Pakistan’s big-budget film Waar is box office hit

Cinema-goers in the Pakistani city of Karachi walk past posters promoting the film Waar, which portrays India as the enemy. Picture: Reuters
Cinema-goers in the Pakistani city of Karachi walk past posters promoting the film Waar, which portrays India as the enemy. Picture: Reuters
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Militants invade a Pakistani police academy and kill 100 officers: an Indian spy and her accomplice waltz in a glitzy ­Islamabad flat to celebrate the mission’s success.

This is a scene from Waar (Strike), Pakistan’s first big-budget movie, which opened this month to enthusiastic audiences in the nuclear-armed nation of 180 million people.

Filmed with the support of the military, the movie depicts every volatile aspect of Pakistan’s rocky relationship with its ­nuclear arch-rival, India.

Even in Pakistan itself, Waar has been denounced for its nationalistic tenor and scenes demonising India.

The narrative is simple and packed with action. Indian villains team up with Islamists to plot spectacular attacks across Pakistan. Pakistani security forces jump in and save the day.

“Like any other action film, we wanted to show the triumph of good over evil,” said director Bilal Lashari, 31. “And we wanted to do it with a great amount of spectacle and scale.”

Politics aside, Waar is fun to watch. Helicopter gunships whizz over mountains and commandos besiege militans in Pakistan’s lawless tribal regions. “The army gave us a lot of logistical support,” Mr Lashari said. “All the scenes with the helicopters and the mountains – they couldn’t have been done without them.”

The film serves as a reminder of tensions with India. The two nations have fought three wars since independence from Britain was achieved in 1947.

Today they trade accusations of staging cross-border attacks and supporting militants in the disputed region of Kashmir, where violence has surged in recent months.

The movie has proved hugely successful. On a recent viewing in a packed cinema in Islamabad, the audience leapt to its feet to applaud patriotic scenes.

In one such moment, a retired officer takes on an Indian contractor on the roof of a building while a female Pakistani officer rushes to defuse a chemical bomb planted on the balcony.

Many cheered as the officer reduced the Indian’s face to a pulp. A woman in the audience turned to somegiggling boys and scolded them for “laughing during such a serious movie”.

“Of course India supports terrorism in Pakistan,” said Sheila Raza, 23, after the show. “I think Waar is an accurate portrayal.”

But some in Pakistan have mocked Waar as a propaganda movie. Critic Nadeem Paracha said: “This film is basically the Pakistani state’s fantasies being played out on a big screen.”

India’s film industry produces anti-Pakistan films of its own. Bollywood film Ek Tha Tiger, one of the Hindi industry’s biggest successes in 2012, but banned in Pakistan, depicted a Pakistani agent choosing her love for an Indian agent over her country.