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John Abraham on R&AW

Patriotism is something that you must feel in your heart, and you project it in a certain sensitive, credible, sensible and responsible way in your storytelling. 

by Radhika Bhirani

New Delhi, April 3 (IANS) There's a thin line that divides patriotism from jingoism. But as Bollywood is riding on a high tide of films with nationalistic themes, actor John Abraham, who plays a spy in thriller "RAW", says it's totally worth it to have a stream of movies on what people need to see in the current socio-political environment.

"Patriotism is something that you must feel in your heart, and you project it in a certain sensitive, credible, sensible and responsible way in your storytelling. Jingoism is when you wear that on your sleeve. I think there may be some films that may go over the top in trying to be opportunistic, but if there is a wave of films that do address what the country needs to see at this point of time, I feel it's absolutely worth it," John told IANS over phone from London.

"Uri: The Surgical Strike", "Raazi", "Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi" and "Kesari" have turned out to be a success.

John's own "Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran" was a narrative around India's 1998 nuclear tests. "RAW", releasing on Friday, talks about a common man who turns into a spy. And his upcoming "Batla House" traces the story of the shootout between a seven-member Delhi Police Special Cell team and suspected Indian Mujahideen terrorists allegedly involved in the September 13, 2008 serial blasts in Delhi.

The actor cited Hollywood's example, saying how films like "Lone Survivor" and "13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi" have worked wonders.

"I think we have graduated from the 'Border' and 'LOC Kargil' days to a different style of screenplay that the audience would perhaps find palatable. The audience is also very smart. They know the difference between jingoism and patriotism. So, the minute they will see something jingoistic, they will say, 'Listen, drop this. We don't want this'," John said.

Of his own projects, he said: "When I did 'Madras Cafe', it was because I was very impacted by Rajiv Gandhi's death. I did 'Parmanu...' because it was a story that stayed with me for the longest period of time and I felt how do the youngsters in India do not know what happened in Pokhran. When I am doing 'RAW', it's another side of our defence forces that I want to show to everyone out here, and if I do a 'Batla House', it's a very sensitive space.

"'Batla House' is perhaps the most contentious subject in India after Babri Masjid. So, I am actually attempting something where I know the probability of failure is high, but the probability of success is even higher."

Having said that, the actor-producer believes that the credibility one gets by associating with films that "make a difference, have a voice and take a stand is different than saying 'Hey, my film did Rs 200 crore'."

The story of Robbie Grewal's "RAW" has in the backdrop the 1971 India-Pakistan war which had marked the first time India used air power against Pakistan. Given that it has just been over a month to the air strike by the Indian Air Force (IAF) on a terror training camp on Pakistan soil, "RAW" in a way resonates with current times.

But John said: "I wish this film wasn't topical at this time because it's at the cost of these 40-plus lives of our (CRPF) soldiers that we lost (in Pulwama, Kashmir). So, given an option, I would have rather prayed for the lives of our soldiers than have a film that's opportunistic, simply putting it. But the case is such that we made this film over a year ago and we had no idea things would pan out this way.

"The mood of the country is such that people want to see something on India but at the same time, it's very important that we explore different facets of the country, if you choose to do so in a sensible way."

(Radhika Bhirani can be contacted at radhika.b@ians.in)

--IANS

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