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Indian Army Day: When Bollywood Courted Controversy From The Men In Uniform

On this Indian Army Day, let’s have a look at some of the recent instances when Bollywood filmmakers messed up some details while representing the army.

India is celebrating its 74th Indian Army Day today (January 15). Indian Army Day: When Bollywood Courted Controversy From The Men In Uniform

There have been numerous times when the Indian Army has played a pivotal role in a Bollywood movie. While the movies have been appreciated almost every time, there have been instances when the makers got a bashing from the men in uniform or people in general. While many times, it was for inappropriate representation of the army whereas there have been times when the uniform has been shown wrong, and that has gotten senior officials of the army quite angry.

 A couple of years back filmmaker Meghna Gulzar announced with much fanfare the first look from her upcoming film based on the life of Field Marshal Sam Maneckshaw. Following the publication of the promotional image for the upcoming film ‘Sam Bahadur’ starring actor Vicky Kaushal in the lead, an Army veteran Lt Gen. Syed Ata Hasnain (retd) pointed out on Twitter that Kaushal's uniform had the rank insignia in the wrong colour.

He had written, “Woukd love it if consulted. Lt Gen Deepinder Singh, his MA, is there to give everything on him. Vicky Kaushal, for starters is wearing wrong colour badges of rank. Sam was a Gurkha, never wore brass, always black badges. I am proud to wear that too being a Garhwali Bhulla (sic).”

 A similar incident happened when actor Akshay Kumar launched the first look poster of his movie ‘Gorkha’. Major Manik M Jolly, who is a former officer of one of the many Gorkha Rifles regiments went on social media to tweet an error in the poster. He mentioned that the shape of the khukri (a type of machete used in the poster) was incorrect. Kumar apologised for the error and said that they would take utmost care while filming of the movie, as the poster was just an announcement poster for the project.

 The film ‘Gorkha’ is about Major General Ian Cardozo whose name goes down in history for his immense courage in the 1971 Indo-Pakistan war. He had written, “Dear @akshaykumar ji, as an ex Gorkha officer, my thanks to you for making this movie. However, details matter. Kindly get the Khukri right. The sharp edge is on the other side. It is not a sword. Khukri strikes from inner side of blade. Ref pic of Khukri att. Thanks (sic).”

 Kumar in his revert had written, “Dear Maj Jolly, thank you so much for pointing this out. We’ll take utmost care while filming. I’m very proud and honoured to be making Gorkha. Any suggestions to get it closest to reality would be most appreciated (sic).”

 This wasn’t the first time that Major Manik M Jolly had pointed an error in a Bollywood movie featuring the army. He had also tweeted seeing the first look of  Kaushal from ‘Sam Bahadur’, and tweeted, “Someone who’s been dressed wrongly as evident from Colored images. He’s a Gurkha Officer. He wore Black rank badges , not golden. This is the least that’s expected from movie makers. Get the uniform right of such legendary soldiers. @vickykaushal09 - Another proud Gurkha (sic).”

 Then again producer Ekta Kapoor’s web series ‘XXX’ went into controversy when the Defence Ministry wrote to the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) requesting that creators of Army-themed films or web series must obtain a no-objection certificate (NOC) before airing them. The letter had said that Kapoor's online series ‘XXX’, which was being broadcasted on the video-streaming platform ALT Balaji since 2018, had portrayed the Army in a distorted manner. One such episode was said to have harmed the feelings of the armed troops and their families.

The episode in question, titled 'Pyaar Aur Plastic,' aired on February 8, 2020, and depicted an Army officer's wife having an affair. During their romantic moments, she makes her lover wear her husband's Army uniform at one point in the episode. It created a lot of controversies, and finally, the Defence Ministry sent that letter reportedly to the CBFC.

While the Army didn’t protest for ‘Haider’, there was still controversy created around the Vishal Bhardwaj-directed film. The third installment in his Shakespeare-inspired trilogy received positive reviews and performed well at the box-office, but it was met with criticism at first. Many people advocated for a boycott of the film because it portrayed the Indian Army badly. They objected to sights of torture and human rights breaches by the Indian Army. Some even mocked Bhardwaj by referring to him as a Pakistani spy.

 In ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’, actor Shah Rukh Khan wore a formation symbol on a combat outfit, while in ‘Holiday’, actor Akshay Kumar donned an Army Ordnance Corps cap badge while donning an Infantry rifle green beret. Both the occasions were pointed out by fans on social media, however, there was no major hue and cry created over it by the army.

 On this Indian Army Day, let’s hope Bollywood filmmakers pay extra attention to not repeat such errors in their projects.

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