Why 26/11 mastermind is afraid of Bollywood's Phantom

Hafiz Saeed seeks a ban on the release of the upcoming political thriller that shows Indian security agencies taking on global terrorism.

 |  5-minute read |   11-08-2015
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Revenge may be a dish best served cold, but sometimes it's better when served with songs, dance, action and politically (in)correct rhetoric. Ask Hafiz Saeed if you don't believe it. The internationally designated terrorist and the chief of Jamaat-ud-Dawah (JuD), who also happens to be the mastermind of the heinous 26/11 Mumbai attacks, has been finally served revenge in Bollywood ishtyle and how.

In a solemn blow to irony, Saeed has moved a Pakistani court to seek ban on the release of the upcoming Hindi film Phantom (2015), a political thriller that shows Indian security agencies taking on global terrorism post-26/11. Based on the book Mumbai Avengers by S Hussain Zaidi, Phantom can also be viewed as a revenge fantasy, where the screenplay (Kabir Khan, Parveez Shaikh) has modelled the two prime antagonists on the actual masterminds of the 26/11 Mumbai attacks - Hafiz Saeed and Zaikur Rehman Lakhvi - albeit with changed names "Harif Saeed" and "Sabauddin Umvi".

It's perhaps this detail that led to Saeed appealing against the release of the film in Pakistan, as he believes "the dialogues coming out of the lips of the different Indian actors and actresses will poison the minds of Pakistani public". His lawyer also claims that Phantom will "portray Hafiz Saeed as a terrorist even though JuD had not been declared as a proscribed organisation". The chances of the courts believing that are high for this is a film made by Kabir Bajrangi Bhaijaan Khan, and if they could believe him then what's stopping them from believing him now.

Also read: Why Pakistanis watching Bajrangi Bhaijaan shouldn't worry about India

It's interesting that nothing that New Delhi, or for that matter any international agency has done in the last 15 years, deterred Saeed's nefarious plans vis-à-vis India but now, a Bollywood film seems to have given him sleepless nights. While this shows the impact and the popularity that Bollywood enjoys in Pakistan it nonetheless also displays the silent power of soft diplomacy. It's hardly surprising then that Bollywood is the dream destination of many artists from Pakistan and the manner in which some like Adnan Sami strive to stick on only confirms that. Sami was recently permitted to stay in India for an indefinite period on humanitarian grounds by the home mistry and even when he was told that people in his native country (Pakistan) were not too happy with his decision and burnt his effigies, Sami simply said he was happy to have finally found his home. He even added that he was now waiting for the day the government grants him citizenship, as India was where his heart has always been.

This is not the first time it's being implied that Hafiz Saeed is an abettor of terror. In fact, in 2012 when the United States announced a bounty of ten million US dollars for his role in the Mumbai attacks, Saeed not only denied his participation but also found the announcement laughable. In a reaction he said, "I am living my life in the open and the US can contact me whenever they want". But why is Hafiz Saeed really worried about Phantom? He knows that the average mind that he wants to transform is somewhere more impressionable when it comes to Bollywood. If the thing that could be bigger than not only Hafiz Saeed but also even the word of God that he believes to the delivering proclaims him to the devil himself, an enemy of insaaniyat then, no pun intended, God save him. Saeed's decision to go the legal route is a hint at how smart the extremist is playing for in spite of global pressure and evidence presented by India, the Lahore High Court in 2012 observed that the law couldn't be brutalised in the name of terrorism and set him free by quashing all cases against him.

Once the hilarity of the entire issue settles it'd be interesting to see how perhaps Bollywood's embrace of the artists across the Radcliffe Line might have unwittingly prejudiced the perspective of Indian policymakers. The unapologetic fervour with which the case of peace with Pakistan at any cost simply refuses to die and is continually championed even in the face of evidence that is more than convincing about the country's anti-India streak ingrained as a national military policy besides being a safe haven for global terrorist outfits is worth questioning. Does it believe that Phantom or a D-Day (2013), where a covert operation brings back a gangster modelled on Dawood Ibrahim, balances it all? Even if one is willing to excuse Bollywood for a limited sense of reality, the images of Ajmal Kasab killing hundreds of Indians on live television just a few miles away from Juhu-Versova Link Road or what it imagines to be the centre of the world, should be a reason enough to acknowledge the bigger picture. Unfortunately, this isn't happening. At least, not yet.

Take a step back and ponder if this is what possibly Hafiz Saeed fears. The populace in Pakistan might begin to look beyond what he ordains them to and view India as "dost". Who knows they might finally start thinking like the custodians of peace from this side and even berate the likes of Hafiz Saeeds or Zaikur Rehman Lakhvis. In the meanwhile on our part, it's time for MEA to initiate a new sub-section of Track III diplomacy via the Phantoms of Bollywood. After all like Nietzsche said the best weapon against an enemy is another enemy.


Gautam Chintamani Gautam Chintamani @gchintamani

Cinephile, observer of society and technology and author of the of Dark Star: The Loneliness of Being Rajesh Khanna.

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