.

Islam allows men to marry women from the People of the Book. The early jurists of the most prominent schools of Islamic jurisprudence ruled in fiqh law that the marriage of a Muslim man to a Christian or Jewish woman is makruh (disliked) if they live in a non-Muslim country[7]. Caliph Umar (634–644) denied interfaith relationship for Muslim men during his command of the Ummah. In the Quran, it is said,

This day are (all) things good and pure made lawful unto you. The food of the People of the Book is lawful unto you and yours is lawful unto them. (Lawful unto you in marriage) are (not only) chaste women who are believers, but chaste women among the People of the Book, revealed before your time – when ye give them their due dowers, and desire chastity, not lewdness, nor secret intrigues if any one rejects faith, fruitless is his work, and in the Hereafter he will be in the ranks of those who have lost (all spiritual good). {Surah 5:5}

Islam generally forbids Muslim women from marrying non-Muslim men. If a non-Muslim woman is married to a non-Muslim, and she converts to Islam, the marriage is suspended until her husband converts to Islam, and she could in theory leave the non-Muslim husband and marry a Muslim one (analogous to the Pauline privilege among Catholics). If the non-Muslim husband does convert a new marriage is not needed. In the Quran, it is said,

O ye who believe! When there come to you believing women refugees, examine (and test) them: Allah knows best as to their Faith: if ye ascertain that they are Believers, then send them not back to the Unbelievers. They are not lawful (wives) for the Unbelievers, nor are the (Unbelievers) lawful (husbands) for them. But pay the Unbelievers what they have spent (on their dower), and there will be no blame on you if ye marry them on payment of their dower to them. But hold not to the guardianship of unbelieving women: ask for what ye have spent on their dowers, and let the (Unbelievers) ask for what they have spent (on the dowers of women who come over to you). Such is the command of Allah. He judges (with justice) between you. And Allah is Full of Knowledge and Wisdom. {Surah 60:10}

Films with Interfaith Romantic Relationship

Jennifer Kaplan, who is an independent filmmaker, recently released a documentary titled “Mixed Blessings: the challenges of raising children in a Jewish-Christian family.” She writes:

“…When we merge our lives with another whose beliefs differ from our own, conflicts can and often do occur. How does each individual within a relationship examine and articulate his or her own beliefs to his/her spouse? What happens when one partner changes his mind about a previous agreement? What if someone’s faith wasn’t important before raising children, but becomes important after the birth of a child? And what about the children?…”[8]

The documentary is based on Kaplan’s study of interfaith relationships and families, and her interviews with interfaith families, clergy and experts. She found that “…the ‘sticking point’ for Jews and Christians focused more around the children and how they were to be raised.” Mixed Blessings does not provide answers but rather raises questions that couples can ask each other and allows the viewer to gain some understanding of the complexities of mixed marriages.

In Hollywood and Bollywood movies, this interrelation has been used as a striking subject through which the filmmakers tried to show the difficulties, obstacles as well as the result of the mixing of two different cultures.

A.Hollywood Films:

i. Grand Illusion

Grand Illusion[9] (French: La grande illusion), this movie was released in 1937. It is basically French war film, directed by Jean Renoir, who co-wrote the screenplay with Charles Spaak. Though the story concerns class relationships among a small group of French officers who are prisoners of war during World War I, it also carries the hint of intimate emotion among people from two different nationalities, which includes different culture as well as different perspective.

During the First World War, two French aviators- aristocratic Captain de Boeldieu and working-class Lieutenant Maréchal, embark on a flight to examine the site of a blurred spot on photos from an earlier air reconnaissance mission. They are shot down by a German aviator and aristocrat, Captain Von Rauffenstein. After a short span of time, Von Rauffenstein and de Boeldieu discover they have mutual acquaintances- a depiction of the familiarity, if not solidarity, within the upper classes that cross national boundaries.

However, de Boeldieu and Maréchal are then taken to a prisoner-of-war camp. They are moved from camp to camp, finally arriving in Wintersborn, a mountain fortress prison commanded by Von Rauffenstein. At Wintersborn, the pair is reunited with a fellow prisoner from the original camp, Rosenthal, a wealthy French Jew who generously shares the food parcels he receives. There Maréchal comes up with an idea after carefully observing how the German guards respond to an emergency. De Boeldieu volunteers to distract the guards for the few minutes needed for Maréchal and Rosenthal to escape. After a commotion staged by the prisoners, the guards are ordered to assemble them in the fortress courtyard where it is discovered that de Boeldieu is missing. As Von Rauffenstein pleads to his friend to give himself up, De Boeldieu refuses, and get shot in the stomach. During the time of being nursed, de Boeldieu laments that their usefulness to society as aristocrats will end with this war[10].

