There is a long list of actors, actresses and directors in the B-Town who practice Islam as their religion. From Suraiya to Sara Ali Khan and from Dilip Kumar (Muhammad Yusuf Khan) to Shah Rukh Khan a large number of Muslims have worked in Indian film industry in lead roles.
It is also a fact that Muslim actors or characters have to face a lot of discrimination. In an article for The New York Times in 2013, Shah Rukh Khan had written that he had occasionally been accused of having soft corner for Pakistan. He wrote that some Indian politicians had asked him to return to his “original homeland.” In 2015, while talking about intolerance in India, Lagaan protagonist Aamir Khan had said that his wife asked him if they needed to leave India for future of their children. On the other hand, when Padmaavat was being released a large number of extremists threatened to vandalise cinemas if it was screened and to chop off Deepika Padukone’s nose for they premeditated that the story glorified a Muslim ruler against Hindus, while the truth was the opposite.
This is one side of the story. On the flip side, Muslim actors and actresses have received enormous love, respect and recognition at home as well as worldwide through the platform of Bollywood. Since 1990s, three Khans – Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan and Salman Khan — have been dominating the film industry. Shah Rukh Khan is called ‘King of Bollywood’, while Salman is ‘Style ka Sultan’ and Aamir is ‘Mr Perfectionist’. Muslim actors’ contribution for the Indian cinema are unrivalled which has projected positive image of the Muslim community around the globe.
There is no bar on them for practicing their religion. SRK was once asked about his fasting in Ramadan and he said that he tried his best to observe fasts all the month except when he was unwell.
Having said that, Dangal actress Zaira Waseem’s decision to quit her career has received mixed reactions. The 18-year-old has won various awards for the film, including the National Film Award for best supporting actress in 2017.
“Five years ago, I made a decision that changed my life forever. As I stepped my foot in Bollywood, it opened doors of massive popularity for me. I started to become the prime candidate of public attention, I was projected as the gospel of the idea of success and was often identified as a role model for the youth.
“However, that’s never something that I set out to do or become, especially with regards to my ideas of success and failure, which I had just started to explore and understand,” Zaira said in a post on Facebook. She said she had struggled to become someone else for a long time. She said she might fit in the industry perfectly but she did not belong to it.
Her decision has received backlash as well as support from coworkers and people.
“I don’t know what made you take this tough decision, but I am feeling sad,” a fan named Khushboo Kapoor commented on Zaira Wasim’s Facebook post.
Former Indian actress Raveena Tandon said the Secret Superstar actress could have exited “gracefully” and kept her views to herself.
A writer Saba Naqvi said, “Who on earth are we to judge #ZairaWasim and her choices..a spiritual path works for many people…May she find the peace she seeks with Allah.”
Actress Nagma wrote, “#ZairaWasim is a courageous girl who defied stereotypes & shined through. We must appreciate her courage & stand with her in her moment of crisis @ZairaWasimmm you have our support. We love you for work you did and your spirit keep it alive. Wish you well and want u to be happy.”
It may be noted that American actor Angus T. Jones also did the same a few years back. He entered into the industry as a child actor and later realized that his profession was badly affecting his mental state so he devoted his life to religion for redemption.