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Can Bollywood Put An End To Extremism?

There is little evidence that the US or India’s efforts to use Bollywood to divert young people from extremism actually do so.

Kaif gave an interview to the Times of India in which she accidentally referred to the employers of her character as MSF (instead of the fictional “Medicine International”) and observed rather casually that “NGO workers had ties with local fanatical groups.” This led MSF to learn about the film and initiate legal action before it was released.

Bollywood star kept in US air terminal for the second time
These words and the way that she shows up in the film as an NGO laborer, discharging a weapon and rifle, provoked the claim by MSF.

Consequences for security

The aid organization issued a statement in which it asked the producers of Phantom “to stop using our name, to issue a disclaimer making it clear that we are not associated with the film, and to show us an advance copy of the film.” The statement also emphasized that the organization upholds a strict neutrality policy and has a no-guns rule, meaning no staff members carry weapons.
The association portrayed the film as “unquestionably stressing”, and said it could have grave “security suggestions” for its laborers and patients the same.

Additionally read: In Pakistan, where a petition was filed by Hafiz Saeed, the man who is accused by India of masterminding the attacks, claiming that the film’s main villain, a character called “Hariz Saeed,” defamed him and Pakistan, Phantom also caused a stir in Spain.

Phantom also sparked controversy in Pakistan, where a petition filed by Hafiz Saeed claiming that the film’s main antagonist slandered him and Pakistan was followed by a court order prohibiting it.

The Indian government’s involvement in Phantom’s production and distribution is unclear. Bollywood has long been promoted by the Indian government as an example of Indian “soft power.” The Indian Council for Cultural Relations increased its presence in a wide range of nations in addition to the establishment of a public diplomacy division within the Ministry of External Affairs in 2006. A joint agreement with the British government to facilitate co-production was also signed by Indian state officials.

A five-year-old debate about Bollywood’s role in counterterrorism and the “war on terror” has been revived by the recent dispute.


Farah Pandith, the US state department’s special representative to Muslim communities at the time, and Jared Cohen, a Policy Planning Staff member at the time (now at Google Ideas), visited Leicester, England, in October 2007. Pandith said the town had the most conservative Islamic community she had ever seen anywhere in Europe.

One US diplomatic cable that was leaked by WikiLeaks stated, “Despite the many positive programs in Leicester, the isolation of some parts of the Muslim community was striking.” All girls, even those as young as four, were completely covered.

The diplomats would suggest using Bollywood movies to divert young Muslims from militancy in Britain. They talked about creating an “anti-extremist genre” for Bollywood films with a British actress named Humeira Akhter, a producer named Mohsin Abbas, the director of the film production company Arts Versa, and a number of other artists.

The work to involve craftsmanship and culture for “counter-radicalization” is the brainchild of liberal internationalists and neo-preservationists, who contend that it is the belief system and a “story of exploitation” which causes jihadi viciousness (and they are countered by pragmatists, who battle that Islamist brutality is a reaction to US strategies; and leftists, who would argue that British Muslims’ “isolation” has more to do with their economic circumstances, discrimination, and foreign policy than with the music and movies they watch.

The United States and the United Kingdom launched a “Cultural War on Terror” in the middle of the 2000s, mobilizing art, music, and film in an effort to disrupt the “jihadist narrative” and spread liberal interpretations of Islam. The state department referred to this strategy as “Public Diplomacy 2.0.”

The US embassy in London seemed optimistic after Cohen and Pandith met with British-Muslim cultural leaders in 2007: Executives and actors from Bollywood agreed to collaborate with the US government to use third-party actors to spread anti-extremist messages and were excited about the possibility of doing the same with Hollywood.

US officials believed that Bollywood stars could “engage” young British Muslims, speak out against extremism, and aid in the reconstruction of Afghanistan because of the popularity of Indian films in British Muslim communities and the Middle East.

However, the arrangement won’t ever work out. A few years after the London meeting, Bollywood movies like New York, Kuban, and My Name Is Khan addressed the “war on terror” but not from an “anti-extremism” point of view, as the state department had hoped. The majority of the works depicted the turmoil and cultural angst brought on by US policies toward Muslims and South Asians in the United States.

The rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the group’s success in recruiting European and American youth through social media have once more prompted US officials to advocate for the use of art and social media to combat radicalization.

Policymakers in India who advocate using Bollywood to combat terrorism appear more concerned with fostering Muslim-Hindu reconciliation and enhancing India’s image than the United States.

Advocates contend that the class is well known in the Muslim world in light of multiple factors, on the grounds that the movies reflect moderate family values and seldom have physically unequivocal scenes; Major figures in Bollywood, such as the actor Shah Rukh Khan and the Oscar-winning composer AR Rahman, are Muslims; and Sufi music is frequently featured on the soundtracks of the genre, which also has a broad appeal.

In addition, proponents of this concept assert that there is already a developing subgenre that makes use of films like Mission Kashmir to promote reconciliation among India’s various ethnic and religious communities. There have been a lot of movies about Pakistan and the Mumbai attacks in recent years, like D-Day, The Attacks of 26/11, and Baby.

There is little evidence that the US or India’s efforts to use Bollywood to divert young people from extremism actually do so. The ongoing lawsuit and discussion surrounding the film Phantom may provide some insight into the reasons why this policy is still supported.


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