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07 December 2023

Reelpolitik: India election films get Bollywood vote

Photo: AFP


Bollywood filmmakers are seeking to cash in on this year's Indian general election with a host of political movies, some of which smack of propaganda according to critics.

The Hindi film industry has a long tradition of producing politically tinged flicks but industry watchers say 2019's offerings are more partisan than ever before.

"What we have this year are quite a few films, some of which are biopics, that appear to be uncritical and unabashedly push the agenda of a particular party, its policies and political philosophies," said reviewer Nandini Ramnath.

"The Accidental Prime Minister" and "Uri: The Surgical Strike" are released on Friday. Films about the lives of two prominent politicians air later in January while a biopic on Prime Minister Narendra Modi is also in the works.

The silver screen and politics have often intertwined in India. Many actors have become politicians while Bollywood has not shied away from tackling political issues in its plotlines.

"Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro" (Let it be, friends) became a cult classic in 1983 for its satirical takedown of corruption while 2010's "Peepli Live" was praised for tackling the difficult subject of farmer suicides.

Political movies have also fallen foul of the government. "Kissa Kursi Ka" (Story of the Chair) and "Aandhi" (Storm) were both banned by then prime minister Indira Gandhi in the 1970s.

The former (1977) was viewed as satirising her politics while the latter (1975) was allegedly based on her relationship with her estranged husband, who died several years earlier.