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Stop the Fight: Don’t Exacerbate the Hatred That Has Kept Indians and Pakistanis Apart for Decades  

Stop the Fight: Don’t Exacerbate the Hatred That Has Kept Indians and Pakistanis Apart for Decades  

  • And Indian Americans should stop patronizing films like the "Fighter" — your next generation is watching. What message are they learning when you not only show up to watch these films, but walk out with an offhand shrug of indifference?

This is not a film review of “Fighter.” This is me doing my civic duty of informing the Bollywood enthusiasts who decide to go watch the latest blockbuster. Inspired by the success of “Top Gun,” the film features A-listers Hrithik Roshan and Deepika Padukone together for the first time, seen flying fighter jets, and gyrating across all our screens over the past few weeks, whetting our appetites for this mega-release of epic proportions. 

In short – DON’T WATCH THIS FILM. Read why.  

The film shamelessly aims to exacerbate the hatred that has kept two peoples apart for decades — Indians and Pakistanis. 

Before I get into why this is so bad, I have to share some of my worst takeaways. Spoilers? Yes — but you’re not going to watch this film anyway. 

The film opens with some sort of attack made on Kashmir. Or, more accurately — an attack on IOK (India-Occupied-Kashmir) — as opposed to POK (Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir). We see various high-level Indian politicians/generals complain — “They always do this to us,” and “We sit here doing nothing” and “We need to give it back to them, in their face!” The dialogue was worded as elegantly as the common man shouting at the evening news in his living room. The first half continues with more harmful rhetoric of how each side hates the other — a battle of mera desh, versus humara mulk (“My country” in Hindi and Urdu, respectively). 

In an attempt to show that we’re not completely anti-Pakistan, the filmmakers throw in a dialogue about how our problem is not with the government of Pakistan, but with the terrorist groups within Pakistan. But that is completely negated when we are shown scene after scene of Pakistani government officials working in cahoots with the terrorist organization. And I don’t mean, turning-a-blind-eye kind of indirect support — I mean boardroom meetings in the Pakistani capital building where they give full access to military resources, and let the terrorist leader call the shots on “What should we do next?” 

Another scene to show the greatness of India is the funeral of a Muslim Indian soldier that is attended by his Muslim kin, alongside the Indian army. The beautiful visual imagery of the brightly hued tiranga (Indian flag) juxtaposed next to the mourners in white kurtas (tunics) and traditional Muslim topi (skull cap) “reminds” us how Hindus and Muslims co-exist peacefully within India. This scene is so formulaic, despite its beauty, that the filmmakers seem to want us to believe that…This problem has nothing to do with religion (tsk, tsk) — we are so great that we gladly accept your faith in our country. 

As is the case with the majority of big-budget mainstream Bollywood blockbusters, the film does not attempt to show any semblance of realism, which all of us Bollywood fans are fine with. Its “formula” structure is replete with the following musical numbers: 

  1. Daytime Beach Party Song — where our hero and heroine dance away into the night alongside 40+ other partygoers (this is, of course, taking place in their imagination, because at that moment in the film, they’re actually having dinner the night before the intense training begins for the highly dangerous mission). 
  2. Poppin’ Club Song — preferably in a two-storied club—where our leads dance choreographed numbers with at least 120 other professionally trained dancers. A highly rehearsed dance solo by the male lead is a must, and without a doubt, Hrithik delivers. 
  3. Emotional Montage Song — this is the least memorable of the lot, but is an exemplary tool to show how hard our protagonists are working, their strong emotions, and their workouts in the gym. 
  4. End Credits Popular Track — this is used as a medium to include one more song in the film and is often the most marketed. In light-hearted films, this can also be Option 1 or 2 (see above), but in this case, they went with another popular formula – Exotic Locations Romantic Duet. Requisites: virgin beaches, designer swimwear, and a minimum of an 8-pack.

