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There is no doubt that politics and the movie industry are heavily intertwined. The mutual deference was never more obvious, when in January, the Prime Minister met industry moguls to acknowledge cinema's contribution to the society. This year, India stands at a critical threshold, across which lies its uncertain political destiny. As Bollywood's age-old tradition of staging ministerial dramas and cashing on the country's flawed electoral policies continues, Indian cinema has emerged as an arena for propaganda. India-Forums decided to name a few of the many partisan offerings 2019 has in store for us.
The Accidental Prime Minister
Based on Sanjay Baru's memoir of the same name, this movie is loosely inspired by true events associated with the former Prime Minister's term of office. In fact, we aren't sure which genre to categorize the movie into, because it seems like an amalgamation of live animation and comedy. Acting maestro Anupam Kher, a vocal supporter of the then opposition, has successfully managed to replicate a caricature-like living being, supposedly the main protagonist, who in real life is a learned and respected national personality. The movie portrays some important public figures in bad light in the traditional Bollywood-style of antagonizing grey characters into spiteful villains. Rightfully, the movie faced backlash from multiple strata like political parties, media activists, cinema critics, and was a box-office debacle.
Uri: The Surgical Strike
As a nation, we are constantly being slow-poisoned with a drug called patriotism. Adding to this list, the Vicky Kaushal-starrer literally had a gun-blazing run at the theatres. The dramatized version of the popular surgical strike captured the commendable spirit of our armed troops, but what did not go down well with a certain section was the overrated involvement of the ministers in power. Aditya Dharin's story and direction transformed a military-led operation into a political policy, thus stealing the army's thunder to highlight the ruling party. However, performances by Kaushal along with Paresh Rawal, Mohit Raina and Yami Gautam left a longstanding impact on the audiences. Amidst the blanket of josh if one dared to ask "How's the propaganda? our answer would predictably be, "High, Sir!"
The bilingual biographical drama is the perfect example of image-cleansing advocacy. Starring Nawazuddin Siddiqui in the titular role and Amrita Rao as his spouse, the film follows the life of Balasaheb Thackeray, chief of Shiv Sena, a political party founded solely for the well-being of ethnic Marathi people. As he rose to power, controversies about his criminal activities and religion based politics grew. The movie is a not-so-subtle effort at whitewashing the protagonist's past debatable deeds, but in vain, as the film failed to strike a chord with the masses.
PM Narendra Modi
Now this one is special, because it scores the highest on the gradation sheet of propaganda. It's a full-fledged biopic on the current prime minister, rife with virtuous nationalism, the struggle from rags to riches, opposition of draconian regimes, and anti-Pakistan slogans; but yet, the cast and crew continue to completely deny any political connections. Post the unveiling of the trailer, there are speculations that the release of the film is a huge disruption of the Election Commission's code of conduct. What is ironic is that supporters of the same political party had announced violent threats against a fictional historical drama Padmaavat (2018). Actor Vivek Oberoi, who essays the lead, has gone on record to verbally support the prime minister's political views and policies. And if a two-hour runtime falls short to encompass the hagiographic greatness, brace yourselves, because we have a web-series, a radio show, a television channel and even a mobile application to celebrate showbiz's newest discovery.
My Name is RaGa
Our most favourite of the lot, we're sure would never have been part of India-Forums' content if it wasn't for its intriguing subject - another biography based on another election candidate. What got us hooked were its intense trailer and the crew's body of work. The four-minute long clip is a glance into the life of the opposition's leader, narrating his journey through a troubled childhood and difficult political career. Directed by Rupesh Paul, who has Kamasutra 3D (2013) to his credit, My Name is RaGa initially felt like a rumour, and we only wish it was. Slated to release in April 2019, there is not much being said, because unfortunately, no one takes RaGa seriously.
Popular cinema, whether classy or massy, is an emerging arena for propaganda with an immense power to influence opinion. The recent avalanches of nationalist and politically oriented films are a threat to Bollywood's credibility, which is turning into nothing but paid publicity. On one hand, as creative freedom is lynched, filmmakers have no means of resisting political pressure to avoid immoral glorification. How justified is the relationship between Indian politics and Bollywood? Comment below to let us know your views.
Writer: Anushka J.
Editors: Pooja B. & Gunia K.
Graphics: Liana G.
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