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A Propaganda Machine

Written by Omair Alavi

Once a well-respected industry, Bollywood has become a vessel of manipulation

If someone who doesn’t live in India or Pakistan comes across a Bollywood film, he or she might think that India is more advanced than the United States of America and Pakistanis still live in the 1600s. Not only that, they would start loving the ‘reel India’ but also believe that if ever the need arose, they would definitely shift to the Hindu land, for it might be the most peaceful country on the planet. The truth, as we all know, is the exact opposite since the real India is nowhere near its reel version. What they show on screen is not how they live, but how they aspire to live, and that’s how they dupe foreigners into believing their India Shining slogan. They might still have a Muslim character in their films, shown as being very close to the protagonist whereas, in reality, Muslims can only be found on their hate list. Most Muslims in India not only live below the poverty line but are also ‘the poverty line’ in some areas. For face-saving, India continues to appoint Muslims for ceremonial positions like Fakhruddin Ali Ahmed and Dr Abul Kalam as the Presidents of India, but neither did they represent the oppressed Muslims in the region nor did they ever use their position to raise voice for their people.

Last month, India’s propaganda instrument, Bollywood, released a film The Kashmir Files that not only hurt the sentiments of those oppressed Kashmiris living in the Indian Illegally Occupied Jammu and Kashmir (IIOJK) but also of Muslims across the world. According to the film, Muslim freedom fighters are the real reason why Kashmir is not a peaceful area, and the Kashmiri pundits are the real victims, when in reality the exact opposite is happening in the region. The Indian Army, which is shown as caring and understanding in the film, is the reason why Kashmiris are attaining martyrdom day in and day out in IIOJK, Kashmiri girls are being violated for no reason and their distraught parents are being victimised just for being Kashmiris. The difference between Azad Kashmir and the IIOJK is crystal clear, but since the Indians don’t want to see the reality, they have created a vision where everything in their Kashmir is perfect, and their people are the ones who are being denied basic rights. One look at The Kashmir Files, and any Pakistani would realise that it’s loaded with lies from the moment it begins. In an area where countless Indian Army personnel are present since Partition, where the majority of Muslim locals are denied their basic human rights, where death is a way of life, the Indian director Vivek Agnihotri paints the picture of a Kashmir on another planet. In his mind, had the freedom fighters stayed civil after their area was raided by the Indian Army, things would not have been as bad as they are today. He uses a fabricated story in order to convince the Indian youth that Kashmir is a disputed territory because of Muslims, who are the ones that started everything and not the Hindus.

If that really is the case then why does India shy away from taking foreigners into the Kashmir they consider their own? Why did Bollywood actor Rishi Kapoor admit in his autobiography that they were rescued by a helicopter while they were shooting in Kashmir once? Why doesn’t India let even their opposition leaders go into an area where the Indian Army has been given shoot-to-kill orders? Why doesn’t India organise a Kashmir Premier League like Pakistan did, where players from all over the world came and enjoyed the hospitality? What’s even sadder is that the Indians aren’t ready to admit that they are the villains here, and they feel that if their propaganda machine is showing an ‘All is Well’ picture, then all must really be well. It is as if they don’t want to come out of the bubble they have created in their minds about a peaceful Kashmir, whereas they are the ones who are wreaking havoc in a place that was once known as heaven on earth.

A Clear Case of Boom Boom Bust!

They say that actions speak louder than words, and that’s why under the current Indian regime, Bollywood has produced the highest number of anti-Pakistan films. Through The Kashmir Files, they have tried to show the world that the Hindu pundits were the real victims who were made to flee their homes, and the narrative of their capturing Kashmir is anything but the truth. Most of the current Indian cine-goers seem to agree with this narrative, for they helped in making this film a box office hit, despite it being shabbily directed, mediocrely acted, and pathetically produced.

Gone are the days when Bollywood was used for inter-racial harmony in India; songs like ‘Tu Hindu Banega Na Musalman Banega’ from ‘Dhool Ka Phool,’ and movies like ‘Amar Akbar Anthony’ seem like things from a past that is nowhere to be seen. In the first thirty years of independence, Indian filmmakers who either migrated from areas that are now in Pakistan or lost someone during relocation were sensible enough to use films to educate the audience. Sadly, that education is being undone today by a regime that hopes to polarise the Indian society and unwillingly prove that Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah was right in creating a separate country for the Indian Muslims.

