August 22, 2020 9:46 pm

Avrodh: The Seige | Another Distorted Picture Shot in Kashmir

The series becomes easily predictable and it doesn’t look like a release of 2020 rather of 1990s. It also calls for the responsible action of all the Kashmiri actors who work in these kinds of movies to at least filter the content once and not act blindly.

By Asif Khan and Arbeena

HOW well is it said by Henry Valentine Miller, the great American writer and painter that, “The one thing we can never get enough of is love. And the one thing we never give enough of is love.” One could hardly find any better lines to express the love of bollywood with the subject of Islamophobia.

When the media literacy of the masses in a country like India is almost invisible, the Hindi cinema becomes vulnerable of turning into a mere propaganda machine. As the bollywood actress, Swara Bhaskar, in one of her discussions with the Quint rightly puts forth that, “Bollywood historicals in the last few years are totally playing into the Hindutva ideology, and the Hindutva writing and rewriting of history.”

Bollywood has a long history of producing Islamophobic content and portraying Muslims as barbaric and threats to the society. The filmmakers continuously flirt with the depiction of a good and bad Muslim in order to create an illusion of balance in the minds of the Muslim audiences. And this trick has so far paid good dividends to the Indian film industry. They make gold by an ill representation of the Muslim community which is evident by the success of many such films. Be it Padmavat or recently released Tanhaji, both of these historic fictional movies were big blockbusters. We see Muslims once again being taken to task by the makers of the film by exploiting their artistic license. Though, you may see good Indian Muslims fighting the bad in the movies but that’s always kept in the background.

Based on a chapter titled “We Don’t Really Know Fear,” from the book, “India’s Most Fearless: True Stories of Modern Military,” by Shiv Aroor and Rahul Singh, starring Amit Sadh in a tough lead role evident from of his appearance at the end of the fourth episode, where he could be seen getting beaten by his inmates while he remains hung upside down from a beam. Unfortunately, Muslims in Avrodh: The Siege Within, a SonyLiV web release, suffer a similar fate. Especially, given the way people are reacting to it in the hyper-nationalistic environment blanketing India, one is bound to say that Muslims have once again been summoned in this series.

Produced & created by Applause Entertainment & Irada Entertainment, this 4 hour 48 minute watch is packed in 9 episodes each of 30 minute duration. The establishing shot captures the beauty of Kashmir by focusing on the lush green trees with birds chirping around. A Chinar leaf falling from the tree unto the ground after which the date and reference of the place, 8th July 2016, Bumdoora, Anantnag, J&K, is given. We then see gushing water, donkeys and native women taking fodder for their cattle. A local wedding is taking place in Bumdoora where a militant named Bilawal Wani who draws acute comparison with Kashmir’s young and popular Hizbul Mujahideen commander, Burhan Wani, is trapped and killed by the armed forces.

Directed by Raj Acharya, who has also worked with Danny Boyle for Slumdog Millioniare (2008), Avrodh takes us back to what was already shown in 2019 blockbuster and India’s national award winning movie, Uri: The Surgical Strike. That put forth a dramatized version of what was declared a “surgical strike” by India in September 2016 done in Pakistan’s administered Kashmir to avenge the killings of its 19 soldiers in a planned attack allegedly carried out by Jaish-e-Muhammad, a Pakistan based militant outfit. Avrodh unlike Uri movie is placed more on the technical side and shows the planning and in hand tireless hard work of the forces and the government that had been invested in making what was claimed to be a successful surgical strike on the militant launch pads across the border.

The writing team of Avrodh, Harmanjeet Singha, Sudeep Nigam, Abhishek Chatterjee and Aadhar Khurana, has weaved the 9 episodes brilliantly and succeed in keeping their audience on the edge of their seats. Though it is not much action packed mainly as it is more about the homework that had been done before carrying the attack. That’s why there are secret meetings between the Prime minister played by Vikram Gokhale, who deserves appreciation for his role as he has fully impersonated the actual Prime minister of India, Narendra Modi, and the officials.

The role of the National security advisor played by the Neeraj Kabi, who is best known for films like Talvar, Ship of Theseus, and popular web series Sacred Games laudably stands out because of his serious acting. Anant Mahadevan who plays the role of defence secretary looks classic and well in control of his character. We see an emotional foot soldier in the form of Major Raunaq Gautam played by Darshan Kumaar who initially is portrayed as the protagonist until the main Hero in the form of Major Videep Singh (Amit Sadh) appears to the scene. There is an over enthusiastic Journalist, Namrata Joshi, played by Madhurima Tuli, who is shown fully independent and ready to work without fearing the consequences. And her work to some extent as a journalist is quite impressive in the movie. But given the fact that the position of India in the World Press Freedom Index report (142) covered in 2020, she seems to be far away from reality. Anil George’s role as Abu Hafiz is again praise worthy and notable. He has been able to build the strange and devilish calmness around his character. His sharp kohled eyes, white beard and curly black long hair hanging from the sides and back of his typical Muslim cap have helped to create a sharp contrast between the militant leaders of Jaish-e –Muhammad and other alike outfits. However, his address to the school children looks unconvincing. He has been given a cruel look in the movie and children in that very scene are too young to get attracted by him, they should have rather felt terrified.

Mir Sarwar, the Kashmiri actor plays his part well as Fakhrudin a Kashmiri journalist. His look is pretty much similar to Abu Hafiz’s and that in itself carries a message and is bound to raise the debate of a good and a bad Muslim. We also have Arif Zakaria, as Ali Raza Khan, an NIA officer, who does remarkably well. Nirmal Pandey’s music compliments the film well. The cinematography by Shanu Singh Rajput is decent in capturing Kashmir.

The less action in the movie is justifiable as it is more about the work behind the curtains. Hence, that is understandable. But the movie lacks powerful dialogues that can make your blood rush. This series is also guilty of doing injustice with Kashmiris as they have been portrayed voiceless again. The makers haven’t bothered to take Kashmiri version into consideration. Also, this movie seems to be drawn by an element of propaganda given the way Prime minister of India in this series has been shown giving confidence and wisdom quotes to his officials that looks strange and farcical. His strong character which, undoubtedly, has been glorified to an extreme level. The time which he spends with the team is also not understood.

The series becomes easily predictable and it doesn’t look like a release of 2020 rather of 1990s. It also calls for the responsible action of all the Kashmiri actors who work in these kinds of movies to at least filter the content once and not act blindly. Artists are also from this society why should art be then let free?

Bollywood has always preferred to romance with Islamophobia and the dangerous depiction of Islam and its followers by the filmmakers is only threatening the existence of the Muslims in India. The Indian film Industry should act responsibly at a time when Islamophobia is on rise across India. History would mark this series as one of those movies which have only added fuel to the rising levels of Islamophobia and swept Kashmiri sentiments fully.

This series is a perfect watch for the current environment of India but we would suggest people to watch it with open senses. Here, we from Kashmir would give this series 2.5 out of 5 stars.

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