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Lights, camera, election: Political films set to storm theatres

New Delhi: A wave of political dramas and nationalist movies is poised to hit movie theatres in the lead-up to next year’s general elections, inspired by the success of the period film Gadar 2.

Kangana Ranaut will portray Indira Gandhi in the upcoming film Emergency, and a biopic on Atal Bihari Vajpayee is currently in the works. Director Vivek Agnihotri, known for films such as The Kashmir Files, is set to release The Vaccine War later this month. A sequel to Sunny Deol’s patriotic film Maa Tujhe Salaam has also been announced.

With nationalist films resonating with prevailing sentiments, film industry experts predict their continuing popularity and expect them to influence the cultural landscape in a pre-election year.

“Anything pro-India is welcome and appeals to the masses. Gadar 2 definitely changed the game and, similarly, if made like a human drama with the correct cinematic elements that manage to entertain audiences, it can be a popular genre,” said Yusuf Shaikh, business head of feature films at production and distribution firm Percept Pictures.

An election campaign typically uses a combination of elements such as print, social media, and ground activities. Therefore, cinemas can definitely be a potent and popular tool, Shaikh said.

However, audiences cannot be taken for a ride. Subtly leveraging the commoner’s patriotic sentiments is fine, but outright bashing of a community only to provoke may misfire, industry experts said.

Over the past few months, films such as 72 Hoorain and Akelli, which touched upon polarizing issues, failed at the box office. A trade analyst, requesting anonymity, said patriotism sells, but non-Bharatiya Janata Party-ruled states, especially in South India, don’t take to the films. Screening of The Kerala Story was stopped in Tamil Nadu earlier this year, citing issues related to law and order. West Bengal banned the film much before.

Political analyst Manisha Priyam said apart from just screening these movies in theatres; many audiences are introduced to ideas and themes via snippets, including scenes and dialogues circulating on social media. “The current regime is clear that it is aligned with strong nationalist and pro-Hindu sentiment. The manner in which they project themselves isn’t unusual. Such movies are definitely tools to create a cultural setting in the run-up to elections,” Priyam added.

Shivam Shankar Singh, a political analyst, said cinema is an important tool worldwide in shaping people’s thoughts. “It could fuel nationalist sentiment in a pre-election year, but it remains to be seen if these films reach the masses.”

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Updated: 22 Sep 2023, 11:58 PM IST

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