Bollywood takes on Terrorism!

Author: Dr. Mandar V. Bichu

Remember the time when Bollywood films were practically made on only two stories? Either it was the Romantic Saga, where hero- heroine fell in love; then faced obstacles and finally the true love triumphed or it was the Vendetta Tale, where hero waged a lone battle for revenge against an uncouth, unjust villain! Decade after decade, the same two stories were told in different ways and the audience enjoyed them. But with globalization, the equations started changing. The people got bored of the same old stories; they wanted something new, something close to reality. The new film-makers then started searching for topics that reflected the real life around them and one of the topics interested them immensely- ‘Terrorism’!

As practically every major city in world either actually experienced gruesome terror attacks or faced their threats, Terrorism became a focal point of common public’s day-to-day discussions. It no longer remained an occasional news-item from distant shores, which was something to be forgotten in a hurry. It almost became part of the daily existence. Bollywood film-makers saw an opportunity in this and soon, they were using the theme of Terrorism as some kind of a New Age Mantra.

Terrorist - A villain in a new garb!

The ‘Terrorist’ was not like the usual run-of-the-mill Bollywood villain. He was not just some gun-toting, bad-mouthing, fierce- looking filmi evil guy. On the exterior, he could look perfectly normal, next-door person but he would not think twice for killing innocent people with AK-47s and RDX explosions. Some warped ideology in his mind dictated his inhuman actions and that dark thought process was initiated by some real or perceived injustice against him, his family, his state, his country or his community. The political and religious undertones in these terrorist portrayals made them complex characters with grey shades.

Essaying the terrorist’s grey persona and his/her inner conflict became a challenge for leading actors. Hrithik Roshan in Fiza and Mission Kashmir; Chandrachur Singh in Maachis; Manisha Koirala in Dil Se; Aamir Khan in Fanaa, Anurag Sinha in Black And White and Naseeruddin Shah in A Wednesday played some of the memorable Terrorist characters in Hindi films. These terrorists not only had a method in their madness; they also claimed to have some meaning in their mean machinations!

Reel mirrors real

The real life terrorist incidents kept providing the film-makers with the story-lines for their movies. Manisha Koirala in Dil Se and Tulip Joshi in Dhokha played the roles of suicide bombers, much akin to ‘human bombs’ used in many notorious terror attacks on important places and political leaders. In Maachis, Gulzar depicted the terrorism in Punjab of the 80s. Anurag Kashyap’s Black Friday graphically portrayed the 1993 serial bomb-blasts in Mumbai. Mani Ratnam’s Roja, Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s Mission Kashmir and Kunal Kohli’s Fanaa used the politically charged Kashmir-issue in their plots.

Naseeruddin Shah’s debut directorial venture Yuun Hota To Aisa Hota was not a typical terrorism-related movie but it used the 9/11 New York Twin Towers bombings as its climax. Shohaib Mansoor’s Pakistani film Khuda Ke Liye focused more on the persecution mentality prevailing in post- 9/11 world. Nishikant Kamat’s Mumbai Meri Jaan used the backdrop of 7/11 Mumbai local train blasts in its plot. Mission Istanbul – an atrociously over-the-top movie had an interesting premise of a powerful TV station- (a snide take on Al Jazira!) trying to twist facts to keep the terrorism alive. Films like Anwar and Little Terrorist tried to bring into focus the mass hysteria about terrorism, which sometimes can turn an innocuous incident into a sensational one

Sometimes these films almost foretold the grim future terrorist events. The terrorist plot planned in Mukhbiir was dangerously similar to the 26/11 Mumbai terror attack, even though the film was released much earlier!

The Common Man

Terrorism is an issue, which has baffled one and all with its growing stature and complexity. The conventional war has no way of succeeding against it. Thankfully recent Hindi/Urdu films like Khuda Ke Liye, Mumbai Meri Jaan and Aamir have tellingly put one important point across! They effectively show that it is the common man who is lured or coerced into becoming a ‘Terrorist’ and it is also the common man who suffers the most in terror attacks! So finally it is up to the common man to recognize the dangers of either living in constant fear of terrorism or falling into the trap of becoming an instrument of terror.

Standing up united against terrorism, denouncing fanaticism and respecting multi-culture-ism is the only winning option in this war on terror. Paresh Raval, playing the old policeman in Mumbai Meri Jaan so wisely points out: “Instead of returning every push with a shove, why don’t we realize that that someone somewhere has to stop this unending mad cycle of vengeance?” Let’s hope that in future, Bollywood/ Lollywood can come up with more such effective and expressive movies on Terrorism. It is the need of the hour!


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