Later, Maréchal and Rosenthal journey across the German countryside, trying to get to nearby Switzerland while Rosenthal injures his foot, slowing Maréchal down. They take refuge in the shed of German farm woman Elsa, who has lost her husband and three brothers in the war. She generously takes them in and does not betray them when she has the chance. Maréchal begins to fall in love with her, but he and Rosenthal eventually leave after Rosenthal is healed.

Maréchal promises to come back for Elsa after the war if he survives.

ii. The Way We Were

The next movie is The Way We Were[11], which is a 1973 American romantic dramatic film. It is directed by Sydney Pollack. The screenplay by Arthur Laurent’s was based on his college days at Cornell University and his experiences with the House Un-American Activities Committee. In this movie, the main difference between the partners is their religion as well as the political point of views.

The movie is basically told in flashback, starting from the story of Katie Morosky and Hubbell Gardiner, when they meet at college in the 1930s. Their differences are immense as she is a stridently vocal Marxist Jew with strong anti-war opinions, and he is a carefree WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant) with no particular political bent. Because of his boyish good looks and natural writing skill which she finds captivating, she is drawn to him although he doesn’t work very hard at it. On the other hand, he is intrigued by her conviction and determination to persuade others to take up social causes. They meet, romantically, for the first time on the night that the Duke of Windsor marries Mrs. Simpson.

These two meet again at the end of World War II when Katie is working at a radio station, and Hubbell, having served as a naval officer in the South Pacific, is trying to return to civilian life. They fall deeply in love and get married despite the differences in their background and temperament.

Soon, however, Katie is incensed by the cynical jokes Hubbell’s friends make and is unable to understand his acceptance of their insensitivity and shallow dismissal of political engagement. At the same time, his serenity is disturbed by her lack of social graces and her polarizing postures.

When Hubbell seeks a job as a Hollywood screenwriter, Katie believes he’s wasting his talent and encourages him to pursue writing as a serious challenge instead. Despite her growing frustration, they move to California, where he becomes a successful albeit desultory screenwriter, and the couple enjoys an affluent lifestyle. As the Hollywood blacklist grows and McCarthyism begins to encroach on their lives, Katie’s political activism resurfaces, jeopardizing Hubbell’s position and reputation.

Alienated by Katie’s persistent abrasiveness, Hubbell has an affair with Carol Ann, his college girlfriend and the ex-wife of his best friend J.J., even though Katie is pregnant. Katie and Hubbell decide to part when she finally understands he is not the man she idealized when she fell in love with him and will always choose the easiest way out, whether it is cheating in his marriage or writing predictable stories for sitcoms. Hubbell, on the other hand, is exhausted, unable either to live on the pedestal Katie erected for him or to face her disappointment in his decision to compromise his potential.

In the film’s final scene, Katie and Hubbell meet by coincidence, several years after their divorce, in front of the Plaza Hotel in New York City. Hubbell, who is with a stylish beauty and apparently content, is now writing for a popular sitcom as one of a group of nameless writers. Katie has remained faithful to who she is: flyers in hand, she is agitating for the newest political causes.

Katie, now re-married, invites Hubbell to come for a drink with his lady friend, but he confesses he can’t. Katie’s response acknowledges what they both finally understand: Hubbell was at his best when he was with her, and no one will ever believe in him or see as much promise in him as she once did. Their past is behind them; the entire two shares now, besides their daughter, whom they name Rachel, is a memory of the way they were.

Memories, light the corners of my mind

Misty watercolor memories of the way we were

Scattered pictures of the smiles we left behind

Smiles we give to one another

For the way we were

Can it be that it was all so simple then?

Or has time rewritten every line?

If we had the chance to do it all again

Tell me would we? Could we?

Memories, may be beautiful and yet

What’s too painful to remember we simply choose to forget?

So it’s the laughter we will remember

Whenever we remember

The way we were[12].

iii. Enemies, a Love Story

The third movie that has the hint of interrelationship is a 1989 film, Enemies, a Love Story[13]. Directed by Paul Mazursky this film is set in New York City, capturing the year 1949. This movie also portrays relationship in between partners who are from different religions and different social position. The story is about a Holocaust survivor, Herman Broder who throughout the war survived staying hidden in a hayloft, taken care of by his gentile Polish servant, Yadwiga. He later takes Yadwiga as his wife in America while having a passionate affair with another Holocaust survivor, Masha. However, he pretends to be a traveling book-salesman despite the fact he is a ghost writer for a corrupt rabbi. While wandering in New York with a constant paranoia and perpetual desperation, he is thrown into more complicacy when his first wife from Poland, Tamara, comes to New York along with their two children.

vi. Aimée & Jaguar

Another movie, Aimée & Jaguar[14] was released in 1999 which is a German drama film, set in Berlin during World War II. It was written and directed by Max Färberböck. The film explores the interfaith romantic relationship between two women. Among them, Felice Schragenheim is a Jewish woman who assuming a false name gets involved to an underground organization. The other female character is Lilly Wust who is married, mother of four children and unsatisfied with her husband who is a German soldier.

