Newspaper Article 07/02/2023
ISLAMABAD: When the word ‘entertainment’ hits the earlobes of the cinephiles of South Asia, Bollywood is the buzz word that flashes across the minds. This movie industry is the most popular medium and one of the world’s biggest money-minting industry.
Myriad and disparate genres replete with romance, thriller, action, crime, and comedy constitute the niche of this realm of entertainment. Some stories trace the sacrifices of their gallant forefathers, as well as the blend of history and fiction. Cutting from the same cloth, the entertainment leviathan also explores crusts and troughs silhouetting the relationship between the twins of the subcontinent: India and Pakistan.
Since the trajectory of Indo-Pakistan relations is marred with conflicts, flag operations, wars and conspiracies, the content inevitably glues the viewers to their seats.
However, contingent upon the political milieu, these states resort to banning movies and severing the entertainment ties. Since the links between these two neighbours are at their lowest in recent times, there is a subsequent sink in the film and drama market too.
Nevertheless, irrespective of the tense zeitgeist, Hindi film industry is still a cardinal source of leisure for the Pakistani public. Trending Indian movies and series on digital platform is a clarion call and vocal proof of its popularity.
With other tales of bravery tinged with the slat of love recently there has been a rip tide of movies perpetuating an anti-Pakistan narrative. Agent Vinod, Phantom, Uri: The Surgical Strike and Shershah punctuate the theme of India as peaceful and Pakistan as an aggressor.
Another similar pearl in the string is a latest spy film of pandering to contemporary Indian government with anti-Pakistan tropes: Mission Majnu. Joining the bandwagon of trending Indian films in Pakistan on Netflix is the story of an undercover agent starring petit maitre Siddahart Malhotra and rising Indian artist Rashmika Mandana in the lead roles.
The plot of the story is set in the aftermath of Indian nuclear test in 1974, codenamed ‘Smiling Buddha’, where Pakistan is presented as losing its cool and participating in the race of becoming nuclear. The story revolves round an Indian covert agent, Amandeep Ajitpal Singh, the son to an alleged traitor who committed suicide for selling Ambala Airbase secrets to Pakistan. He lives in Rawalpindi, Pakistan under a false identity of a tailor named Tariq to scuttle the secret nuclear programme of Pakistan.
The undercover operation is called ‘Mission Majnu; signifying protagonist torn between the duty to his country and love for a blind Pakistani girl, Nasreen, who he marries for an impenetrable cover. As the plot thickens, the sense of duty takes precedence and with the help of other two RAW agents, Aslam Usmaniya and Raman Singh to unravel the location of Pakistan’s nuclear plant.
The great revelation is carried out by collecting the hair samples of the Pakistan’s army personnel from a barber shop and sent to Delhi to look for the radioactive emissions.
The information is channelled to the then Indian prime minister Morarji Desai, who confronts the Pakistani administrator General Zia-ul-Haq who then aborts the plan of developing nuclear weapons. The climax is replete with a spree of inhumane killings by the Pakistani forces of the Indians along with the general populace suspected as the RAW agents.
From the opening scene, the film presents an over-simplistic explanation of the events. India is portrayed as undefeatable and Pakistan obsessed with vendetta due to continuous humiliating defeats. In addition to this, Pakistan intelligence agency, ISI is displayed as a hamstring and the country is executed to be embedded in a matrix of illicit trafficking of nuclear materials.
Moreover, Pakistani supremo, Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and General Zia are shown as jingoists and duplicitous juxtaposed against the pacifist and peaceful Indian executives such as Morarji Desai.
There is a plethora of reviewers positing that the movie should be taken as another Bollywood masala but it should be noticed that movies as Mission Majnu with a disclaimer of influenced by true events are one of the easiest, undemanding and cheapest channels to convey a certain message, shape the perceptions and transform the mindset of the general public.
Therefore, in the digital age, immediacy, intensity and conformity of visualised information develops a schema or a reflex thinking sourced from such bits and pieces of information.
Movies similar to Mission Majnu constitute a mosaic of digital warfare aggravating the hate sentiments having encroaching impacts on peace prospects. Movies should be a source of cherishing art and culture, a medium of learning and social change and must be devoid of any propaganda. But there are no listeners because the cine-screen medium is all about the repulsive spin of thoughts.
Note: This article appeared in BOL, dated 07 February 2023.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article are of the author and do not necessarily represent Institute’s policy.