Bollywood filmmakers are obsessed with villanising Pakistan — the Fighter trailer proves just that

Even Indian audiences are tired of the same old narrative.
16 Jan, 2024

The trailer for Siddharth Anand’s Fighter starring Hrithik Roshan, Deepika Padukone and Anil Kapoor just dropped, and boy, talk about a hot mess.

The movie is about Shamsher “Patty” Pathania who becomes a member of the Indian Air Force and then has to come to terms with the 2019 Pulwama attack.

Here’s a short history lesson for more context: on February 14, 2019, over 40 Indian paramilitary troops were killed in the Pulwama attack in Indian Occupied Kashmir, which was claimed by the Jaish-e-Mohammad, a proscribed organisation. The incident led to allegations from across the border — as there have been in previous such strikes where India’s security personnel in Indian Occupied Kashmir have been targeted — that those who planned the attacks had links with the Pakistani state, a charge that Pakistan has vigorously denied.

In fact, the Pakistan Foreign Office condemned the attack, saying that it was “a matter of grave concern”. It further marred Pakistan-India relations and resulted in a military standoff. In August 2021, the main accused along with six others had been killed.

While the trailer started as a coming-of-age movie about pilots at an airforce academy, ripping off Top Gun in the process — picture the famous scene with Tom Cruise flying his jet above Miles Teller’s but replace them with Roshan and Padukone — it soon turned into a poster for jingoism. It seems as though Anand is beating a dead horse with a stick in yet another military movie villanising Pakistan — and in India’s election year too.

Indian audiences themselves seem over Bollywood’s fixation with the “evil” Pakistan.

We wouldn’t say Pakistan is “irrelevant”, but this netizen is right when they say that all Bollywood content demonising Pakistan seems like a money-grabbing scheme.

Audiences evidently do not want to watch movies pushing the same old nationalist agendas, especially after Mission Majnu, The Kerala Story, and The Kashmir Files all promoted anti-Pakistan and Islamaphobic sentiments. All within the past two years alone.

Perhaps what makes the trailer even worse is when Roshan thrashes the Pakistani villain and calls for an “Indian-Occupied Pakistan” with every punch. Seriously? In 2024? When the whole world is calling for an end to illegal occupation in the wake of the Israeli war on Gaza and reflections on past colonisation. Did Anand really think it would be a good idea to leave pro-occupation dialogue in not just the movie but also in the three-minute trailer? Especially given that India itself is a victim of colonisation.

The cherry on top of the tone-deaf cake is Roshan announcing that India is the “owner” of Kashmir (“maalik hum hain“). Again. Seriously? In 2024? Did no one on the entire team of Fighter realise “owning” another people and their land is a phenomenon that is typically frowned upon?

We think Pakistani actor Zara Noor Abbas summed it up best when she said: “Kashmiris are no one’s slaves. Kashmiris deserve an independent state, full stop”.

“Maybe get over the idea that you guys can occupy Pakistan or Pakistan can occupy India, because, at the end of the day, we were all together in the subcontinent”.

Abbas further said — and rightfully so — that patriotic movies could be created “without putting any country down”.

It’s high time Bollywood upped its game, focused on other more prevalent issues and laid the hypernationalism to rest. Especially when it’s done so poorly.