Aditya Dhar’s film on the 2016 surgical strikes starring Yami Gautam and Vicky Kaushal only glorifies war in an election year.
Usually war films don’t glorify wars. Films like Saving Private Ryan, Inglourious Basterds and Dunkirk were critically acclaimed because they showed that no one really wins in a war. Clearly, writer-director Aditya Dhar does not seem to think so. Because his film Uri: The Surgical Strike —starring Vicky Kaushal and Yami Gautam — has one message and one message only: War is good, because REVENGE.
The 2016 surgical strike by India has been a controversial topic and has generated conflicting narratives between India and Pakistan about what actually happened. Pakistan maintains that there was no such strike and India insists it was successful. The result? A Bollywood film that employs a thousand cliches about Pakistanis, Muslims and glorifies war, extra-judicial torture, and confessions under duress — all to chant ‘Jai Hind’.
Vicky Kaushal plays Vihaan Shergill, an Indian whose mother has Alzheimer’s and whose brother-in-law Karan (Mohit Raina) was killed in the Uri attacks in 2016. Armed with pure revenge and some very attractive biceps, Shergill insists that he would win the battle against Pakistan without harming anyone. Cue bullets, blasts, an eagle-shaped drone, a thumpy Punjabi folk soundtrack (that is also shared by Pakistan, and only makes you think of how pointless war between the two countries is, because culturally, politically we’re cousins) and battle cries that whitewash war.
The film makes Pakistanis look like headless chickens suffering from gas. I’m not kidding. One of the Pakistani officers who speaks perfect Urdu is chugging antacids and burping at the speed of light. One of the ministers is golfing and can’t even make the putt. It’s as if director Aditya Dhar is saying, “Imagine the kind of incompetence they must display on the policy table!”.
The Indian policy makers smile and use Israel’s examples in war and call Pakistan a terrorist state over and over again. There is simply no nuance about the Kashmir issue and why militant groups in Kashmir are fighting a dirty war. It made me wish there were less films like these and more films like Vishal Bhardwaj’s Haider.
And most importantly, a plea on behalf of all Pakistanis: Indian writers and directors, can you at least get our jargon straight? For starters, Pakistanis don’t start and end every sentence with “Janaab”. Pakistan is a very diverse and culturally rich country. Someone sitting in Punjab would not talk like someone from Karachi. May be if you unbanned our TV content, it would help you write more realistic dialogues for Pakistanis.
It’s an election year in India and the ‘josh’ to produce jingoistic films is definitely high, but it’s disappointing to see a powerful, influential industry like Bollywood resorting to reductive, hyper-nationalist films. Films like these serve as propaganda and only become tools to add to the hatred for Pakistan.
The world’s got enough hate already, hasn’t it?
My final verdict: Uri: The Surgical Strike is a well-made film that is an attempt to assure hyper-patriots that Bollywood will produce 10 films each year to satisfy nationalists, but only produce one film like Haider in a decade to speak the truth as an artistic community.
The author is a Pakistani liberal, feminist journalist, movie reviewer, YouTuber, Supermom & biryani connoisseur. Her Twitter handle is @mahwashajaz_