Timing is key, especially when it comes to politics.
India’s current leading party, the Bharatiya Janata Party, knows this. Coincidentally or not, as the national election in May nears, several movies promoting BJP have hit theaters.
These movies range in topic from a surgical strike in Pakistan by the Indian government to the story of a brave Indian woman who dedicates her life to serving her country as a spy.
Film is a sneaky yet effective way to get one’s political message across. The average layman, who just wants to enjoy an innocent movie might find himself wondering who he’ll support in the next election.
Campaigning through cinema is different from traditional speeches and rallies in that it becomes ingrained in one’s subconscious. Viewers might believe the movie hasn’t impacted their political stance, that it was limited to that 90-minute window, and so it becomes an even more dangerous form of persuasion.
Given historic tensions between India and Pakistan, it’s no surprise India turned the cinema into a weapon of patriotism; the country made it mandatory for the national anthem to be played before every movie in the capital city of New Delhi and metropolitan areas.
In May 2018, “Raazi,” which tells the real story of an Indian spy in Pakistan and how she gave up her life to fight her nation’s enemies, came out. In December, “Uri,” which recounted a surgical strike conducted in Pakistan by the Indian government and the events that led up to it, was released. “Uri” glorified this strike, which came after an Indian military base was attacked by armed militants.
“Uri” was packed with riveting speeches about protecting the motherland, being patriotic and dying for one’s country.
Additionally, “The Accidental Prime Minister,” a biopic on Manmohan Singh — the former prime minister of India who lead the country through the opposition party, the Indian National Congress — followed an anti-INC narrative that was used by the BJP campaign in 2014 to gain power.
There’s no way to verify that releasing the movies right before the election is a political maneuver; it just so happens to be extremely convenient for the government. And if it was timed, the move is manipulative.
The effect of these sneaky decisions may not be quantifiable, but they’ll be felt when the masses gather to vote in May with patriotic movies playing in the back of their minds.
Tanvi Jhunjhunwala PO ’22 is from New Delhi, India, and she almost never makes it to class on time.