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From praising Savarkar to Godhra: 10 films set for release before Lok Sabha polls

From praising Savarkar to Godhra: 10 films set for release before Lok Sabha polls

As India gears up for the general elections to the Lok Sabha, the silver screen is transforming into a potent political tool, with a slew of films aligning themselves with the ruling BJP and its leader, Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

This cinematic surge, aimed at influencing public opinion, marks a continuation of a trend observed before the 2019 elections when similar tactics were employed to bolster the BJP's popularity.

Several upcoming Hindi films, produced by major studios and strategically timed with the elections, delve into storylines that often portray Muslims in a negative light, casting them as the enemy of the nation. These films overtly endorse Modi and his government's policies, while also aiming at political rivals, national icons, and even renowned educational institutions.

This trend is seen as part of a broader attempt to influence popular culture, echoing the infiltration observed in music, poetry, and books.

One striking element of these films is the propagation of Islamophobic conspiracies commonly circulated among Hindu right-wing networks aligned with the BJP's political agenda.

At least 10 such films, either recently released or slated for the upcoming weeks, are under scrutiny for peddling divisive narratives. These stories include biopics that glorify controversial figures like Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, who advocated rape against Muslim women as a form of retribution for historical wrongs.

Among the upcoming releases are films like "Accident or Conspiracy: Godhra" and "The Sabarmati Report," claiming to unveil the "real story" behind the 2002 Godhra train burning, a pivotal event that triggered anti-Muslim riots when Modi was the chief minister of the state. Another film, "Aakhir Palaayan Kab Tak?" depicts a Hindu "exodus" purportedly caused by Muslims, while "Razakar" addresses what it terms the "silent genocide" of Hindus in Hyderabad.

Critics argue that these films amount to clear propaganda and are driven by a larger effort to shape the narrative in favour of Hindu nationalist ideologies. The portrayal of historical events, particularly those involving Muslim rulers, has undergone a shift, with a tendency to depict them as invaders and barbarians. This aligns with the Hindu right wing's objective of purging Mughal history from public consciousness.

The film industry insiders attribute this new genre of films to a mix of fear, opportunism, and support from the establishment. Many within the industry, fearing retribution, are hesitant to speak on the record.

The industry has been subject to high-decibel campaigns, often endorsed by BJP leaders, leading to a "chilling effect" where creators censor themselves to avoid political backlash. Some, however, argue that the films also reflect opportunism, with filmmakers attempting to capitalize on the current political atmosphere and align with the ruling ideology for potential commercial success.

Government support appears to play a crucial role in the success of such films. Controversial releases like "The Kashmir Files" and "The Kerala Story" were rewarded by BJP governments with waived taxes and free screenings organized by party units. Modi himself publicly praised these films, providing them with additional legitimacy. Critics argue that this trend compromises the accuracy and objectivity of historical representations, leading to potential societal tensions and hate speech.

While some believe that these films may remain limited to a few filmmakers, others point to a concerning trend where mainstream films, featuring A-list actors, also serve propaganda purposes.

The recent release of "Fighter," starring Hrithik Roshan and Deepika Padukone, showcases a character resembling PM Modi expressing bombastic lines, indicating that the trend may deepen and expand to big-budget productions.

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TAGS:BJPGodhraPrime Minister Narendra ModiVD SavarkarLok Sabha Elections 2024Razakar
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