The story begins when Felice takes the initiative in the love affair and Lilly, fascinated with the strength of Felice and her friends, realizes that she can give her love more fully to a cosmopolitan woman than a man because she thought that only a woman can wholly understand the depth of emotion that another woman holds inside. The film features both erotic encounters and sentimental love poems and during one love scene a poetic line emerges in which Lilly is an Aimée to Felice as Jaguar.

Their secret passion comes to limelight when one day Lilly’s husband arrives early at home and finds Felice and Lilly in bed. Although he merely punishes her for her indiscretion and hopes that his marriage would return to normal, Lilly surprises him by asking for a divorce. Meanwhile, Felice and her friends stop seeing Lilly for the sake of their own survival and on one occasion, Lilly erupts in anger over Felice’s unexplained absence for days. Having no other way but to reveal the truth, Felice shares her secret of being a Jew. After the 20 July Plot, with most of her friends gone to a safer place, Felice prefers and decides to take her chances for enjoying the love of her life, though after a short while, Felice is captured by the Gestapo.

The story has two bookends as when the film begins in 1997; an 83-year-old Lilly is taking up residence in a dilapidated flat that once served as an underground hideout. Lilly’s German maid Ilse, who was rounded up during 1945, is already a tenant. Lilly and Ilse reminisce as the film ends.

Another end is, Lilly, though saddened by the tragedy that she caused her friends and lovers, is unable to imagine how her life could have been any different, given her obsessive live-for-today-for-tomorrow-we-die mood, which is common among besieged Berliners. Lilly Wust lived in Berlin until her death on 31 March 2006. The tagline of the film is “Love Transcends Death”.[15]

Try to see it my way,

Do I have to keep on talking till I can’t go on?

While you see it your way,

Run the risk of knowing that our love may soon be gone.

Think of what you’re saying.

You can get it wrong and still you think that it’s all right.

Think of what I’m saying,

We can work it out and get it straight, or say good night.

Life is very short, and there’s no time

For fussing and fighting, my friend.

I have always thought that it’s a crime,

So I will ask you once again.

Try to see it my way,

Only time will tell if I am right or I am wrong.

While you see it your way

There’s a chance that we might fall apart before too long

We can work it out…[16]

v. Liberty Heights

Liberty Heights[17] is another movie that shows the interfaith relationship between two people from different religion. Released in 1999, it is a comedy-drama film which is directed by Barry Levinson, who also wrote the script as well. It is a semi-autobiographical account of his childhood growing up in Baltimore in the 1950s. In the fall of 1954, the Kurtzmans, a Jewish family, live in Forest Park, a suburban neighborhood in the northwest section of Baltimore. At the beginning of the film, Nate, the father, runs a burlesque theatre, and engages in a community numbers racket. His wife Ada stays home and takes care of the household. Van, the older son, attends the University of Baltimore, while Ben is finishing his final year in high school.

The main story begins when Ben meets Sylvia, an African-American girl, who also begins attending his school after the district has been integrated. Ben immediately starts to develop feelings towards Sylvia. The two become close based on a mutual love for Little Richard, James Brown, jazz musicians, and black comedians. Sylvia’s father, an affluent doctor, disapproves of their relationship and forbids them to see one another.

On Halloween, Ben dresses up as Adolf Hitler, which offends his parents greatly. Van and his friends head over to a party in a predominantly bourgeois, gentile section of Baltimore. Van is attracted to a mysterious blonde woman. A fight between one of Van’s buddies and a gentile erupts and Trey, one of the party-goers, drunkenly crashes his car into the house. There Van understands that he must leave the mystery woman. Trey goes to court for the car crash where Van and his friends are there as witnesses. After the court session expires, Van asks several of the other party attendants about the blonde woman he met. Trey discovers that the girl Van has fallen in love with is Dubbie, his own girlfriend. Meanwhile, Nate’s burlesque theatre has problems. In order to boost returns on the numbers game, an additional bonus number is added which will increase the pay-off. Little Melvin, a local drug dealer, makes a large bet, defies expectations and hits the number. Unable to pay on that big a win, Nate is then forced to cut Melvin a “slice of the pie”. When Nate offers Melvin the numbers business instead, Melvin claims that Nate is trying to “Jew” him out of his money and a fight breaks out between their bodyguards.