Amidst all of the above, there is hardly any room for facts, conflicts, policy, or diplomacy. Pakistan’s “diplomacy” is shown when they send back a POW in a body bag, hacked to pieces. As if that wasn’t bad enough, we are subjected to a gruesome assault scene, where the head terrorist viciously beats an Indian soldier into the ground. With each punch and kick, he takes pleasure in telling the fallen soldier the order in which each appendage was chopped off his comrade’s body. It’s not cold and menacing — it’s crude, loud, and coupled with a building crescendo of a background score meant to rile you up, and “remind” you why you hated Pakistan in the first place. 

As is the case with the majority of big-budget mainstream Bollywood blockbusters, the film does not attempt to show any semblance of realism.

I didn’t think the blatant “India is great, Pakistan is terrible” propaganda could get any worse, until the climax scene, where, I suppose, they did bring it to a climax. Our hero, Hrithik, beats the head terrorist (who was just sharing the mutilation story) and barks at him mid-fight (and I paraphrase): You call it POK, but only because you’ve occupied it! We are the owners of Kashmir! (Punch, punch, kick, kick). And you should feel lucky … (body slam) because if we wanted (punch, kick, punch, punch, punch), we could make your country IOP (India-Occupied-Pakistan). 

I was at a loss for words at this point. How can we even allow words like that to be said? And that too, on such a big platform? 

This is not a small 1980s film being watched by sporadic communities in rural India, washed away and forgotten shortly after its release (even if that’s not excusable, but I can’t apply the morality of the 21st century to the previous century). Bollywood is the world’s largest film industry, and this is the fifth highest-budget Hindi language film ever made. It has opened in dozens of countries around the globe, and already made tens of millions of dollars. And this is what we made with the best of the best working together. I’m embarrassed for us. 

But what bothers me even more, is the response of our audiences. 

What do NRIs (non-resident Indians) do in response to a film like this? 

We minimize. 

“They’re all like that. ‘Gadar 2’ was even worse.” 

That’s akin to me saying “He beats his wife,” and you responding, “Yeah, well, the other guy killed his wife.” 

Neither of them is ok. 

We ignore. 

“The effects were so good, just like Top Gun.” 

Yes, we have learned to make technically good films. Might I also add that it is also just a little sad that we take such pride in being a wannabe? Then again, the name “Bollywood” says it all (the Hollywood of Bombay). 

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We justify. 

“But they showed women’s empowerment.” 

Yes, it was good to show that women belong in the Air Force, but that’s as far as it went. Hrithik still mansplained away a years-long family conflict between Deepika and her parents with just one conversation — an estrangement that Deepika herself was never able to work out on her own. 

So how do we respond? 

We shrug it off and move on to the next. We normalize

To quote Benjamin Parker (or Maybelle Parker-Jameson, depending on which multiverse you’re in) “With great power comes great responsibility.” 

Bollywood — as the world’s foremost creator of cinema — own up to your responsibility, and start taking yourself more seriously.  

And Indian American audiences — as the wealthiest ethnic group of the nation, a community whose members are CEOs of some of the largest and most influential corporations of the world (think: Google, Microsoft, Adobe, etc.) — take a moment to think about the impact your casual dismissal of caustic prejudiced language has. Your next generation is watching. What message are they learning when you not only eagerly show up to watch these films but walk out with an offhand shrug of indifference? 

If there is one lesson I can take from the abomination that was “Fighter,” it is to fight for Bollywood commercial cinema to stop making films about India-Pakistan. {People are already riled up—they don’t need over-the-top violence to fan the flames} 

Please — any other topic will do. 

Antara Bhardwaj is a Kathak artist and filmmaker based in Mountain View, California, where she lives with her husband and son. She runs a dance company and school by the name of Antara Asthaayi Dance. You can follow her on Facebook and Instagram.

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  • Typical NRI mind set of Looking at a situation from far away through rose tinted glares. The person and minds behind this article seem to be high on wokeness. Understandable that an outsider is trying to blend in with the crowd. But at this rate… You’ll lose identity, sanity and spine to wokeness. The movie was never a war between the Populace. But between A Sane Nation and Terrorism that tries to violate it’s Sovereignty. But to You…. It may not and wouldn’t seem much of a war against terrorism … Since no oil is involved.

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