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When Bollywood courted the men in uniform controversy




There have been many times when the Indian army has played a central role in a Bollywood movie. While the films have been appreciated almost every time, there have been instances where the directors have been criticized by the men in uniform or people in general. While many times it was for an inappropriate portrayal of the army while there were times when the uniform was shown incorrectly, and that made senior army officials quite angry.

A few years ago, filmmaker Meghna Gulzar announced to much fanfare the first preview of her upcoming film based on the life of Field Marshal Sam Maneckshaw. Following the release of the promotional image for the upcoming movie ‘Sam Bahadur’ starring actor Vicky Kaushal in the lead, an army veteran, Lt. Gen. Syed Ata Hasnain (Retired), pointed out on Twitter that the Kaushal’s uniform had the rank insignia in the wrong color.

He wrote: “Woukd would love to be consulted. Lt Gen Deepinder Singh, his MA, is there to give it his all. Vicky Kaushal, for starters, wears the wrong color rank insignia. Sam was a Gurkha, never wore brass, always black badges. I am proud to wear this too as Garhwali Bhulla (sic).

A similar incident happened when actor Akshay Kumar launched the first poster of his movie “Gorkha”. Major Manik M Jolly, who is a former officer in one of the many Gorkha Rifles regiments, took to 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 apologized for the mistake and said that they would take great care while shooting the movie, as the poster was just an announcement poster for the project.

The film “Gorkha” is about Major General Ian Cardozo, whose name went down in history for his immense courage during the 1971 Indo-Pakistani War. He wrote: “Dear @akshaykumar ji, as former Gorkha officer, thank you for making this film. However, details matter. Please obtain the correct Khukri. The cutting edge is on the other side. It’s not a sword. Khukri strikes from the inner side of the blade. Photo ref of Khukri att. Thank you (sic).”

Kumar in his return had written: “Dear Maj Jolly, thank you very much for pointing this out. We will take the utmost care during filming. I am very proud and honored to do Gorkha. Any suggestions to get closer to the real thing would be much appreciated (sic).

It was not the first time that Major Manik M Jolly pointed out a mistake in a Bollywood film featuring the army. He had also tweeted upon seeing Kaushal’s first look from ‘Sam Bahadur’, and tweeted, “Someone who has been badly dressed as evidenced by the colored pictures. He is a Gurkha officer. He was wearing black rank insignia , not gold. It’s the least expected of filmmakers. Get the right uniform of these legendary soldiers. @vickykaushal09 – Another proud Gurkha (sic).

Again, producer Ekta Kapoor’s “XXX” web series entered controversy when the Department of Defense wrote to the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) requesting that creators of film or web series themed around the army get a No Objection Certificate (NOC) before airing them. The letter said Kapoor’s “XXX” online series, which aired on video streaming platform ALT Balaji since 2018, had portrayed the military in a distorted way. One of these episodes would have hurt the feelings of the armed troops and their families.

The episode in question, titled “Pyaar Aur Plastic”, aired on February 8, 2020 and depicts an army officer’s wife having an affair. During their romantic moments, she forces her lover to wear her husband’s army uniform at one point in the episode. This created a lot of controversy, and eventually the Department of Defense sent this letter to the CBFC.

While the military didn’t protest for “Haider”, there was still controversy surrounding the film directed by Vishal Bhardwaj. The third installment of his Shakespeare-inspired trilogy received positive reviews and performed well at the box office, but was initially criticized. Many people pleaded for a boycott of the film because it misrepresented the Indian military. They opposed the scenes of torture and human rights violations by the Indian army. Some even mocked Bhardwaj as a Pakistani spy.

In ‘Jab Tak Hai Jaan’ actor Shah Rukh Khan wore a training symbol on combat gear, while in ‘Holiday’ actor Akshay Kumar donned an Army Ordnance Corps cap badge while donning a green beret for infantry rifle. Both occasions were highlighted by fans on social media, however, there was no major outcry created by the military.

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




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