Few in Pakistan may know of Aditya Dhar, but in India he has directed a Bollywood war revenge drama called Uri which narrates the official Indian state version of events following the deadly Uri incident of 2016 in which at least 17 Indian army officers were reported to have been killed.
The movie is seen as an attempt to bolster the rhetoric coming from the current ruling establishment in India which is known to have ties with extremist Hindu outfits such as RSS.
Speaking to an Indian media outlet, Dhar quite bluntly insinuated that with his film, he has established that Indians and Pakistanis share much animosity. “It’s time we stopped pretending that all is well on the non-political level,” he is reported to have said.
In stark comparison, Pakistani celebrities such as Mawra Hocane recently have taken to the social media and chosen to gracefully address the Pulwama attacks, without stepping into the political minefield. The Jawani Phir Nahi Ani 2 starlet had quite intelligently tweeted “Every life lost is a human life lost. It’s heartbreaking!!!!” in response to a troll who tweeted that she in effect was ignoring the attacks.
Dhar, apparently chose to ignore the reality and addressing his alternative facts said “How can we invite Pakistani actors and singers to our cinema when not one of them had condemned the Pulwama attack.”
The Pulwama attack, in which over 44 Indian soldiers died was carried out on February 14 by a native of Kashmir, with explosives and a vehicle that experts believe were locally procured in Kashmir. However, the Indian state and media establishment has pushed the narrative that somehow Pakistan was linked to the incident. Pakistan has vehemently rejected any accusations of association.
Kowtowing the official state line and reflecting his anger, Dhar with regards to Pakistan stated “We have to teach them a lesson. We have to let them know enough is enough.”
While cinema and the arts in general are known to be a liberal medium, and Pakistani artists have themselves used the platform to promote cross border understanding and harmony, Dhar’s statement shows that the medium can be equally effective in promoting hatred and animosity.
It is worth noting here that Bollywood historically has shown maturity when it comes to dealing with India Pakistan issues – even when the nations fought their wars in 1965 and 1971, there was little that came by way of anti-Pakistan cinema from that industry. Many veteran Bollywood actors have their roots in Pakistan, and actors such as Dilip Kumar (Yusuf Khan) who hails from Peshawar, have received recognition from the Pakistani government.
However, following an upsurge in Hindu fundamentalism in the 90s which saw the rise of ruling BJP to power, Bollywood too has resorted to inflaming cross border tensions with its films. Even Indian actors such as Om Puri, who acted in Nabeel Qureishi’s Actor in Law, were not spared. Puri was castigated at home for appearing in a Pakistani film and playing a role in promoting peace with Pakistan.