It is about the surgical strikes that the Indian Army conducted on Pakistan-administered-Kashmir, targeting and killing militant bunkers. Uri’s commercial release was very well received by all. And with the ongoing conflict of bifurcating Jammu and Kashmir into union territories, in the most undemocratic way, this film will continue to get even more attention.
Uri worked as a catalyst before the general elections in May this year. Before re-election, the ruling government used this movie to reinforce the spirit of nationalism by reminding Indians that it was in fact Modi government’s defence minister, Manohar Parrikar, who stood behind the Indian Army as they conducted the surgical strikes.
Parrikar once said, "We don’t itch for a fight, but if someone looks at the country with an evil eye, we will gouge his eyes out and put them in his hand." This ideology was paraphrased in the movie: "Yeh naya Hindustan hai. Yeh ghar mein ghusega bhi aur maarega bhi" – literally, this is a new India. It will enter their house and kill them. This concept of 'new India' resonates intellectually and culturally with the youth of India today.
Afraid to have a political opinion
A month after Uri came "Gully Boy". A well-crafted film, "Gully Boy" casts Ranveer Singh in the lead, who plays the life and struggles of an aspiring rapper from the gullies (or gutters, in this case, the slums) of Mumbai. Music plays an essential part in the film and one of the soundtracks, 'Azadi', was snipped and edited.
The original version of the song had a verse, which corresponded to student protests and anti-government criticism. During the promotion of "Gully Boy", Singh was asked about the underlying political message in the song 'Azadi', but dismissed it with a casual nod, saying he is 'apolitical'.
This probably explains why Singh has no problem with censorship on Gully Boy’s soundtrack or taking selfies with Modi just a few weeks before. Or maybe our young celebrities are just too afraid to have a political opinion.
With so many of India’s cultural youth icons subtly propagating nationalist feelings, it is not difficult to see the rise of political interference in culture in the country.
"There is no democracy without dissent," wrote the 49 celebrities in their letter to prime minister Modi. This is true of India in every respect.
© Amrita Das 2019