Dear Akshay Kumar, here’s why making anti-Pakistan content and saying it’s ‘just a movie’ is messed up

Dear Akshay Kumar, here’s why making anti-Pakistan content and saying it’s ‘just a movie’ is messed up

Films are powerful tools that shape narratives and influence how we interact with the world and filmmakers must be responsible.
08 Dec, 2022

Dear Akshay Kumar, you may justify your films by reducing them to mere forms of entertainment but films are so much more than that. Here’s where you messed up by calling the anti-Pakistan content you played a part in propagating “just a movie”.

In a panel at the Red Sea Film Festival in Saudi Arabia, a Pakistani fan had a question for the Bollywood actor. “I have a request as you’re doing fantastic movies [such as] Pad Man and Toilet, all these movies that are bringing knowledge to people [and] solving daily routine issues,” he said.“ There’s an issue between India and Pakistan as well, when there’s a cricket match happening, it seems like there’s a war somewhere happening.

“So why don’t you, instead of making a movie [such as] your recent movie, Bell Bottom, that has certain things against Pakistan, why can’t we just, the both countries they’ve separated but they’re not able to-” his question was cut short by the Ram Setu actor who was quick to respond with, “Sir, it’s just a movie. Don’t get so serious about it, it’s just a movie.”

Dear Mr Kumar, a movie is never “just a movie”, it adds to or opposes a preexisting narrative. The power of media cannot be denied — it has quite literally transformed the way we interact with the world. People don’t go to the cinema leaving their brains behind. Rather, they fill their brains up with whatever you showcase onscreen. They then go home and mull over what they saw and either choose to identify with it or criticise it — most people doing the former.

When such well-established actors such as yourself, who hold great influence and have mighty fandoms, decide to take part in something that promotes hate, it is quite irresponsible on your part, we must say. Instead of admitting that there’s something wrong with content that is encouraging enmity between two neighbouring nations, you brushed it off ever so lightly, not even willing to acknowledge that there is something problematic at play here.

The Ranjit Tewari directorial, said to be inspired by real-life hijacking events in India during the 80s, stars Kumar as a RAW agent. Sure, actors are not the characters they choose to play but since they have agency to voice their views publicly and actually positively impact others with them, they should not shy away from speaking against what is wrong. We already have a sea of senseless hate washing over both nations, what is needed instead is collaboration. We need to see each other as human rather than dividing people.

And when that hate spills over into real life, when it results in bigotry and hatred, it is difficult to accept that “it’s just a movie”. We need not remind the actor of the issues being faced in his own country when it comes to minority representation and rights.

We understand that it’s a film and there is a creative licence given to filmmakers, but in countries like ours, we all know this kind of narrative goes way beyond filmmaking. It’s a persistent problem in both countries and we expected more from Kumar, someone who touts himself as a liberal minded person.

We’re here to say, it’s more than a movie.