Abid Hussain Barlaskar

Right after Pulwama, does India have an appetite for a Kashmir-based film?

That's the question the leadership of Saregama India is quite literally asking on social media.

We spotted the post by Vikram Mehra, managing director, Saregama India, on LinkedIn. The post comes in an effort to seek advice from fellow professionals on the social media platform to tackle a situation regarding the release of Hamid, an upcoming movie from Yoodlee Films (Saregama's film division).

Right after Pulwama, does India have an appetite for a Kashmir-based film?

The Hamid movie's trailer

Mehra's post reads:

"We are in a fix. Advise. Hamid is a movie of Hope & Reconciliation... a story of a young Kashmiri boy and a CRPF jawan. The release was planned for 1st March. In light of the current attack on CRPF jawans, we had decided to delay the release. Now there is a serious pushback from lots of people who have seen the movie that we should go ahead with the release as it has the right message for the time. Want to check the opinion of the larger community... should we release now or postpone by a few months?"

The question was posted last week and has created ripples of serious conversation among industry folk from various disciplines, each putting forth their views. While some urged him to go ahead with the release, others highlighted the risk at hand. The film had already premiered at the MAMI 20th Mumbai Film Festival in October 2018.

In one of the many comments to the post, Prathap Suthan, managing partner and CCO of ad-agency - Bang In The Middle, points out that going ahead with the release of the movie at the current time could backfire if the story isn't 'in line with the general mindset'.

"Any compromise on the larger feeling of India/Indians will not go down well. Even if from an artistic perspective, this sways to the other side, do expect your brand and everyone else to be coloured that way. Besides, don't expect the troll army to indulge you with an artistic tilt. They won't. They will misinterpret and dis-interpret and see everything that doesn't exist and use this to drive and foment public opinion. Plus you have elections coming and that's one fuel that's waiting to be used," Suthan says.

Agreeing with Suthan, communications consultant Karthik Srinivasan comments, "Whatever the content of the film, think of it as a long-form write-up. People who want to foment trouble are bound to make tweet-sized misinformation of the long-form write-up and use it to create trouble. What will stay, in terms of perception, is the latter, not the long-form."

"If there is any good time to release this, it is now. I do understand the dilemma within your team due to the extreme, tensed social-political situation, but I guess brands are becoming bold enough and taking stands to support some of these messages, which needs to be spoken about at large," says Hitesh Sood, a senior marketing professional with a telecom company.

The fact is, in case the company does go ahead with an immediate release, there is always the potential risk of the messages being misconstrued or distorted, followed by the inevitable backlash from the general public sentiment (which has been on the boil ever since the attack). The production company could also be seen as opportunistic. Then again, there also looms the chance of a laid-back response to the movie from the public due to the upcoming general elections and the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019, if the release is delayed.

Theatrical representations of cross-border conflicts are not uncommon (Uri, among recent examples) and have happened in the past. However, Hamid's is an unusual case because the movie had been produced much before the Pulwama attack.