ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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The Portrayal of Resistance in Post-truth Populist Cinema

A new kind of propaganda cinema is emerging in India.

Propaganda movies like the Triumph of the Will (1934) by Leni Riefenstahl or Homecoming (1941) by Gustav Ucicky served the Third Reich’s politico-psychological and discursive agenda immensely. It helped Adolf Hitler’s conquest of the German youth’s psyche to glorify the fascist movement by depicting himself as a heroic leader of a strong and prosperous country. While populist cinema during the Third Reich mostly deified the reality of the government, administration, and leadership, more than a couple of recent populist Indian cinema have tried to do the same, albeit differently and subtly. What we are watching in certain right-wing propaganda films is not the old pattern of mere glorification of the ruling government but a strategic interwoven argument of rejecting resistance and the politics of resistance as “counterproductive,” “meaningless,” and at times, “dangerous” to society. Further, the subject of these films is not a parti­cular heroic character, but real pain, suffering, and agonies represented in a consumable and simplistic manner.

In other words, films like the Kashmir Files (2022) or the Kerala Story (2023) do not necessarily dwell upon the exaltation of the current regime. Instead, they are successfully stimulating emotional responses within the audience towards something that happened, but by presenting facts in the most palatable, unhistorical, and non-contextual manner, in ways in which the exaggeration of statistics and dilution of reality would not be challenged. With the depiction of the suffering of Kashmiri Pandits and the forced recruiting of women in Kerala by a terrorist outfit, the film-makers also facilitate the subtle othering of the politics of resistance in the face of a right-wing regime. This would include the demonisation of dissent, student movements, women’s right to choice and autonomy and, sadly, also their freedom.

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Updated On : 19th Jul, 2023
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