By Waqar Ahmed Fahad
This weekend I watched Ghoul while borrowing my friend’s Netflix account. While one can unarguably be glued to the diversified content that Netflix offers, I chose to see the well advertised new series which has been greatly promoted by Netflix on social media.
Ghoul is undoubtedly one of the finest horror series I have seen in the recent past as it does not rely on spooky makeup and extravagant costumes to scare the audience. The series instead, discusses the problems of pseudo-nationalism through subtle interjection. It would be wrong to club the series under a genre as it touches upon horror, drama, action and of course, fiction. Majority of the screenplay is dominated by the concept of loving your country and words such as duty, bravery and sacrifice are used frequently throughout the series.
While the director of the series, Patrick Graham has used the surrealist style of narration, he does not shy away from discussing problems of discrimination, biases and prejudices that the Muslim community faces in India. Nida Rahim (played by Radhika Apte), a Muslim, who’s loyalty towards her country has always been questioned by Hindu officers who naturally get immunity and impunity from being suspected of treason. Apte’s character has a timid demeanour while in traditional Islamic attire, while she has a sense of confidence and assertion in her army uniform.
Ghoul uses a supernatural evil to punish the culprits, however, ironically the demon is not shown as a problem. In fact, Apte acts as the devil’s advocate and justifies the evil spirit’s existence several times during the story. The model of a detention camp used in the series reminds the audience of Guantanamo Bay which is known to be the place of utmost torture and humiliation.
Along with the spirit, Apte is also shown as being sympathetic towards prisoners and anti-nationals who are state enemies. Apte’s character does not even spare her own anti-national professor father in the line of duty. Although she later realises she has been duped in the name of nation and valour and turns to be an outlaw who takes revenge once she starts sympathizing with Ahmed (a mute Muslim innocent detainee).
The representation of Apte is extraordinary. She is a presented as a Hijab donning righteous army officer who breaks the age-old depiction of Muslim women as illiterate, unemployed and ignorant. However, Ghoul also suffers from succumbing to certain stereotypes where Muslims are depicted as being mastermind criminals who have done unpardonable acts of killing several innocent people.
Ghoul is set in a dystopian world where citizens (devoid of a sense of time and deprived of daylight) are under surveillance every moment. The series untangles the state-sponsored propaganda, which in the name of national security is being used to kill innocent people and equate them with terrorists. The film also speaks about the common binaries where Muslims are at the receiving end just because they are still treated as invaders.
Reinforced by great quality acting, Ghoul paints a representation of unbridled severity in a country where the result is a military clampdown and social equality are trampled upon day by day in a nationalist frenzy. From mob lynching to defining nationalism through a right winged perspective, the series raises several pertinent questions. defined metaphors and activities, it raises many pertinent questions. The beauty of it is that it does not need to mention any place, name and party, and despite this, the audience will understand the correct context and the intent behind the actual ghost of this Ghoul.
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