Sanjay Bhansali's Film On Abhinandan: Is Bollywood Sensitive Enough To Make War Films?

Looking at Bollywood's shameless hurry to turn Abhinandan's life into a film, we can be rest assured that it won't bother with a nuanced perspective.

While the entire nation was praying for Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s release on Thursday evening, many Hindi film producers were busy registering titles for potential films with the following titles – Pulwama Attack, Surgical Strikes 2.0 and Balakot. Even after cutting them some slack (because Bollywood is a *business*), there lies a question about how far such blatant opportunism can go before someone denounces it as unethical/immoral? It’s only been four days since Abhinandan Varthaman made his way back on Indian soil, and the Bollywood vultures have already announced a film on him.

According to reports in Mumbai Mirror, the film will be produced by Sanjay Leela Bhansali, Mahaveer Jain and Bhushan Kumar (of T-Series) and will have Abhishek Kapoor as director. Everyone from Ajay Devgn, Akshay Kumar have reportedly expressed interest in starring in the film. Is anyone even surprised? It’s absolutely fine that Hindi films are more eager than ever, to shower tributes on the armed forces (co-incidentally after the blockbuster success of Uri: The Surgical Strike), but are they sensitive enough to make a film about war? Do they understand the responsibility vested in a ‘good’ war film? Or is it just about a quick buck?

At a time, when the events around the Balakot airstrikes and its aftermath are still relatively unclear, can we please take a moment before beating our chest about it? But that would only happen if Hindi films were interested in the truth, something that was hardly visible in Aditya Dhar’s Uri. The film starring Vicky Kaushal was derived out of sketchy hearsay, something that most Hindi film audience gobbled up as a fact-based documentary. It’s no surprise that Abhishek Kapoor’s film has already begun pre-production, because cashing in on a popular sentiment is more important than research.

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Most of these Hindi films stay miles away from depicting the politics, diplomacy or the invisible circumstances under which two nations come to a state of war. They only care about glamourising the uniform of the armed forces, and showing us vanquishing the ‘evil’ them. These films don’t struggle with how war changes a member of the armed forces.

Not like Hollywood is any sort of a benchmark, but even some of their less-than-perfect films put in more effort individually, than all Hindi war films put together. Steven Spielberg acknowledged researching the Normandy invasion to the extent of the tactical strategies used by the American forces, in Saving Private Ryan. Terrence Malick let the idea of Thin Red Line gestate over nearly two decades before making a film on it. Even Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper (arguably Hollywood’s most jingoistic war film in recent memory) offered a haunting psychological portrait of America’s most lethal sniper, Chris Kyle.

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How is it that ALL Hindi war films end with India’s dramatic victory over the ‘enemy’, and none of them come even close to examining the devastating aftermath of war, the way it wounds the very soul of a country.  Because that would be bad for business.

Not to say, that Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s film would be guilty of all of the above shortcomings. It could be a game-changer, with Abhishek Kapoor ably deconstructing Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman’s psyche before and after the Pulwama attack, and his brief captivity in Pakistan. But looking at Bollywood’s shameless hurry to turn this into a film, we can be rest assured that it won’t bother with a nuanced perspective. Where’s the 100 crore in that?