Updated: August 7, 2021 7:23:15 am
Chief of Army Staff General M M Naravane was the chief guest at the Golden Jubilee celebrations of the Television Wing of Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) on Friday.
As he dedicated the institute’s TV building to the memory of writer P L Deshpande and presided over a ceremony to dedicate the TV studios to the memory of P Kumar Vasudev and Prof Vasant Mulay, General Naravane said, “The nation is passing through a challenging period. The exigencies on our borders, both the west and the north, have only increased in the times of the pandemic. The Indian Army, your army, has stood tall in the face of these challenges. I have always maintained that wars are not fought between armies but waged between nations. While hard power in our context will always be relevant, equally important is the leveraging of soft power”.
He pointed out that the Golden Jubilee coincided with another landmark occasion — the victory of India over Pakistan in the 1971 war and the liberation of Bangladesh. This year is being observed as the Swarna Vijay Varsh by armed forces all across the country.
The first Indian Army Chief to step into FTII, Gen Naravane said that cinema played a great role in reinforcing India’s core values, preserving its diverse culture and galvanising the nation in times of crisis. “Art imitates life and films are a reflection of our society…they leave a deep imprint and even shake us up from our indifference and apathy towards many important issues. It takes courage and self belief to talk about sensitive subjects like sexual violence, honour killing, dowry, drug abuse, reservation, religious intolerance and many more topical issues,” he said.
Highlighting the portrayal of the jawan in Indian cinema, the Army Chief acknowledged that war movies had an “enduring impact on people of all ages, especially the youth”.
“These films have immortalised our soldiers in the heart of every Indian. We have grown up watching these films which have captured the travails of the armed forces and served to reinforce the spirit of supreme sacrifice of our soldiers in our nation’s conscience,” he said, adding that a large number of TV series too, had taken up the issue of the life and challenges on the frontline, thus creating better awareness in society while firing up the youth to join the armed forces.
“The interaction and outreach of popular actors in difficult areas has further reinforced this bond between the military and the society,” he said.
On a lighter note, he added that he had found the stereotyping of Indian officers in films both amusing and intriguing. “The beautiful heroine’s father is always a khadoos (ill-tempered) colonel wearing a silk dressing gown, with a whisky in one hand and a shotgun in the other,” he said. “While creative licence is understood, I believe that stereotyping of communities and characters is best avoided lest we start believing in it,” he added.
Gen Naravane might be stepping into FTII for the first time, but he did pass by India’s premier film institute many times while growing up. He told the audience that a visit to Pune is “always a trip down memory lane”. “Mere dadaji ka ghar Prabhat Road par tha, aur mere nanaji ka Karve Road par (My paternal grandfather’s house was on Prabhat Road, and my maternal grandfather’s house was on Karve Road). When we used to visit on summer vacations, we used to travel from one house to another, aur woh bhi paidal (by foot). Maybe that’s why, in the Army, I was sent to the infantry. While coming and going, I used to pass FTII but this is the first time I have come inside,” he said.
Sharing the dais with him were, among others, noted film makers Sai Paranjpye and Jabbar Patel who were guests of honour. The Army chief said Paranjpye was a long-time family friend. “In our albums at home, we have a number of photographs from when she had visited us in France in the mid-1960s when, I believe, she babysat me. I have no memory of it and I think after that we are meeting now for the first time,” he said.
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