It would have been great had The Kashmir Files talked about Kashmir like director Vishal Bharadwaj did in his film ‘Haider’ nearly a decade ago, but director Vivek Agnihotri shows his one-track mind with his mishandling of the matter. Instead of punchlines, he uses hate to make the audience chant anti-Muslim slogans in cinema; he replaces intelligent dialogues with ‘Allah u Akbar’ so that whenever a character says these three words, the crowd would start shouting ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai.’ He uses the same technique director Anil Sharma used in ‘Gadar: Ek Prem Katha’ at the start of this millennium, but while the Sunny Deol film was made as fiction, The Kashmir Files paints itself as the truth, when in fact it is just propaganda.

In the past, directors like Vidhu Vinod Chopra had tried to fight the case of Kashmir through ‘1942: A Love Story’ and ‘Mission Kashmir,’ and their films are still remembered, for they didn’t hurt the sentiments of any community. Sadly, with the passage of time, Bollywood has become an extended arm of the Indian government, and lost its position as the country’s premier film industry, since it has been taken over by the Tamil, the Telugu, and other industries who still make films to entertain.

What else can one say when within the first twenty minutes of the film, a Muslim freedom fighter is shown lusting after Hindu women when we all know what the reality is! What good can the director achieve by showing a Muslim man betraying his Hindu neighbor or young Muslim kids insulting Hindu deities while showing off their Kalashnikovs? If the film had been directed by a mature director, he would at least have used a proper Pakistani Rupee note from the 1990s instead of a note that none of the Pakistanis had ever seen. He would have used a ‘freedom poem’ by an Indian poet instead of Faiz Ahmed Faiz’s ‘Hum Dekhen Ge,’ which is still quite popular in Pakistan, and places where people understand Urdu.

Wasn’t the current Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi responsible for the murders of hundreds of Muslims in Gujarat when he was the Chief Minister of the state twenty years back? Wasn’t it the Hindu extremists who set ablaze the peaceful Samjhauta Express in India? Aren’t Muslims being killed on Bharatiya Janata Party’s guidelines in India for supposed crimes, like carrying beef with them? Why isn’t Bollywood showing the real face of fascist India on screen instead of promoting movies like The Kashmir Files which is so bad that any mature human being couldn’t sit for three hours to complete it.

How Can Pakistan Tackle the Onslaught of Bollywood?

The biggest difference between Bollywood and Pakistan’s film industry is that of the mindset. While in Pakistan, a film showing a Hindu as bad might not make the cine-goers say bad things about India or Hindus, but in India, if a Muslim is shown as a bad man, then the public starts believing that all Muslims must be bad. If a Muslim is feeling uncomfortable watching a certain scene (or scenes in case of The Kashmir Files), then according to Bollywood fans, they might be feeling nostalgic since they are ‘born terrorists.’

Pakistan’s film industry might not be as old as Bollywood but at one time before Partition, Lahore was one of the many centres where Urdu/Hindi films were produced. The ‘branch’ left behind in Pakistan seems to have matured into a sensible tree instead of the other part that seems to lose its sanity whenever extremists form the government tell it to. Anti-Pakistan movies seem to be on the agenda of anti-Pakistan governments, and although cine-goers from Pakistan want their filmmakers to reply in the same coin, that would not be an ideal situation.

After all, scenes from the ‘Nishan-e-Haider’ series, ‘Sunehray Din,’ ‘Dhuwan,’ and ‘Alpha Bravo Charlie’ were blatantly copied by India in films like ‘Pukar,’ ‘Sarfarosh,’ and ‘Lakshya,’ among others, proving their inferiority when it comes to quality content. While Pakistan Television produced its magnum opus ‘Muqadma-e-Kashmir’ in the 1990s where they pleaded the case of the beautiful valley, India continues to act in a bullyish manner for they know where they stand in reality. If Bollywood wants to promote hate, let them promote hate because that’s the only language they understand. If they can produce mediocre films like The Kashmir Files after being granted a tax-free status in many Indian states, then let them make more such films so that when the world finally gets to know the truth. What they don’t see is that such films are ruining the minds of their generation which will have long term effect on their future.

Pakistan on the other hand should keep making quality stuff on TV and improve its films so that one day, its films are taken as seriously as the Bollywood films of the past. Who knows, by that time Pakistan might overtake India as the biggest industry in the region, one that doesn’t deal in hate but truth, justice and the Pakistani way!

About the author

Omair Alavi

Omair Alavi is a highly regarded journalist, critic, and commentator, specializing in news, sports, showbiz, film, blogs, articles, drama, reviews, and PTV drama. With extensive experience and a keen eye for storytelling, he captivates audiences with his insightful analysis and compelling presentations. His expertise and contributions have made him a prominent figure in the media and entertainment industry.