Art And Culture

Hollywood to Challenge Muslim Stereotypes With Rumi

Hollywood to Challenge Muslim Stereotypes With RumiHollywood to Challenge Muslim Stereotypes With Rumi

Oscar-winning screenwriter David Franzoni is writing a biopic on the 13th-century Persian poet Jalaluddin Rumi, and has generated heaps of criticism on social media for wanting to cast Leonardo DiCaprio as Rumi.

The ‘Gladiator’ writer aims to ‘challenge the stereotypical portrayal of Muslim characters in Hollywood,” reports The Guardian.

“He’s like a Shakespeare, “Franzoni said. “He’s a character who has enormous talent and worth to his society and his people, and obviously resonates today. Those people are always worth exploring”.

Franzoni visited Istanbul, Turkey, to meet Rumi experts, so that the team could start shooting the film next year. He also visited the mystic’s mausoleum in Konya. “There are a lot of reasons we’re making a product like this right now. I think it’s a world that needs to be spoken to; Rumi is hugely popular in the US. I think it gives him a face and a story,” he said.

Rumi’s spiritual and mystical epics, the Masnavi and the Divan, are widely considered among the best poetry ever written and have been translated into numerous languages.

Rumi’s encounter with the enigmatic mystic Shams of Tabriz altered the course of his life. A key challenge in the film will be trying to build credible and identifiable profiles of Rumi and Shams from a considerable body of mythology. Even the basic facts of their lives are in dispute.

“We’re trying to invent and resurrect a character at the same time because there is so much missing in the shadow of history,” said Franzoni.

 Controversy Arises

Franzoni and producer Stephen Joel Brown, said they would like Leonardo DiCaprio to play Rumi, and Robert Downey Jr. to star as Shams of Tabriz.

However, the news of a ‘white-washed Rumi’ did not go down too well with people who grew up admiring the poet’s work.

Since the ‘Titanic’ star does not look like he was born in Afghanistan and Robert Downey Jr. looks nothing like the non-white mystic, Shams, Twitter has blown up with anger and criticism of the casting.

The makers, however, seem quite optimistic that they will have a positive impact on the audience since they are sharing the story of someone exceptional. They believe “there’s something profoundly ‘gettable’ about Rumi. You get it. And not only do you get it but it involves you.”

The film will focus on Rumi’s teachings as well as his encounter with Shams.Franzoni and Brown said the main reason they wanted to make the movie was to introduce Rumi’s life story to the millennial generation that so loved Rumi’s poetry. Franzoni said he hoped the audience would be able to identify with the poet.