His film “Airlift” brought alive the story of the Indian governments 1990 evacuation of Indians forced out of Kuwait by the first Gulf War; his TV show “P.O.W: Bandi Yuddh Ke” narrates the struggle of war heroes and the emotional upheaval their families go through. Filmmaker Nikkhil Advani says such stories of national pride need to be told to the youth at a time when “nationalism is being flung like a two rupee coin”.

“Nationalism is something that right now we are flinging like a Rs 2 coin. People are expressing, ‘I am patriotic, I have national pride’. But nobody knows what patriotism is,” Advani said in an interview to IANS here as he dwelt on the need of storytellers to share tales of patriotism.

“Is patriotism about a soldier who stands at a post for 12 hours a day holding a gun, sitting upright. There’s nobody to see him, nobody to check him. But he stands. Is that patriotism or is it two women who choose not to move on with their lives hoping that their husbands will come back’

“As a generation today, we need to know these stories. A filmmaker like Rajkumar Hirani, when he was going to make ‘Lage Raho Munna Bhai’, told me he was doing a film around Gandhi. I told him, ‘Who will watch it” He said, ‘That’s why I’m making this film’. It was a hit.

“The basis of ‘Airlift’ was that every dinner party conversation turns out to be about ‘What has our country done for us’ Our point through the film was — our country flew down so many people and they didn’t advertise. It needs to be told. These stories should not be forgotten and we need to keep reminding the youth of it,” added the filmmaker, who began his journey as a feature film director with the romantic hit “Kal Ho Naa Ho”.

With Star Plus’ “P.O.W: Bandi Yuddh Ke” — an Indian adaptation of the acclaimed Israeli series “Hatufim” by Gideon Raff — Advani tells a story that revolves around the return of two soldiers to their interrupted family lives after 17 years, giving a mix of a family drama and thriller.

“When I saw ‘Prisoners of War’, I realised that the real prisoners of war that Gideon Raff was talking about were the families and the wives and the people who get left behind. They are in the same prison… Not in a physical prison, but they are in a prison every day, imprisoned by hope and their future is imprisoned by their past.

“And that, I feel, is a universal emotion.” This he has attempted to convey with a cinematic vision.

“There are silences, there’s great music, there are songs, drama, action, thrill, suspense, and there is an aesthetic scale to the production that you will see in every frame,” said Advani, who hates to call the TV space a “small screen”.

“It’s an injustice. It’s not a small screen. We are in the time of Reliance Jio. TV is not just about 21 inches any more. I think borders between what was considered to be large screen, small screen and ultra small screen have just vanished.

“If anyone has an interesting story to tell, they should. And the advantage which I didn’t have when I started in the industry around 23 years ago is that I couldn’t have made a film on an iPhone. My daughter is 10 years old and she is already making films on her phone.”

The filmmaker, who calls himself a ‘tantrum-maker’ on the set for the perfection he demands, says he banned the use of the phrase “TV pe aise hota hai” while making the show.

“I told the team ‘Don’t tell me this as we won’t be able to move forward’. It’s just that this story deserves a certain scale and format and so we should do it.”

(Radhika Bhirani can be contacted at [email protected])

By Radhika Bhirani

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