Bollywood has never failed to capitalise on the trope of ‘patriotism’. In the past few years, the mantle of making money out of patriotism has been worn largely by Akshay Kumar. But this time, Ajay Devgn has decided to shake things up a bit. The actor-producer is all set to make a film on the Galwan Valley clash that left 20 Indian soldiers dead.
IT'S OFFICIAL… #AjayDevgn to make film on #GalwanValley clash… The film – not titled yet – will narrate the story of sacrifice of 20 #Indian army men, who fought the #Chinese army… Cast not finalized… Ajay Devgn FFilms and Select Media Holdings LLP will produce the film. pic.twitter.com/yaM6rPcK7Z
— taran adarsh (@taran_adarsh) July 4, 2020
It has only been 20 days since Indian and Chinese soldiers fought in Ladakh. But even before the first draft of history, journalism, has put out what’s happening at the Line of Actual Control (LAC), Bollywood is ready with its hyper-nationalism-on-steroids. Military history in India is still a fragile genre. Review committee reports of wars such as Kargil take a long time to come out, and when they do, they are overly cautious in their language. The face-off at LAC isn’t even over — just this week, Prime Minister Narendra Modi went to Nimoo in Leh district to bolster the spirit of the armed forces and send a message. But Bollywood, the handmaiden of political nationalism, is already raring to go.
The ‘official’ version
India’s stand against China’s aggression and possible intrusion is at best foggy, with diplomatic and military talks between the two countries still underway.
The Modi government’s silence over the Galwan incident, followed by contradictory remarks by the prime minister, ignited demands for answers and explanations. As tribute messages for the soldiers poured in, a stand against China was nowhere in sight, except the contentious and widely ridiculed banning of 59 Chinese apps.
But Bollywood doesn’t mind such lack of clarity when it wants to show its patriotic and nationalist side, riding on the back of the Indian military. Did Indian soldiers die? That’s enough for it to hit the cash registers running.
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Bollywood’s tryst with ‘patriotism’
Ajay Devgn’s rush to make a movie on the Galwan Valley standoff reeks of plain ol’ Bollywood opportunism.
Of late, the Hindi film industry has realised just how profitable the Army, soldiers, war or anything revolving around the Indian military can be. The past few years are a proof of that, with a string of movies — Phantom, Parmanu, Aiyaari, War, Uri — hitting the cinemas with many more lined up — Bhuj (starring Ajay Devgn), Sam, and, of course, the yet-untitled film on the Galwan Valley clash.
The Modi government’s response to the Chinese incursion has been to ban 59 apps. But such moves flow from the Indian public’s misplaced patriotism that wants something ‘immediate’ to calm its raging nerve. In the absence of any response from the government, the public raises its ‘boycott’ pitch — the go-to method to claim some semblance of ‘action’.
The mood after the Galwan clash was similar, with the country witnessing scenes of people breaking Chinese home appliances or asking for ban on Chinese food. And, of course, Prasar Bharti’s own review of its contract with news agency PTI for the latter’s interview with Chinese envoy Sun Weidong.
It is this hyperactive, nationalistic nerve that Bollywood tries to cash in on from time to time.
Jingoism — the money raker
Jingoism sells. Period. Among the 37 films made between 2013-2019, along the themes of nationalism and patriotism, or rather jingoism, 2019’s Uri: The Surgical Strike made Rs 200 crore while Salman Khan’s Bajrangi Bhaijaan in 2015 made Rs 190 crore. Films such as the spy thriller Shabana also managed to earn Rs 3 crore despite it being made as a prequel of sorts to Baby, which came out in 2015.
So, it hardly comes as a surprise that Ajay Devgn saw a money-making opportunity in Indians’ misplaced ideas of what constitutes ‘patriotism’.
The New India version of ‘patriotism’ demands proof from the people, thrashes anyone not standing up while the national anthem is played in cinema halls, breaks Chinese products — all this leaves little doubt that Ajay Devgn’s movie on Galwan Valley clash will be a hit.
But make no mistake: the success of the film will mean absolutely nothing for the families of 20 soldiers who lost their lives.
But the Ajay Devgns of Bollywood don’t care. They will call their movies their ‘tribute’ to the soldiers.
Since the Indian government is yet to determine its own final and official position regarding the standoff with China, I am inclined to agree with some Twitter users who have been quick to predict the climax of the film — Ajay Devgn’s character uninstalling 59 Chinese apps from his phone.
Views are personal.
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