‘Neerja’ was released worldwide on February 19, 2016. I watched the thriller recently at my wife’s insistence and I did not regret it at all. It is based on a true incident – the 1986 hijacking in Karachi, Pakistan of Pan Am Flight 73 by the Libya-backed Abu Nidal Organization.
(Spoilers ahead. If you know Neerja’s story, please keep reading!)
The movie revolves around the life of a flight attendant, Neerja Bhanot, (played by Sonam Kapoor) whose brave and timely actions saved the lives of 359 passengers and crew on board.
If the actors succeed in making you forget that what the audience are watching is only staged enactment, then they have succeeded in their job. The actors who play the terrorists, particularly the two lead characters do justice to this statement. Sonam Kapoor, too, does a great job portraying Neerja’s character.
For instance, Neerja was fondly called “Babu Moshaay”in the movie, that famous phrase from Rajesh Khanna’s hit movie “Anand”, in which Khanna plays a terminal patient with a jolly heart. It is sadly curious how Neerja’s life would also be cut off unnaturally early like one of her favourite movie characters.
The movie also has a lot of nostalgia value for those who grew up in the 80’s in urban India.
Parties in the society lawn with cool, yellow “squash”(drink) being served as big fans blow air onto a sultry evening?
Fifteen years ago, if someone had predicted a national controversy about the phrase “Bharat Mata ki Jai” (Victory to Mother India), I would have shelved that idea with other revolutionary and fanciful notions like “Batman exists” or that “God does not exist”.
Who would have ever thought. In a controversy that had embroiled popular political figures like Mohan Bhagwat of the RSS, Asaduddin Owaisi of the AIMIM, Baba Ramdev of the Patanjali and the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, Shri. Devendra Fadnavis, our nation (or at least our nation’s blogosphere, Twittersphere and “newsphere”) was buzzing through with variants of the question –
Can any Indian citizen choose not to say “Bharat Mata ki Jai!” ?
If not, aren’t such people anti-national?
Should this debate concern Indian Christians?
I think it should concern anyone who is part of a religious minority in our country.
Barely a few weeks ago, Muslim youth from a Delhi Madrassa were beaten up by some men allegedly because they refused to say this potent phrase. The cops have claimed that there are conflicting versions about what the victims of the attack were asked to say – “ Victory to Mother India” or “Victory to the Mother”, which is Jai Mata Di, a worship chant for Vaishno Devi, a Hindu goddess popular in North India.
At a sadbhavana sammelan (compassion rally) in Haryana, Baba Ramdev said that but for the law, he would have chopped heads of those who refuse to say “Bharat Mata ki Jai“.
He now has a police complaint registered against him for making a hate speech. It is yet to be seen what legal action would be taken against a prominent pro-Hindutva guru in these times. But my point is – if an Indian citizen who is a Christian refuses to say “Bharat Mata ki Jai”, it is quite possible that he or she shall face no small repercussion in India’s tangible summer of religious intolerance.
So, is it right for Christians to say this phrase?