Sylvia gives Ben two tickets to see James Brown in concert. At the concert Ben and his friend are the only white patrons in the audience. Van and his friends head out to a gathering, where he again runs into Dubbie and learns of her relationship with Trey. Little Melvin then spots Nate’s car off of Pennsylvania Avenue in the African American neighborhood where James Brown is in concert and after seeing Ben and his friend inside, he deduces that one of them must be Nate’s son. After the concert, Melvin abducts Ben, Sylvia and their friends from the concert in a payback to Nate’s racket.

Van has word that Trey is in surgery after a car accident. He and Dubbie go see him in Virginia. Nate and his associates at the nightclub are charged and booked with prostitution and racketeering. Before leaving for prison, he manages to attend Ben and Sylvia’s high school graduation. She is attending Spelman College, a historically black college in Atlanta; he is staying to attend the University of Maryland.

As the film closes, the scene shows Ben’s family attending a Jewish ceremony as the father walks out of the synagogue and blows a kiss to his wife. In a voice-over of Ben’s adult voice, he reflects on his childhood with memories of his kiss with Sylvia, his father, and his bittersweet coming-of-age in 1950’s Baltimore.

B. Bollywood Films:

i. Bombay

Bombay[18], released in 1995 is an award-winning Tamil film. Directed by Mani Ratnam, this film met with a strong reception upon release as it is centered on events, particularly during the period of December 1992 to January 1993 in India, and the controversy surrounding the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya and its subsequent demolition on December 6, 1992. Increased religious tensions in the city of Bombay led to the Bombay Riots.

Eventually becoming one of the highest grossing films of the Chennai film industry, the film was well-received both critically and commercially, and it was screened at many international film festivals. However, the film caused considerable controversy upon release in India and abroad for its depiction of inter-religious relations and religious riots.

The story is about the interfaith romantic relation of Shekhar and Shaila Bano. Shekhar is the son of a traditional Hindu father in a seaside village in Tamil Nadu. A journalism student studying in Bombay, Shekhar visits back home to see his family. On one of his return trips, he lays eyes on Shaila Bano, a Muslim schoolgirl in the village. Initially shy, Shaila seeks to distance herself from Shekhar, but after frequent run-ins, and days of pursuit, Shaila begins to like Shekhar and eventually, they both fall in love.

The marriage proposal is obviously vehemently opposed by the lovers’ fathers. Shekar’s father refuses to accept Shaila as his daughter-in-law, telling Shekhar to find another partner, whilst Shaila’s father announces the need for an immediate marriage between his daughter and a Muslim man. Shekhar’s father says if the two ever get married, he will cease talking to his son. Shekhar reacts angrily to his father’s refusal to accept Shaila, and so leaves, back to Bombay. Shaila, under increasing pressure from her father, escapes from the village and joins Shekhar. At first, Shaila is overwhelmed by the city, having relocated for the first time from rural surroundings to a city life. However, with time she adapts to her new lifestyle.

A few months later, Shaila becomes pregnant and gives birth to twins, Kabir Narayan and Kamal Basheer. Here we can see the mingling nature of interfaith relationship where the two different religion can be both side by side without effecting one another as the twins are raised in both religions. Shekar continues to work as a journalist, whilst Shaila works at home, looking after the children. For six years, the family lives in Bombay, settling in well, and begins the process of repairing relations with their respective families. The relatives visit the family in the city for the first time in over half a decade, and are overjoyed to see their two grandchildren.

Meanwhile, in India, religious extremism launches each community against the other, causing a wave of Hindu/Muslim riots that leave hundreds dead in Bombay. Targets of violence from both sides, Shaila and Shekhar worry increasingly over the safety of their children, whom they raised with both Hindu and Islamic traditions. They are constantly under threat. The growing tension threatens to bring tragedy to the family and through the movie, it is shown very clearly that the orthodox religious followers do not actually care about the welfare of the humanity rather they are more threatened by the mixture of religions and/or the followers of different religions.

The movie does not offer any solution to the problem of the growing tension in between these two religions rather it asks the human conscience to find out the exact answer of the cause of the riot.

ii. Gadar: Ek Prem Katha

Gadar: Ek Prem Katha[19] is a romantic movie, released in 2001, set in the time of Indo-Pak partition. As the movie plot is in 1947 during the Partition of India, the film tells the story of a truck driver, Tara Sing, a Jatt Sikh, who falls in love with a Muslim girl, Sakina, belonging to an aristocratic family.

