I’m sorry, Gadar 2. You want us to get all riled up. You want to be an outrage hit, a hashtag. You’re hoping we’re appalled. We’re not. We’re amused. We’re disgusted. We can’t quite believe this garbage can make it onto so many screens, but compared to the noxious films of the past few years your cartoonish skewering of Pakistan is almost quaint.
This isn’t to say your intentions are good. Your opportunism is obvious. You saw The Kashmir Files and The Kerala Story make money and thought, hold on, I pioneered this sort of demented propaganda film, I’m sure there’s an audience out there for a sequel. Of course, Hindi cinema has moved on to othering India’s Muslims, but maybe some viewers are nostalgic for a time when hate films limited themselves to vilifying other countries’ citizens.
I can understand your reluctance to change anything from the first film. Returning stars Sunny Deol and Ameesha Patel as Tara Singh and Sakeena Ali Singh, and Utkarsh Sharma, their young son in the first film, as the grown-up Jeete. Returning director Anil Sharma, even though he hasn’t had a hit since the original Gadar. Same writer (Shaktiman Talwar) and cinematographer (Najeeb Khan). The same sets, apparently (including my old school). A few of the same songs. The same story too—Tara in Pakistan, glaring meaningfully at handpumps, laying waste to entire battalions.
Your vision of Pakistan in 1971 might lack a bit of subtlety. Characters say ‘kaafir’ more than is strictly necessary. Most of the men are hulking grunts with kohl-lined eyes and long beards. A Hindu father and son are killed by sword on top of a copy of the Gita. The sadistic general played by Manish Wadhwa interrupts his killing to offer namaaz. An officer gives a command to “activate the maulana’s men”, because if you want to clean up at the box-office, dead Pakistani army men aren’t enough, you want to show a crazed mob with skullcaps and swords.
You should know that people in my screening were laughing when Deol swung about a cart and a telephone pole. And at the cut-price effects. And when Lahore girl Muskaan, played by Simrat Kaur, discovers that Jeete is neither Muslim nor a cook but instead trying to find his missing father and tells him, “Touch me and say you’re not a spy.” The audience didn’t even join in the multiple Bharat mata ki jais. Something something wayward youth no values.
I’m sorry to put it so bluntly, but this feels like dad’s propaganda. Hindi film has come a long way since 2001. You have to get them frothing at the mouth now. You want them to feel scared of their own countrymen, not make fun of poor Sunny. All the same, you can take some consolation in having given the moviegoing public yet another opportunity to celebrate their worst instincts. A laughably bad hate film is still a hate film.