Updated: June 3, 2022 8:06:14 am
Two days ahead of its release, Home Minister Amit Shah attended a special screening of Samrat Prithviraj, a biopic of ruler Prithviraj Chauhan starring Akshay Kumar and Manushi Chillar in the lead roles. The next day, on June 2, Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath watched the film in Lucknow and declared it tax-free in the state. Madhya Pradesh followed suit hours later.
Addressing the press post the screening, Shah called the film “an epic (which) can at times ignite pride and mass awareness that hundreds of books cannot”.
The BJP has put its weight behind several films in the recent past, endorsing them either through tax exemptions or vocal support on social media.
Just this past week, on May 28, on the occasion of V D Savarkar’s birth anniversary, P C Mohan, Lok Sabha MP from Bengaluru Central, shared a poster of the leader’s biopic Swatantraveer Savarkar, starring Randeep Hooda.
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In March this year, six BJP-ruled states – Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Haryana, Goa, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh – made the film The Kashmir Files, with its contested portrayal of the 1990 Kashmiri Pandit exodus from the Valley, tax free.
Announcing the tax exemption on March 13, Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan said the film had to “be watched by the maximum people”. He added: “Movie #The Kashmir Files is heart-wrenching narration of the pain, suffering, struggle, and trauma faced by Kashmiri Hindus in the 90s.”
The Madhya Pradesh government also declared leave for policemen to watch the film a day later on March 14. It also announced a genocide museum for Kashmiri Pandits, at a March 25 event also attended by the film’s director Vivek Agnihotri.
Not just tax exemption, holidays and free tickets also feature in the BJP’s playbook to support a film.
BJP national spokesperson R P Singh announced free tickets of The Kashmir Files to college students from Rajinder Nagar, the constituency he contested from in 2020. “Let the new generation visit the history which scarred the soul of the nation,” he tweeted.
As reported by The Indian Express in March this year, Delhi BJP vice-president Virendra Sachdeva and co-head of the media department Vikram Mittal announced that they would organise special screenings at a cinema hall in Old Delhi.
In Assam, Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma announced on March 16 that government employees would be given a half-day special leave to watch the film.
In Karnataka, BJP MLA Basanagouda Patil Yatnal announced that he will fund one show of the film per day for an entire week “so that people can watch it free of cost” in his constituency in Vijayapura.
The film also became a flashpoint between the BJP and AAP.
Speaking in the Assembly, Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal criticised the move to make the film tax free and demanded that the movie be uploaded on YouTube instead so that “the entire country can understand the plight of Kashmiri Pandits”. Former Union minister Prakash Javadekar responded to a similar suggestion by AAP leader Sanjay Singh, to upload the film on YouTube, by asking why the Delhi government was not making it tax-free.
Tejasvi Surya, Bangalore South MP, even protested outside the Delhi CM’s house and demanded an “unconditional apology” from Kejriwal.
And this was just this year.
In 2019, the year of the Lok Sabha polls, there were films that directly or indirectly referenced those in power.
A biopic about the Prime Minister himself called PM Narendra Modi released on May 24, after its original release date on May 11 was stalled by the Election Commission (EC) till the final phase of voting on May 19. It noted that the film “has the potential to disturb the level playing field during the elections”, citing election “code of conduct” rules.
The trailer of the film was launched by former Maharashtra BJP CM Devendra Fadnavis.
Former Congress leader Kapil Sibal called the film “motivated” and “political” with the Congress filing a complaint with the EC and saying that the film was not an “artistic venture”. After the filmmakers received a notice from the EC, the producer said they had no links with any political party, and had “put in their personal money for making the film”.
The same year, the BJP’s official social media handles shared the trailer of The Accidental Prime Minister, again a biopic, starring Anupam Kher as former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. “Riveting tale of how a family held the country to ransom for 10 long years. Was Dr Singh just a regent who was holding on to the PM’s chair till the time heir was ready? Watch the official trailer of #TheAccidentalPrimeMinister, based on an insider’s account, releasing on 11 Jan!” a post by the party said.
The film was directed by Vijay Ratnakar Gutte, the son of Ratnakar Gutte, an MLA from Gangakhed in Mahrashtra.
Uri: The Surgical Strike, released in January 2019, starring Vicky Kaushal as the lead, based on strikes carried out against Pakistani terrorist camps, was another film that was talked about widely, becoming a part of official discourse. Former Finance Minister Piyush Goyal referenced the film’s popular dialogue – How’s the josh – in his interim budget speech in February 2019.
The film too was exempted from tax in Uttar Pradesh. “This is a movie on the surgical strikes. The Cabinet has decided to exempt it from state GST. This film is about the country’s valour and will instil a feeling of nationalism and patriotism. This will help youth and all citizens of the country to see it,” Adityanath said, announcing the decision.
Special screenings of the film were also held by BJP leader Smriti Irani in Amethi in January that year.
(With inputs from PTI)
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