The story begins with Muslims being attacked by Sikhs and Hindus in India when trying to migrate to Pakistan on a train in response to the killing of Hindus and Sikhs going to India from Pakistan to get revenge, Muslims react by doing the same thing. During the Hindu-Muslim riots that erupted soon after the Partition, Tara saves Sakina from a murderous mob chasing her as she failed to get onto the train after being pushed and lost in the crowd. As the mob want to rape her and then murder her, Tara Singh defends Sakina and then converts her to Sikhism to protect her.

While driving back to Tara’s house, the story has a major back flash showing the relationship between Tara and Sakina before this incident and how they knew each other. Tara is a lorry driver, but his real ambition is to become a singer. Some girls in college who are friends of Sakina fool Tara that they have got him a shot an annual music show in return for his doing a for favor for them. Tara performs badly in from of the music teacher, who is portrayed by Sakina. His friend then gives him tablets that help him prove his singing skills. Soon after it is shown that Sakina is not the real music teacher, which saddens him. When performing on the music function Sakina announces that she will not do her act instead gives Tara a chance to sing despite the will against the seniors at the college.

Subsequently and back to present, Sakina starts living in Tara’s house and their respect culminates into love. Sakina and Tara Singh get married and become parents of a baby boy. Their life seems like a bed of roses, until Sakina sees an old newspaper that has a photograph of her father, whom she believes had been killed during the riots during the Partition.

Her father is now the mayor of Lahore. When Sakina calls him from the Pakistani Consulate in Delhi, he arranges to fly her to Lahore. However, Tara and their son, who are supposed to accompany her to Lahore, are told at the last minute that their visa formalities have not been completed, which compels them to stay in India. This does not stop Tara. He and his son accompanied by a friend enter Pakistan illegally at the border. There they find out that Sakina is getting married and reach her before the marriage can start and reunite.

Seeing this, Sakina’s husband-to-be attacks Tara but is instead injured by him. A large fight was about to break until the priest stops them, as this can end up harming Sakina’s father’s career in politics. Ashraf Ali agrees for their marriage under two conditions: they should live in Pakistan and Tara should adopt Islam.

These conditions are accepted by Tara in public the next day which was against Ashraf Ali’s plans. He makes Tara insult his country to make him believe he is a true Pakistani, which enrages him and this makes him kill the mob that was hired by Ashraf to kill him. Tara, Sakina, their son, and friend escape.

After a long turmoil they get a cotton mall train which will be their ticket to India, but Ashraf Ali finds out and he takes some men to stop them. In the fight Sakina gets shot by her own father. In the hospital Sakina in a coma which makes Ashraf Ali realizes his mistake. Sakina gains consciousness after having a nightmare. The movie ends with Ashraf Ali accepting Tara as his son-in-law and they return to India.[20]

iii. Kurbaan

Kurbaan[21] is a Bollywood film directed by Rensil D’Silva and produced by Karan Johar. The film, set against the backdrop of global terrorism is released on November 20, 2009. The film deals with an underground organization’s attempt at instilling fear by means of terrorism in the United States. It also intersperses philosophical arguments over the corruption of religious beliefs in an attempt to ‘rectify’ the Avantika Ahuja who lives in the United States returns to Delhi after her father has a cardiac arrest.

While in Delhi she meets Ehsaan Khan, a University professor from Mumbai. Being in the same career field at the same place, love blossoms between the two. Meanwhile Avantika gets a call from New York asking her to rejoin her job. She breaks this news to Ehsaan and expresses her desire to work in the US, Ehsaan agrees and joins her but before that Avantika’s father has some reservations about his daughter marrying a Muslim. However he gives in as the couple has decided to get married. Eventually they get married and move to the USA. Avantika helps Ehsaan in getting a job at the same university where she teaches and Ehsaan is appointed as a professor to teach Islam and the Modern World. Avantika’s life changes when her neighbor Salma informs her about her house arrest and requests Avantika to help her by contacting her friend Rihana, a TV reporter. Avantika meets Rihana and tells her about Salma’s problem and meanwhile she meets Riyaz, Rihana’s boyfriend and colleague who takes Salma’s problem as a case of domestic violence. Unfortunately, Rihana has to fly out of the city before meeting Salma and she gets her flight information when Avantika is still at her office. Avantika becomes pregnant and waits at her house to share this with Ehsaan but when she hears voices coming from their neighbor’s house, she investigates and finds out that her neighbors Bhaijaan and the others are planning to send Tahir and blast the flight in which Rihana is traveling, and have also killed Salma as she wanted to expose them. Her neighbors see her and chase her to her house where she meets Ehsaan who consoles her but soon reveals that he is also a part of the terrorist group. Bhaijaan ask Ehsaan to kill her in order to make their operation successful, however Ehsaan denies after learning that Avantika is pregnant. Ehsaan keeps Avantika in house arrest and threatens to kill her father in India if she tries to inform anyone. Avantika realizes that she is a pawn in Ehsaan’s game. It turns out he married her to legitimately obtain Social Security Cards and a new identity in the USA. Avantika calls Rihana and leaves a voice message on her office number to stop her from boarding the flight. Unfortunately, the plane explodes killing Rihana.

