Application made for name of pilot shot down over Pakistan with view to possible movie
The distant hum of fighter jets engaged in a dogfight over the India-Pakistan border has barely faded but that has not stopped Bollywood seeking to cash in on the action, according to The Guardian.
An enterprising Bollywood filmmaker has already applied for rights to a title related to the skirmishes over Kashmir, laying the groundwork for a possible future movie about the recent fighting between the two countries.
The application with the Indian Motion Picture Association in Mumbai is for the title Abhinandan, after Abhinandan Varthaman, the Indian air force pilot who was captured on Wednesday after ejecting from his plane over Pakistani territory. He was expected to return home on Friday to a hero’s welcome.
“We have received one application for this film title from a well-known filmmaker. It isn’t surprising. I am expecting more. Producers are always looking for stories that will capture the national imagination so whenever any event or incident of this kind happens, they rush to register titles so that they have the option to make the film, even if they don’t actually go ahead,” said Anil Nagrath, the general secretary of the association.Advertisement
However, he denied reports there had been a scuffle in the association’s office with representatives of production houses jostling to get first rights to Abhinandan and titles such as Pulwama and Balakot. Pulwama is the Indian town where a suicide bomber blew up a vehicle carrying troops, killing more than 40 Indian soldiers on 14 February. Balakot is the town in Pakistan where the Indian government said its jets destroyed a terrorist training camp in retaliation.
“This happens all the time. It seems insensitive to do it when the situation isn’t even over and Varthaman hasn’t even come home yet but that’s how the industry works. Never mind applying for titles before the tensions have even abated, people start writing scripts the next day. Whenever there is a sensational crime, a natural disaster like an earthquake or a national incident like this, there is a rush to register the title,” said the film critic and analyst Komal Nahta.
Varthaman has received praise in India for his presence of mind amid reports he tried to destroy documents in his possession before being captured by a group of Pakistan villagers. One commentator spoke proudly of his “assured and dignified” body language while in Pakistani custody.
With his newly found hero status among the Indian public, the rumour mill in Bollywood is likely to soon start buzzing as to which actor will play this tall, dashing wing-commander.
The immediate interest from film-makers follows the unprecedented box office success of the latest in this patriotic genre, Uri: The Surgical Strike, which smashed records by making more than 2bn rupees (£21m) at the box office in its first 30 days.
The film is based on the Indian military retaliation in 2016 to an attack in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir state, in which more than 20 Indian army personnel died. The Pakistan-based terrorist group, Jaish-e-Mohammed, which claimed responsibility for mounting the recent Pulwama suicide bombing, was also involved in the Uri attack.
On occasion, though, Bollywood’s eagerness to cash in can backfire. In the wake of the Mumbai attacks of 2008, the film director Ram Gopal Varma toured the Taj hotel justa day after it was cleared of the terrorists who had set it on fire.The embers were still smouldering and the victims had yet to be identified. A public outcry ensued and Varma was forced to apologise. The controversy also led to the resignation of the chief minister of Maharashtra, Vilasrao Deshmukh.
Nor is a “patriotic” film designed to make audiences feel good guaranteed to be a box office or critical hit. After lying low for some years, Varma went on to make The Attacks of 26/11 in 2013 to mixed reviews. One critic called it a ‘tragedy exploited’ while another said, after coming out of the cinema, “the nausea is just about abating”.