Fri, Mar 01, 2019 - Page 5 News List

Kashmir Conflict: Blockbuster helps fuel Indians’ fervor amid tensions

AFP, NEW DELHI

The lights dimmed and India’s national anthem drew patriotic cheers before the audience settled down to an action-packed Bollywood movie that has helped fuel a nationalist frenzy as a new cross-border conflict simmers.

Released at the beginning of the year, Uri: The Surgical Strike was one of Bollywood’s biggest hits even before this week’s raid by Indian forces on a militant camp inside Pakistan renewed viewers’ appetite for the blockbuster.

Since Tuesday’s strike, Indians have started flocking again to the movie which dramatizes raids in 2016 by Indian commandos along the border with Pakistan after 19 soldiers were killed in an attack on an Indian army base at Uri in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

Economics student Shailaja Kumar was overcome seeing Uri for a second time on Wednesday, just as India and Pakistan announced they had shot down each other’s jets.

“I could not stop crying during the film while following news on the attacks at the same time,” she said at a multiplex cinema in New Delhi’s upmarket Chanakyapuri neighborhood.

“With all that is going on in the country at the moment, this movie has made a big impact and I will definitely see it again,” she said.

Vinod Jain, a retired banker who went with his family, quoted the words of the film’s protagonist played by actor Vicky Kaushal, saying: “I could feel the josh” — a Hindi word meaning “fervor” that has become a political buzzword since the movie’s release.

Uri, which reportedly earned US$50 million in less than eight weeks, “deserves to be exempted from the entertainment tax,” Jain said.

The timing of the Hindi-language film, the directorial debut of 35-year-old singer Aditya Dhar, could not have been better.

Trade analyst Akshaye Rathi said that the film “will definitely get another boost and continue to dominate in theaters and probably earn more in the next few weeks.”

The movie’s backers are not the only ones looking to benefit from the surge in nationalism.

The film’s catchphrase — “How’s the josh?” — has become one of the most quoted on and off social media, with government ministers using it at public gatherings as they hope to channel the fervor into votes.

The government of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi blamed the Uri attack in September 2016 on Pakistan-based militants.

It has again accused Islamabad of backing militants responsible for a suicide bombing in Kashmir on Feb. 14 that left 40 Indian troops dead.

After this week’s raids, India’s nationalist leader is now looking to spark “josh” among voters as he prepares to call national elections.

Dhar has faced criticism for making nationalism a key plank of the film, which features lines like “It is time to seek revenge — an eye for an eye” and “This is a new India — we will enter your house and we will kill you.”

Yet the filmmaker is unrepentant, telling the Web site Bollywood Hungama that “Indians are very angry... I think Uri reflects that anger.”

“Indians have found a voice of protest in that film which does not shy away from naming Pakistan as the enemy,” Dhar said.

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