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December 02, 2013

Pakistani Hit Action Film Strikes a Nerve Over India

by Sharon Behn

Pakistan’s moribund film industry has been brought back to life with the action thriller Waar, which translates roughly as “The Attack.” The film, shot in Pakistan, tells the story of a retired military hero who saves the country from a terrorist attack. But critics say the movie’s allusions to rival nuclear power India as the enemy only serves to deepen the antagonism between the two countries.
 
The Pakistani high-octane terrorist thriller film, Waar, is a huge hit.
 
Moviegoers applaud the film because it is based on Pakistan’s realities like the fight against terrorism, says distributor Nawab Hassan Siddique.
 
“In the history of Pakistan, there has never been such a huge hit, neither by an Indian film nor a Hollywood movie. The credit goes to Pakistan, that a Pakistani picture has earned such huge ticket sales," said  Siddique.
 
The film’s ex-special forces hero, Major Mujtaba, along with bloody interrogation scenes, are a big departure from typically popular Indian Bollywood dance movies.
 
And it's a hit at the box office - Pakistan's highest-grossing film ever.

Even though Waar never indicates where the “bad guys” are from, many moviegoers are sure they are from India.
 
“Obviously, 100 percent, because we have a number of proof of India’s involvement in Pakistan," said a moviegoer.

And that draws criticism. The perceived anti-India slant is not helpful when relations between the two countries are already tense, says military analyst Ayeesha Siddiqa.
 
“You don’t need these bunch of innocent citizens thinking the same way, they will end up supporting those radicals," said Siddiqa.
 
Writer and producer Hassan Waqas Rana says he wanted the film to spark conversation.
 
"It's a film. It’s not the strategic policy of the government of Pakistan. It’s a film that I have written in my own room. I may be 100 percent wrong, I may be 100 percent right, you never know. That's the whole point of a film," said Rana.
 
Rana dismisses comments that Pakistan’s powerful military helped fund the film. He acknowledges the army helped with logistics to give certain scenes a more realistic feel. But he says he funded the movie himself.
 
The success of Waar has reignited Pakistan’s film industry and some 10 other movies are now in the works. And Rana is taking his smash hit to the international market - and already planning a sequel.