Setting the Scene

How Hindi film adaptations align with the Hindutva project

31 August 2022
The actor Aamir Khan during the making of the 2022 film, Laal Singh Chaddha, an official remake of the 1994 Hollywood blockbuster Forrest Gump. The film conveniently removes the progressive underpinnings of the original and contains garbled Hindu nationalistic coding.
COURTESY SHAFILM PRODUCTIONS
The actor Aamir Khan during the making of the 2022 film, Laal Singh Chaddha, an official remake of the 1994 Hollywood blockbuster Forrest Gump. The film conveniently removes the progressive underpinnings of the original and contains garbled Hindu nationalistic coding.
COURTESY SHAFILM PRODUCTIONS

The most famous line from the 1992 film A Few Good Men, “You can’t handle the truth,” is aimed at the average American who wants their country to be both secure and free but does not ever wonder about the inherent contradiction. In the climax, Colonel Nathan Jessup, played by a snarling Jack Nicholson, has been cornered in court over a cruel hazing practice that led to the death of a young marine. Defending this method of instilling discipline in marines, Jessup claims that the lawyer questioning him, played by Tom Cruise, cannot handle the reality that the young man’s death, “while tragic, probably saved lives.”

Jessup alleges that, deep down, the average American knows that the price of their freedom is a functional military, whose undemocratic character become necessary to maintain power, but they are incapable of accepting this about themselves. Jessup is eventually jailed, leaving viewers with the impression that army leaders like him—who commit or defend such excesses—are a few bad eggs, set right by a few good men. This, as critics pointed out and human-rights organisations reported, is a blatant lie. Jessups are more the norm than the exception.

In the Indian adaptation, Shaurya, Jessup’s counterpart, Brigadier Rudra Pratap Singh, played by Kay Kay Menon, also insists that the average Indian cannot handle the truth. Singh, whose unit is shown to have committed human-rights abuses in Kashmir, is revealed to be an Islamophobe who claims that “no Muslim can be trusted, because they are only faithful to their community, which is full of poison.” Therefore, someone—the brigadier himself—must take the responsibility of eliminating this threat to the country. The uncomfortable truth in one case is that an undemocratic military maintains American power. In comparison, the truth in India is that a bigoted military paints all Muslims as suspected anti-nationals in the name of national security. This bias has been borne out in Kashmir, despite every union government’s claim to the contrary. In Shaurya, Singh is punished for his excesses against Kashmiris, a fate that is yet to befall any senior officers of the real Indian Army.

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    Akshat Jain works as an editor at the Centre for Science and Environment. He studied media and cultural studies at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai.

    Keywords: Bollywood Hindi cinema Foreign Film world cinema
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