Riyaz, heartbroken and revengeful finds Avantika’s voice message for Rihana and begins a mission to uncover the real culprits behind the flight bombings. Riyaz also joins Ehsaan’s lectures and soon befriends him. Ehsaan finds him to be a perfect replacement for one of his group member Aqeel (Salma’s husband) who was killed by Ehsaan while they were taking out Salma’s body to bury it. Ehsaan introduces Riyaz to Bhaijaan who becomes suspicious of Riyaz’s thoughts to fight against the Americans. Ehsaan makes Riyaz a part of their next mission to bomb several subway stations in New York.

Riyaz tries to spoil the plan with the help of Avantika. Time starts running out for Riyaz & Avantika and they become helpless when Bhaijaan advances the mission by 3 days. While carrying bombs in the subway Riyaz’s colleague bumps into him and tells Ehsaan & Bhaijaan about his real identity. Riyaz tries to escape and in the chaos, shoots Bhaijaan. While taking his last breath, Bhaijaan informs Ehsaan that there are 3 more bombs placed in the bags of 2 wives of the terrorists involved and one of it placed in Avantika’s bag which is being escorted by Aapa. He has a change of heart to save his love and child and doesn’t kill Riyaz when he corners him and instead they both make a plan to stop all the other terrorists. Riyaz tries to save the people at the train stations but 2 bombs explode killing Hamid and another terrorist. Ehsaan kills Aapa while saving Avantika. Ultimately he sacrifices himself at the end to save the innocent Avantika. Ehsaan commits suicide[22].

vi. My Name Is Khan

My Name Is Khan[23] commonly referred to as MNIK, is a 2010 Bollywood film directed by Karan Johar, with a screenplay by Shibani Bathija, produced by Hiroo Yash Johar and Gauri Khan. It was overseen by both Dharma Productions and Red Chillies Entertainment and distributed by FOX Star Entertainment, which bought the rights for the film for a sum of INR 1 billion, thus becoming the most expensive Bollywood film of 2010. It is the fourth directorial venture of Karan Johar. Cinematography is by Ravi K. Chandran, Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy composed the film’s score, choreography is by Farah Khan, and lyrics were written by Niranjan Iyengar. Visual Effects are by Red Chillies VFX.

Rizwan Khan is a Muslim child who grew up with his brother Zakir and his mother Razia Khan in a middle class family in the Borivali section of Mumbai. Rizwan is different from other children; however, he has certain gifts, particularly a special ability to repair mechanical things. His difference leads to special tutoring from a reclusive

scholar and extra attention from his mother, all which leads to a heightened level of jealousy from his brother Zakir, who eventually leaves his family for a life in the United States.

Despite this resentment, as an adult Zakir sponsors Rizwan to come and live with him in San Francisco after the death of their mother. It is at this time that Zakir’s wife; Haseena diagnoses Rizwan with Asperger’s syndrome. Rizwan also begins to work for Zakir and in the process he meets a Hindu woman, Mandira and her young son, Sameer or Sam, from a previous marriage. Mandira is a hairdresser by profession. Despite Zakir’s hostility to the match, they marry and settle down in the fictional town of Banville, where both Mandira and Sameer take Rizwan’s last name as their own. They also live next door to the Garrick family. Sameer is close to their young son, Reese while Mark is a reporter and Sarah is a friend of Mandira.

The Khan’s perfect existence gets disrupted, however, after the 11 September attacks on New York City. Mark goes to cover the war in Afghanistan and dies there. At the same time, the Khan family begins to experience post 9-11 prejudice in their community and Reese begins to turn against Sam as well. One afternoon, an argument between them turns into a racially motivated schoolyard fight between Sameer and a number of older students. Reese tries to stop the fight but is held back and Sam dies from his injuries. A shattered Mandira blames Rizwan for his death stating that Sameer “died only because his name was Khan.” She then tells Rizwan that she no longer wants to be with him. When he asks her what he has to do to be together with Mandira, she sarcastically tells him that he has to tell the people of the United States and the President that his name is Khan and that he is not a terrorist.

