Eight documentaries on World War II screened at the ongoing Mumbai International Film Festival (MIFF) have revealed many unknown details about the Indian armed forces' contribution to the Allied offensive against the Axis forces.
The documentaries screened to a nearly packed National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) auditorium included Battle of Britain, Battle of Russia, Cameraman At War, Delhi Viceroy Parade, Divide and Conquer, Invincible, Prelude to War and Town Meeting of the World - all of them produced by the Films Division of the government of India . Jammu and Kashmir Governor, Lt Gen (Retd) SK Sinha, who attended the screening, recalled the state of the Indian armed forces during World War I and said that under the British commander the Indian Army was not equipped to fight a war and that it was generally looked down upon. The then British commander-in-chief said no Indian was fit to be an army officer.
Sharing his memories, he said: "But by World War II, the Indian Army, particularly the Indian officers and soldiers, proved their mettle. Interestingly, when all the warring forces got their manpower through conscription, only Indian Army comprised voluntary soldiers."
Sinha said that looking at the strength of the Indian armed forces, Sir Winston Churchill remarked, "it (Indian armed forces) was the largest voluntary army in history". The strength of the Indian armed forces engaged in war was then twice the size of the present armed force.
He thanked the Films Division for preserving the documentaries because it gave the present generation a chance to have a glimpse of the contributions that the Indian Army had made in winning the war for Britain. "These documentaries are part of the chronicles of a time long gone by. They are a history book on celluloid," said Sinha.
Sinha suggested to the media and filmmakers that they try to keep their work on this subject simple. "If you want to convey a message, keep it subtle. But avoid blatant propaganda at the cost of truth," he said.
Sinha said documentaries served many purposes. They may not always be entertaining, but when they record the history and happenings of a region, they help instil a sense of pride in the hearts of the people of the region.
Recalling his stint as governor of Assam and Meghalaya for five years, Sinha said while there, he tried to resurrect the forgotten heroes of the region so that the people could take pride in their past and live for the present purposefully as Indians.
"Documentaries and movies should do likewise by delving into the past and collating the best of the same even while chronicling the present," Sinha explained.
As in the northeast, in Jammu and Kashmir too, the simmering discontent of the people cannot be contained militarily alone. They must be won over psychologically, Sinha said and added, "In this psychological warfare, the media has an important role to play."