Bollywood Movie ‘Panipat’ Faces Backlash From The Afghan People – OpEd


Bollywood Filmmaker Ashutosh Gowariker enters the ground with another epic movie, of which the teaser was just released a couple of days ago which takes the audience back to the 1700s. Some think the movie will be a huge success in the box office and be a blockbuster, yet others are not too impressed with the film’s lead actor Arjun Kapoor as the Maratha warrior Sadashiv Rao Bhau because of the unfair matching of his image to the role. The trailer has grand sets, a lot of sword-wielding and a blood bath. “We hope that the audience likes the trailer. We have tried to live up to the expectations,” said Ashutosh. 

The release of the teaser prompted the people of Afghanistan, many people went on to social media and expressed harsh reactions towards the content of the movie, calling it an alleged picture of the great Afghan emperor Ahmad Shah Abdali. Although the lead actor Sanjay Dutt expressed in an interview that if the movie were an insult for Ahmad Shah Abdali he would not play the role, yet many of the Afghans are still concerned claiming that the movie highlights a negative image of Ahmad Shah Abdali and an insult for the Afghan history.

Former Afghan ambassador to India Shaida Abdali has tweeted: “The Indian cinema has historically played a key role in strengthening India-Afghanistan relations. I hope that our shared values and history have been taken into consideration.” Indian journalist Awik Sign also tweeted: “People of Afghanistan have huge respect to Abdali, but people in India hate him. I don’t think history has been displayed properly. India and Afghanistan have strong relations but these kinds of movies only earn money, serving no other purpose.”

Acting Afghan Ambassador to India Tahir Qadiri told Pajhwok News Agency that the movie was yet to be released and its content was yet to be determined. he added “We are in contact with Indian officials and have shared them the Afghans’ concerns. Ajmal Alamzai, cultural attaché at the Afghan embassy (New Delhi), said he knew about the movie two years ago and has already launched an investigation in this regard. “We have emailed the film director to share the scenario with us but no response from their side yet. We have tried several times to contact the director, but failed.” He further added that the film officials had told them that sharing the movie content was against their policy because it would diminish the value of the film in the market.

The movie showcases the Third Battle of Panipat between the Maratha Empire and the Afghan King Abdali Baba that happened on January 14, 1761. Abdali won the battle after killing more than 50,000 Indian soldiers. The director of the movie is veteran Indian film director Ashutosh Gowarikerm, who has also previously directed some controversial movies such as Lagaan and Jodhaa Akbar.

Afghan critics of the film think that:

  1. The story pictured in the movie utterly contradicts the true history of the Abdali’s Empire.
  2. Making such sort of movies will possibly halt the trustworthiness between the two nations.
  3. Bollywood filmmakers besides doing huge businesses should pay attention to the flip side of the coin, and see the prospect repercussions.

Although Indians claim that the movie is only for business purpose and not for any political or any other purpose, on the other hand the content postured in the movie has sparked concerns among ordinary Afghans, with many in social media expressing their fear saying that making such controversial movies could possibly harm the relations between India and Afghanistan. 

*Hamayun Khan is from Afghanistan and currently pursuing last year of an MBA at Punjab Technical University, India.

Hamayun Khan

Hamayun Khan holds an MBA in Finance and Marketing from IKG Punjab Technical University, India and is a researcher at OSCAR, an Afghanistan-based local NGO.

2 thoughts on “Bollywood Movie ‘Panipat’ Faces Backlash From The Afghan People – OpEd

  • November 8, 2019 at 12:25 pm

    A piece of wonder, realistic remarks, people’s concerns, ideas and reactions are better expressed by the writer, thanks to him

  • April 2, 2023 at 11:54 pm

    i dont think this movie will have any negative impact on today’s india afghan relation. This thing happened 250 years ago. A parallel can be drawn with Hollywood movie The Patriot starring Mel Gibson where he went to war with England for American Freedom… in that movie also, there were English brutalities but look at US and UK relations today… they both are allies… likewise in today’s time India and Afghanistan are allies and nothing can ruin that….



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