Rizwan takes Mandira’s request seriously, and thus sets out on a journey that takes him from one US state to another, in order to first meet President George W. Bush and later the new President-elect. During this quest, he travels to Wilhemina, Georgia and befriends Mama Jenny and her son Joel. Later, in Los Angeles, he prays in a Mosque and overhears violent rhetoric from Faisal Rahman. He reports this to the FBI but there is no response at that moment. Later, while waiting in a crowd to meet President Bush and repeating again and again, “My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist,” Rizwan is arrested and placed in a prison by police who misinterpret his statement thinking he said he was a terrorist.

While in the prison he is interrogated as a terrorist suspect and meets the psychiatrist Radha who believes he is innocent. He is later released after a media campaign by some Indian student reporters Raj and Komal and Bobby Ahuja, who prove his innocence by unearthing his attempts to inform the FBI about Faisal Rahman. After his release, he returns to hurricane-hit Wilhemina to help Mama Jenny and her son. His efforts attract media attention and numerous Muslims come to help as well.

At the same time, Reese confesses to Mandira and reveals the identity of the boys who killed Sam. She informs Detective Garcia, who has been assisting her on the case, arrests them. Mandira later gets a call from Sarah to forgive Rizwan, “I’ve lost my husband, don’t lose him.”

Mandira realizes her error, she joins Rizwan in Georgia and their love rekindles. However at the moment she arrives, Rizwan is stabbed by a follower of Faisal Rahman, accusing him of being a traitor of Islam and Rizwan is rushed to the hospital. With Mandira’s help, Rizwan survives and meets President-elect Barack Obama who tells him: “Your name is Khan and you are not a terrorist”. The film concludes with Rizvan and Mandira going back home[24].

Interfaith Romantic Relationship in Films

Unanswered Ends

?Grand Illusion

Analysis of this film:

In this film, we see that even though Maréchal is French and is on the run for life, the immense emotion in him does not stop growing emotion for Elsa who is a German. We should keep this in mind that just a few days ago, he and his friend were captured by the Germans and his fellow aviator was shot by them. Still the romantic feeling inside him stays alive and in the end of the film, he promises to come back to his love. This film ends with the shot where they were shown to be passing the border of Switzerland, without offering any solution for the obstacle that might come in between them if they ever start a relationship. The lady is shown to be waiting for that person who promised her that he would come back even though the time is during the war and the audience is not given a hint whether the sudden emotion in Maréchal is the result of gratefulness or sympathy or it is actually something pure. The film is left open ended for the audiences to imagine.

?The Way We Were

Analysis of this film:

As we have seen in the first movie that it does not offer any solution for the union of the people from two different religious points of view, this particular movie as well does not offer any kind of solution even if the couples are from the same religion. They held different perspectives about their lives, about how they led everyday, their choices and so on. As mentioned earlier, interfaith relation does not only cover the idea of a relation between people of two different religions. This relation can be of people from different culture, customs, manner and/or environment into which they had grown up. This particular film in fact tries to show that if partners of a pair do not have at least some issues in which they match, eventually those issues will bring them apart..

?Enemies, a Love Story

Analysis of this film:

While being taken cared of by his servant and with the past of being married, the main character of this film still makes a promise to marry the servant and starts a passionate affair with another lady who has the same history and experience as he does. The whole movie does not offer any kind of solution of what will happen in the end rather it shows that the protagonist does not care about the religion or the status of the person he falls in love with but he just starts affair without knowing what could be the consequence. Apart from the setting of the movie, the behavior of the protagonist is purely a portrait of weak psychology that is eager to have some attention from the opposite gender. As a Holocaust survivor and the holder of a horrible experience, the protagonist shows the urge to be loved an taken care of by someone (or anyone) with the exchange of emotion that seems to him as love. Without resolving the issues that are gradually aroused, this film goes to its end with a loose end, throwing a question to the audience of what an individual should do if s/he is in a multi relationship in which an inter religious relation is also included.

?Aimée & Jaguar

Analysis of this film:

This film deals with the passionate emotion in between two female where one lady realizes that giving love to a male is a matter of wastage as in the end, it is not always guaranteed that the man will return her love back. Her psychology gives a hint of patriarchal domination that a woman bares from the day she is born. According to Segmund Freud, all women are born attracted to the other women- this particular film portrays the fact of this statement. The interfaith romantic relation that has been shown here has crossed the boundary of love between a man and a woman. It is beyond understanding of any particular orthodox psychology as it steps out the typical romantic relation in between a man and a woman. Both of the ladies get attracted to each other which is not only physical rather psychological. The bond they hold for each other is mainly based on the understanding for which Felice takes the risk of staying behind while her friends flee to a safer place. Even later, when Felice get caught by the rival group, she does not show any regret for being captured rather she has the sorrow for being in a state where she has to stay away from Lily. Just like the other movies discussed above, this film also does not conclude with any specific decipher of the complex situation that was presented here rather the passion for humanity is more vivid than gender and religion which brings a viewer to a stand point where s/he is compelled to feel overwhelmed by the strong portrait of the oldest emotion.

