RASHMI OBEROI | 5 FEBRUARY, 2019
Movies are being used to play the propaganda game
A dangerous trend these days is to see how media and actors start propagating political parties and influencing people to think in a certain way. The media and our movie industry play a central role in informing the public about what happens in the country and the world, particularly in those areas in which audiences do not possess direct knowledge or experience. Biased and stereotype information causes a lot of damage as a majority of people think that whatever is shown or written is gospel. It is not. The impact of media in the construction of public belief and attitudes and its relationship to social change is huge.
Which brings me to the trend of over-hyped movies. I am probably one of the last few to see the latest promotional flick… Yes, I am talking about ‘Uri: The Surgical Strike’. I went to see it albeit reluctantly after being prodded by friends for my personal thoughts on the movie, due to my defence background. My better-half was even more reluctant and I had to literally drag him…for I refused point blank to see it without him.
First of all, it is a typical Bollywood movie and that is all there is to it. I agree, it is nicely done – it is a pretty good movie but all that hype and hysteria it generated, is certainly uncalled for. Bollywood has done a good job of cashing in to the swaying hyper-nationalism euphoria around us that comes and goes as per people’s convenience. Filmmakers have a knack for encapsulating narratives of patriotism and tilting it towards divisive propagandist politics.
Yes I’ve read some of the reviews… They are either too emotional or too jingoistic…they border on lack-lustre epilogues and I find that the real pulse is missing. The movie propagates Modi and Doval as the be-all and end-all of everything. This is utter rubbish. The timing of this movie is also questionable. Now with movies such as Uri: The Surgical Strike, Thackeray, The Accidental Prime Minister and The Tashkent Files all releasing in quick succession, films have become the newest campaign runners in this present climate of polarised politics. These movies reek of political angles and twists. There is a motive behind all these releases and at this juncture, it all points to our erstwhile politicians and the games they play. People are foolish and end up as pawns as the larger picture unfolds. These well-managed scripts and the games of Bollywood Whispers were planned long ago in order for it to culminate into something big just bang in time for the elections.
Most sane people have seen through this. I am glad that a lot of people support me when I say that commercial Indian cinema is levelling up its political ante in favour of the ruling government and falling in line with the elections that are on our doorsteps. We have seen how the Modi ‘wave’ has taken its course to translate itself into cinematic narratives of pro BJP propaganda, just as a large percentage of all electronic and print media does these days. The truth is that if it wasn’t for such sustained propaganda, the distress and unrest brewing in the country would have been front page news, which is either being whisked away under the carpet or not spoken of.
Secondly, as knowledgeable defence experts have been saying again and again, what happened in 2016 was not a surgical strike but a cross-border raid. Surgical strikes typically use air power. Also for the record, this is not the first time that a raid of this nature was conducted…this has been taking place systematically over decades whenever the need arose and this is certainly not the last such raid.
The movie is actually a potpourri of many real-life incidents mixed with unnecessary drama. As a ‘fauji’ brat and wife, I feel the sanctity of military operations must be kept secretive. These are not for the public domain – but now being used as political gain. Though the director insists this is on real-life events that took place but he seems muddled as the whole movie revolves around two dummies who we know had a tiny role to play in the military covert operations. Let’s understand one thing: the military did it. And our Special Forces don’t need this chest-thumping and blatant showing off by the government – they have a job to do and they will do it irrespective of all the hoop-la.
The movie is quite clichéd at times. The authenticity of the plot did not require that dilution. On the night of September 28-29, 2016, our special forces entered Pakistan occupied Kashmir and killed terrorists in retaliation for the attack on the Indian Army camp in Uri 11 days earlier where 19 soldiers had died. What should have been hailed as an achievement for the Indian Army was turned into a political gimmick for the BJP. A few months before the 2019 general election comes the release of the movie. Not surprisingly, actor-turned-BJP MP spewed dialogues like, “India will no longer keep quiet” and “This is the new India. This India will invade their homes and hit them where it hurts.” The New India? Really… The one that is intolerant now and spouts communal disharmony at every turn.
Let us put a spotlight on the thankless job our soldiers do with passion in their hearts and fire in their bellies. The sacrifices they and their families make for our nation. The bravery and secrecy with which they perform their duty. And the sheer determination of every soldier to win! Shedding tears for movie clips is theatrical – where are these people when the widows, children and family members of martyrs need help? Did they cry when the news covered their stories? How about standing firmly behind our men and women in uniform and supporting their families on a regular basis and not just when a patriotic movie comes out.
The dramatic and unending phone breaking, the over-the-top quality of the army accommodation shown and portrayal of the army life, the goofy intern’s project in use, senior leaders of the army being shown as poor representations just did not go down well with me. And when all those involved in the raid themselves are uncomfortable with the limelight and insist that it was overhyped and politicised from a military point of view, you know something is amiss.
All this reflects just how easy it is to brainwash citizens and take them for a ride. As you must have guessed by now… I am neither a fan of politicians nor of Bollywood… Only of our military and our brave hearts! And to date, no political party has been able to give our defence forces their due!