Bollywood Movies

The rise of right-wing narrative films

March 9, 20247 Mins Read

Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leader Gudur Narayan Reddy’s movie ‘Razakar: Silent Genocide of Hyderabad’, based on the annexation of Hyderabad to India in 1948, is slated for release on March 1. So is ‘Swatantra Veer Savarkar’, a movie based on RSS leader Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, which will be released on March 22.

Both films have some things in common as they touch pages of history and the political landscape during the British colonization and Indian independence.

Upcoming movies

According to a report by Al Jazeera, nearly ten movies that glorify PM Modi’s ‘new India image’ have been released or are slated for release before the 2024 Lok Sabha elections. The BJP is looking to hit a hattrick by coming into power at the Centre for the third consecutive term.

In February, the movie Article 370, which talks about the revocation of Jammu & Kashmir’s special status in 2019, was released under the Reliance banner Jio Studios. On February 20, days before the film’s release, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, during a public gathering in Jammu mentioned the movie and encouraged people to watch it. He said, “I have heard that perhaps a film on Article 370 is going to be released this week. I think your ‘Jai Jai Kaar’ (cheers) is going to be heard all over the country.”

According to IMDb rating, the movie, “is a riveting cinematic masterpiece that flawlessly captures the essence of a complex socio-political issue.”

Two of the upcoming films, Accident or Conspiracy: Godhra (releasing on March 1), and The Sabarmati Report (releasing on May 2); based on the tragic Godhra train burning incident where 59 Hindu pilgrims and karsevaks were burnt to death, ultimately leading to infamous 2002 Gujarat riots, claims to show the ‘truth’.

A look at the respective trailers gives an impression of how the storyline is weaved to please the Hindutva audience and give Narendra Modi, who was then Gujarat’s chief minister, an image of a soft leader, who cared.

The riots claimed over 1,000 lives, mostly Muslims.

Released on February 16, Aakhir Palaayan Kab Tak? (Until when will we need to flee?), shows a Hindu “exodus” purportedly due to Muslims. IMDb describes it as “A cop faces personal struggles in a deceptive town where dark forces exploit community sentiments.”

All movies will be or have also been released in Telugu, Tamil, and Kannada – south Indian languages.

Rise of the Muslim villain

Interestingly, many of the films’ antagonists are Muslims. The plot often revolves around a Muslim invader in history or a Muslim-dominated country Pakistan in the current scenario; giving rise to Islamophobic conspiracies, which has worked remarkably for the right-wing BJP to attract voters.

Ira Bhaskar, a retired professor of cinema studies at JNU who also served as a member of the country’s censor board until 2015, defines this trend as an attempt to ‘take over the Hindi film industry’.

“Over the last few years, we have seen a shift in the representation of Muslim rulers who are all, now, portrayed as barbarians and temple-destroyers. This was also propaganda, though in a not-so-direct way, where the message was: Muslims don’t belong to India, they were invaders,” Bhaskar told Al Jazeera.

Boycott Bollywood or sail with the tide

In 2021, popular streaming platform Amazon Prime released a web series Tandav. The makers and the OTT platform received FIRs registered against them by BJP and Hindutva organisations as it allegedly contained scenes that were anti-Hindu. At the brim of a boycott, the makers were forced to make changes in the script.

A film producer, requesting anonymity, described the incident as how it created fear among his colleagues and streaming platforms. “Often, ideas get nixed or get altered at the pre-production stage itself, because makers are now constantly censoring themselves and anticipating the trouble that the content might court in the current political climate,” the film producer told Al Jazeera


Filmmakers who accommodate the BJP’s views and ideology, which has always been anti-minorities, are often granted tax relief, a shout out by the Prime Minister himself and a National award.

This was seen in the case of The Kashmir Files, which received two national awards – Best Feature Film on National Integration and Best Supporting Actress. This was after the film was heavily accused of being a propaganda film, misleading with facts and no proper research.

“When you make a political film on an event or incident, the onus lies on the filmmaker to do the research and make it accurate. If you use films to subvert the truth and use it for other purposes, then you are depriving people of knowledge of what really happened there,” opines National Award-winning filmmaker R Balakrishnan.

On the other hand, a 2023 film Bheed by Anubhav Sinha, which narrated difficulties faced by Indians from all strata of society during the first lockdown of COVID-19, received a low audience in the theatres. There was no shoutout, no tax exemption, no endorsement by prominent leaders of the ruling party.

Modi’s growing relation with Indian cinema

In January 2019, Aditya Dhar’s Uri: The Surgical Strike and Vijay Gutte’s The Accidental Prime Minister was released. Uri was based on the surgical operation carried out by the Indian Army in retaliation to the 2016 attack on the military camp in Kashmir’s Uri district. Nineteen soldiers were killed, The Accidental Prime Minister was a searing dig at Modi’s predecessor, former PM and senior Congress leader Manmohan Singh.

Both films were released before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.

PM Modi has in the past maintained good relations with the Hindi film industry. The famous interview with Hindi superstar Akshay Kumar or his gatherings with Bollywood actors are strategically placed moves to project an image of a thoughtful and engaged PM.

According to JNU Prof Bhaskar, this trend has been visible since 2014. During the inaugural ceremony of Reliance Foundation Hospital in Mumbai in October 2014, everyone from Amitabh Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, Shah Rukh Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Aamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Saif Ali Khan, Asha Bhosle, Rishi Kapoor, Neetu Kapoor, Gulzar. Sonu Nigam, and Sonakshi Sinha, were in attendance to meet PM Modi, who was newly elected as Prime Minister of India.

In 2019, another rendezvous with PM Modi was arranged. This time, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Kangana Ranaut, Sonu Nigam, Rajkumar Hirani, Anand L Rai, Sonam Kapoor, Jackie Shroff, Sonu Nigam, Sajid Nadiadwala, Jacqueline Fernandes, Anurag Basu, Pritam, Kapil Sharma, Imtiaz Ali, Rakul Preet Singh, Dinesh Vijan, Varun Sharma, Nitesh Tiwari, Ayan Mukerji, Boney Kapoor, Ajay Bijli, Ashwini Tiwari, Ekta Kapoor, to name a few were in attendance.

On January 22, Indian movie A-listers, including Ranbir Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Vicky Kaushal, Katrina Kaif, Amitabh Bachchan, Abhishek Bachchan, Kangana Ranaut, Vicky Kaushal, Ayushmaan Khurana, Rajnikanth, Chiranjeevi to name a few, were in attendance at the pran prathistha Ram temple ceremony in Ayodhya.

Stating the trend will only deepen in the future, with Indian audiences exposed to more right-wing propaganda movies, Prof Bhaskar said it is only time when big stars, including the Khans, will have no choice but to serve the Hindutva ideology. “This is no longer episodic, or tied to any events like the polls any more. If anything the scale of such films is now going to grow. You will now see big-banner, big-budget films being made to serve propaganda purposes,” she said.

This post was last modified on March 9, 2024 9:43 pm

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