?Liberty Heights

Analysis of this film:

In this movie too, we see that there is no given solution for the interfaith relationship between Ben and Sylvia as in the beginning of the movie, Sylvia’s father tells them not to meet each other. The political environment is shown negative which is used as the distracter of the blossoming young emotion in between them. But the fact is, whenever an interfaith romantic relation is about to grow, the familial and social pressure comes down upon both sides. The orthodox psychology that is sown into a child’s mind keeps him in a dilemma in choosing his own life or the decision of his family. In this movie, when Ben and Sylvia is unable to stay away from each other, the political, social and the reputation of the family is brought into lime light to make them sacrifice their own choice and surrender to what their guardians decide for them. This is the main obstacle that comes when a couple is in an interfaith relation and till the end of this movie, there is no presence of an exact solution for the relation that they wanted to make. The hidden sighs were kept hidden till they grown to old ages and the last shot of the movie shows that Ben is blowing a goodbye kiss to his family which reminds him of the kiss he shared with Sylvia. The thirst for true love and the pretension of being happy with what society forced upon them (without their genuine support) keeps them far away to lead a happy life that every individual dreams of.


Analysis of this film:

This particular movie represents the relation between Hindu and Muslim as the male protagonist is from a Hindu family whereas his beloved is a Muslim girl. The emotion in between them is so intense that in a very short space of time they realize that they can not stay apart. Marriage proposal is of course denied from the both side of the families as they were from the rural area but the male protagonist takes steps to break the rule of the family tradition. Ultimately, being unable to tolerate the continuous up-growing pressure from the family, Shaila elopes with Shekhar and they start a family, getting married and having twins within a year. So far this movie shows a peaceful environment as gradually the other family members accept them but as history says, the Hindu-Muslim riot of 1992 arouses the political tension all over the city. Shaila and Shekhar, raising their twin sons in both religions becomes the victim of this religious unstable position. In short, it can be said that at one side the mingling of Muslim and Hindu through Shekher and Shaila represents the peace that may result if these two religion, keeping own individuality stays side by side. On the other side, the riot of that time represents the abuse of religion by some handful orthodox ‘dharmists’. The movie not only shows the disgrace of religion but also (through showing the shot of Shekhar and Shaila running for a safer place for their children) portrays the humiliation of humanity. Though in the end of the movie, the tension of the riot seems to be calmed for a short while but still the unresolved issue is pointed towards the audience for determining orthodox religion or humanity.

?Gadar: Ek Prem Katha

Analysis of this film:

Quite the same plot as the movie discussed above, this film also renders the religious conflict between Shikhs, Muslims and Hindu. The male protagonist is a Jatt Shikh, Tara, who falls in love with an aristocratic Muslim girl, Sakina. Retelling the history of 1947, during the partition of Pakistan, this movie also has the socio-political mingled with religious tension which ultimately becomes a big obstacle in Tara and Sakina’s romance. Their inter-religious marriage gets challenged by Sakina’s father, who being a powerful politician tries to compel Tara to deny his nationality (Indian). Here comes the identity of an individual being threatened by the typical inferior/insecure orthodox psychology. Even though this film has the end with the whole family being reunited, the invisible implied unanswered question remains for the viewers- should an individual sacrifice his/her emotion for the sake of the untold strict rules of the society?


Analysis of this film:

Though the main focus of this film is on progressive terrorism, spreading all over the world, the interfaith relation between Ehsaan and Avantika does not get a very satisfactory ending as gradually it becomes revealed that Ehsaan got into this inter-religious marriage only for his own benefit which is getting the Indian citizenship. The obvious protest from families is not very strong here as both of the partners were ready to get married. But the humiliating question here is- where is the existence of love in this relation when there is a hidden motif of self benefit is present? The conflict between humanity and religious perspective is still present and the movie ends with death which can never be a resolution of any problem.

?My Name is Khan

Analysis of this film:

Rizwan Khan when marries Mandira, even though they were passing a peaceful time along with Mandira’s young son, just after the terrorist attack of 9/11, the conflict starts to arise. As they were settled in New York, most of the Americans start to avoid this i