We’ve all watched Chak De India. The film became a sensation after its release in 2007. It repopularised India’s national sport – Hockey.
Women’s Hockey surely witnessed an upswing not only in terms of engagement and participation but also in popularity. Similarly, people also began showing a keen interest in Men’s Hockey. It can also be said that specific state governments took it upon their shoulders to singlehandedly revive Indian Hockey, after drawing inspiration from the film. Did the movie serve a larger national purpose? It surely did. Was it a brilliant film? It was.
But was sport at the core of the film? No, it was not. Was the primary objective of the film to popularise Hockey in India? No. Was the film meant to showcase the problems plaguing Indian Hockey? No. Was the film directed to be a blockbuster hit? Perhaps. Did it thunder at the Box Office? Yes, it did.
So, what was the primary objective of the film? Let me tell you. It was the sensational portrayal of Muslim victimhood.
Chak De India and Muslim Victimhood
Chak De India was a movie that had the Muslim victimhood of the character ‘Kabir Khan’ at its centre while Hockey was reduced to the periphery. In August 2021, TFI Founder and CEO Atul Mishra published a Twitter thread, in which he said, “A Muslim man becomes the main reason for India’s loss in the finals of a tournament. He is branded a traitor. He makes a comeback as a coach. He turns a team of underdogs into world champions (hence redeeming himself). The story is only about the man.”
A Muslim man becomes the main reason for India’s loss in the finals of a tournament.
He is branded a traitor.
He makes a comeback as coach.
He turns a team of underdogs into world champions (hence redeeming himself).
The story is only about the man.
— Atul Mishra (@TheAtulMishra) August 2, 2021
It is interesting to note that the movie is loosely based on the real-life character of Mir Ranjan Negi, a former Indian Hockey player, who was the goalkeeper in the 1982 Asian Games. India lost the final 1-7 against Pakistan and the entire anger of the country descended upon Negi who was in front of the net.
People instantly branded him a traitor and called him names for taking money from the Pakistani side. While the entire team performed badly, it was Negi who was singled out.
Akin to the movie, Negi redeemed himself by becoming the goalkeeping coach of the Indian women’s national field hockey team that won the Gold at the 2002 Commonwealth Games. However, because his religious identity was different and it would have been difficult to sell it to the audience, the character of Kabir Khan was introduced in the movie, to rub the ‘Muslim victimhood’ agenda on the viewers. That’s how subtle messaging and propaganda works in Bollywood.
Kabir Khan was shown being called a traitor because he was a Muslim. Indian people, especially Hindus were demonised for generalising every Muslim as a Pakistan sympathiser.
Teeja Tera Rang Tha Mai Toh
Remember the superhit song “Teeja tera rang tha mai toh”? How many Indians have paid close attention to the lyrics of this propaganda item? Let me tell you, not many. If they had, they would notice that the song epitomises a Muslim man’s cries for help.
Teeja tera rang tha main toh (I was your third colour – Green); Jiya tere dhang se main toh (Muslims trying to peacefully adapt themselves in a Hindu majority country). The song is the epitome of Muslim victimization. The song claims that Muslims represent the third colour of the Indian flag and that they live as cultural Hindus – which by the way, is a blatant lie.
Here’s what director Shimit Amin said about the portrayal of a Muslim coach “leading” India to victory. “The religion bias gave the necessary dramatic twist to the plot. People … could relate to it because you have so many instances of people ridiculed and harassed because they belong to a particular race or religion.”
Chak De India Could Not Deliver its Intended Message
The theme of the film was “Muslim victimhood”. But Indians hardly paid attention to that aspect of Chak De India. The individual performances of the team players, especially those of the girls from Punjab and Haryana overawed the audiences.
It was the failure of Chak De India to deliver its core message that led to Shah Rukh Khan coming up with “My Name is Khan” three years later. It can be argued that the superstar’s cinematic fall began with this film. The victimhood and whitewashing of Islamist radicalism were just so in the face that Indians lost interest in Shah Rukh Khan.
What is appreciable is the fact that the propaganda in Chak De India was very subtle. It smartly tried to convey the message of Muslims being second class citizens in India. However, it failed.