The first battle cry of the evening was full-throated and drew an immediate answer when it pierced the silence — "Bhaaaarat Mata Ki…Jai!"
Then, the audience sat down to watch the film.
The tone of the young man who led the chant (just after the national anthem was played) was more patriotic than belligerent. But I can't help think in hindsight that it sounded like a call to arms.
For, as Vicky Kaushal and company finished off terrorists in Pakistan-Occupied Kashmir before a perilous trip back home — an enactment of India's surgical strikes in 2016 — my fellow moviegoers were clearly egging them on in their minds (I confess I was too.). It was late and I was tired, but I remember hearty bursts of applause, including a particularly lively one at the end.
That was a couple of weeks ago. I watched Uri again this weekend, having observed the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) — which has been accused of politicising the surgical strikes — go to extraordinary lengths to promote the film.
But I couldn't help but think they were hurting it by doing so.
Not commercially, of course, but in terms of perception.
Piyush Goyal, the interim finance minister, gave the movie a shout-out in Parliament when he delivered the Budget speech earlier this month. The BJP government in Uttar Pradesh decided to give it state GST exemption. One party leader was reported to have written to Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, the Union minister of state for information and broadcasting, to ask that the film be made tax-free everywhere in India.
And let's not even get started on the BJP's infatuation with "How's the josh?". (Although you have to admit that it isn't just the BJP that's smitten. It's pretty much a national phenomenon at this point.)
When a political party tom-toms its adoration for a film like Uri, movie-goers are likely to see it as propaganda — which is a shame, for Uri is a moving tribute to the people who guard our borders and their families.
But perhaps it's silly to expect the BJP to pass up such an opportunity just months before a general election. Uri does portray the Modi government in a flattering light (and there's no sign of the Opposition), so I can understand the temptation to make sure the public flocks to see it.
But the government was not the star of the film — the jawans were.
Uri is the story of their courage, their personal lives, the pain of losing a fellow soldier, and the thirst for revenge.
Honestly, the BJP should just leave it be.