Films for propaganda: Modi’s team borrows a leaf from Hollywood and Pentagon

The deep state and the security establishment need films for propaganda and cooperation between Hollywood and Pentagon is well known and well chronicled. Bollywood is following the familiar routine

Films for propaganda: Modi’s team borrows a leaf from Hollywood and Pentagon
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Jeet Tandon

When the Indian Prime Minister appeared in a selfie with Bollywood stars, it seemed like innocent fun or a bit of ego massaging by a pompous politician. Just a few days before this star-studded photograph with Modi as the man in the center, a war-action Bollywood movie was released around the theme of what the government boasts was a 'surgical strike' on Pakistani military assets across the border.

The movie in question, Uri, is an unabashed propaganda unleashed on unsuspecting, innocent and naive but well-meaning Indian audience who felt a surge of genuine patriotism in their hearts watching the rather well-made and slick film. That's exactly what this administration wanted before the elections: to stir up jingoistic emotions and directly crediting a 'gutsy' government which isn't gun-shy from taking military action against our most hated enemy Pakistan.

Of course we all want to teach the terrorists and those who send them in to kill our citizens and soldiers to be taught a fitting lesson. The fact is that our soldiers have always been doing that all the time, which is why we sleep in peace, but never have their action been turned into such political propaganda. Our pride in our defence forces is a natural emotion but never jingoistic. I wonder how they would feel if they knew that there were pawns in a high-stake game played by clever politicians with Bollywood acting as their handmaiden.

Modi's team is simply borrowing a leaf out of Pentagon which has been for years using Hollywood as its propaganda arm showing the US military as an invincible force, a protector of human rights, a guardian of democracy around the world. A force that can do no wrong.

Independent researchers have trawled through thousands of reports, both in the public domain and classified to link Pentagon with 800 movies and almost 1000 television serials that were used as propaganda.

A report by authors Tom Secker and Matthew Alford says; "Reviewing the ever expanding list, the average movie watcher might be in for a shock at what films are actually included — there are the more predictable ones like Black Hawk Down, Zero Dark Thirty, and Lone Survivor; but also entirely unexpected ones that apparently needed the military-industrial complex’s propaganda touch like Earnest Saves Christmas, Karate Kid 2, The Silence of the Lambs, Twister, the Iron Man movies, and more recently Pitch Perfect 3."

When a Hollywood writer or producer approaches the Pentagon and asks for access to military assets to help make their film, they have to submit their script to the entertainment liaison offices for vetting. Ultimately, the man with the final say was Phil Strub, the Department of Defense’s (DOD) chief Hollywood liaison, who has been at the helm of this formerly semi-secret department going all the way back to 1989.

If there are characters, action or dialogue that the DOD doesn’t approve of then the film-maker has to make changes to accommodate the military’s demands. If they refuse then the Pentagon packs up its toys and goes home. To obtain full cooperation the producers have to sign contracts, called Production Assistance Agreements, which lock them into using a military-approved version of the script.

In July 2018, the Pentagon’s Hollywood liaison Philip Strub retired after 29 years in the job. Mysteriously, this was not reported by any media outlet, small or large, mainstream or independent. Despite having influenced literally thousands of movies, TV shows, documentaries and video games in the last three decades, Strub’s retirement was not seen by the DOD as newsworthy and they have published no information about David Evans, the man who has replaced Strub.

In the case of Uri, the director claimed to have accessed publicly available material, interviewed journalists and retired army officers as source material. Aditya Dhar, the film's director in an interview revealed; "...we had an army consultant on board to help us out. We had gone through it to make sure that there were no mistakes. We had a locked script which was approved by the army and we stuck to it.

...Our actors were trained so well by the army that they knew each and every nuance. They would wear their gear and their uniform and knew what had to come where. We showed the finished product to ADGPI and they were very happy with the final product."

Sounds so much like an Indian version of Philip Strub is working with the movie industry to validate scripts. ADGPI stands for Additional Directorate General of Public Information, under Directorate General of Military Intelligence, deals with Public Relation (PR) activities, Media Relations and Monitoring, Info release, Publicity, Image Projection and Perception Management (PM). The selfie with Bollywood stars with sycophantic smiles on their faces, just shows how much the film industry is kowtowing to the political forces.


(The author is an independent writer. The views are the author’s own)

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