The portrayal of an Army Officer in Reel Life

The three hours show in which a story is told and sold, in which the producer and the actors go laughing to the bank, does not bring out the cold reality of sweat and blood, hours of training as well as an endless number of studies to be the sword arm of the state and the Indian Army officer the sharply honed edge of that sword arm. 

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Lt Col Manoj K Channan
Lt Col Manoj K Channan
Lt Col Manoj K Channan (Retd), served in Indian Army, Armoured Corps, 65 Armoured Regiment, 27 August 83- 07 April 2007. Currently consulting with Broadcast Engineering Consultants India Limited (a government of India enterprise under the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting) as Business Associate(Strategic Affairs). Operational experience in the Indian Army includes Sri Lanka – OP PAWAN, Nagaland and Manipur – OP HIFAZAT, and Bhalra - Bhaderwah, District Doda Jammu and Kashmir, including setting up of a counter insurgency school – OP RAKSHAK. He is a A regular contributor to issues on Defense and Security in the Financial Express online, Defence and Strategy, Fauji Magazine and Salute Magazine. *Views are personal.

The Indian Army officers have always been looked upon as role models and have a currency much more than gold bullion. The uniform, character, strength and moral code of conduct backed by the Chetwoode Oath taken before passing out give the average citizen the comfort that if any harm was to come his way, there is someone who is committed to ensuring the well-being and protection to his home and hearth.

Over the years, filmmakers and concept designers for advertisements have used the role of Army Officers to convey a social message. There is nothing wrong with that; however, in the process, to degrade and make a champion alpha male look like a chump is unacceptable.

Forrest Gump and its representation in its Bollywood version indicate that the producer and the scriptwriters deviated from the selection process of officers in the Indian Armed Forces and allowed a dimwit charlatan to be selected and portrayed as a war hero.

During the Vietnam war, it was reportedly stated that the US Military planned to recruit 1,00,000 soldiers by separating the Mental, Physical, and educational standards of the American Army. This plan was called Project 1,00,000 or McNamara Morons or Misfit. The programme had mentally weak, physically misfit, undereducated or illiterate boys who were put through boot camp and sent to Vietnam; some called them the McNamara Morons.

There were many reasons for US loss, but this was probably the single largest factor.

The selection to the Indian Army as an officer is unique and allows all to compete in an all-India common defence services entrance exam. This, amongst many other entrance opportunities, lays down the basic criteria of intelligence to be short-listed for a Services Selection Board Interview. The battle is stiffer here, as a candidate has to be “selected” and approved by the psychologist, the Group Task Officer and the President of the Services selection board, thereby securing three “ayes” as a single “nay” is a cause for rejection. The reason for rejection is stated unequivocally and discussed before the final rejection. Wait, the candidate now has to face a stiff medical examination, another cause for rejection. In some cases, surgical treatment is advised, and the candidate is asked to present themselves before the medical board for approval.

The candidate now has to make it on the overall merit list to receive a call letter to reach the academy for training. The training is tough and stretches the mental, physical and physiological limits. Any failure leads to the loss of a term, and repeated failure leads to a withdrawal of the cadet from the academy. 

The selection process thus ensures that all those who pass out and become commissioned officers of the Indian Armed Forces are sharp, intelligent and committed officers who have voluntarily chosen the path of extreme danger to their well-being and safety to ensure the larger good of the Nation.

The three hours show in which a story is told and sold, in which the producer and the actors go laughing to the bank, does not bring out the cold reality of sweat and blood, hours of training as well as an endless number of studies to be the sword arm of the state and the Indian Army officer the sharply honed edge of that sword arm. 

While there may be arguments that this is fictional and does not represent anyone in real life, the question is, why misrepresent? 

Who gives this right to the self-styled owners to sell a story degrading the rich legacy, ethos and traditions of the Indian Army?

Movies representing the Army are cleared by the Military Intelligence Directorate. It’s surprising that the officer responsible has failed in his duty to protect the image and valour of the very service he has served in. No greater dis-service could have been done.

Through this column, it is requested that steps be taken to prevent and restrict gross misrepresentation of dedicated personnel who have chosen to remain committed to serving the Nation.

As per media reports, the producers have sold the rights to the film to OTT platforms and thus have recovered their investments. By the time the government machinery and the courts take action, irreparable damage would have been done.

The question is, what penalty can be imposed to undo this? 

The Armed Forces are the fabric which keeps this Nation safe. Misrepresentation is blasphemy and should be treated as such. The average Indian must consider this when they think of watching these movies.

I rest my case.

9 COMMENTS

  1. There are all kinds of officers in the Army. There have been numbers of offenders too, who hv been court martialled and thrown out of army. We are not Holy Cows. Why can’t such cases be shown on screen? However, army personnel should be shown in correct uniform and accoutrements.

  2. Puzzling why Amir Khan took on this movie. He usually pays so much attention to detail.
    I’m wondering whether to just avoid seeing this movie… As a matter of principle…
    Being an army daughter and wife, it appears to be a mark of disrespect to the apex system…. the highly revered defence forces.
    Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for encouraging people with mental issues to be given all opportunities (with the proper medical treatment of course), but there’s sanctity that must be maintained when we make movies on the defence forces.

  3. Dear Colonel,
    The article that you have written is factual and right from the heart. Having gone through the same process, the pain is felt as palpable. However there are issues that we need to understand. The first comes out straight from your article. There is somebody within the Army who has given an okay to the movies script. While you may call it diservice, whether he has given it out of compulsions or under coercion need not be debated, definitely that person has consciously done it. So the much talked about the legendary integrity and ability ofstanding straight for what is right associated with uniform is done and buried. He was not the first one for there have been illustrious predecessors. If you notice this erosion of the value of the uniform has not started today. Yes it has become rampant and normalised like never before. Sad but that is what pays.

  4. Let’s watch the movie and enjoy the spirit of the maker/actor. As has been brought above, the main character is not depicted as an INDIAN ARMY OFFICER, if that’s the currency in question. Finally, have the Army Officers lost their sense of humour to current state of the nation. Anyone in doubt google search quotes of Sam Manekshaw for his impeccable sense of humour, including his ability to laugh at himself

  5. I feel we need to relax and not get worked up even without watching the movie. Bollywood makes movies for entertainment. They show politicians, policemen, industrialists as villains. No one gets excited. We need to chill and treat it like just another movie. I served for 30 years and met many guys, who I thought were morons. Many must have felt the same about me. Don’t like the film, don’t watch it. Why the hue and cry ?

    • Agreed to your comment. Boycott of the movie would be denial of the ability sincere hard work & effort of the entire team. The reason here is the sharing of comment in public by his wife has no connection with movie & subject. Appreciate your broad thoughtfulness.

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