A brief piece by me in Scroll.in, a nationwide Indian news and culture publication.
When the movie, ‘Dunkirk’, was released in India, despite the “whitewashing” controversy and to the surprise of many of India’s movie industry experts, it drew large crowds. And these same experts spoke out more than usual about the lack of Indians in the narrative, given India’s critical role in both the Great Wars.
My personal take: mostly, the increased griping has happened because the movie has been performing unexpectedly well in India. Typically, such war movies do not draw huge audiences in a country that prefers serious, weighty matter served up with sentimentalized love stories and peppy song-and-dance sequences. But the record turnouts for ‘Dunkirk’ at the expense of other new summer releases has hit profits and paychecks across a wide swathe of the Indian film industry. So we cannot blame the industry for speaking up more than usual.
That said, before we go about censuring or educating the world on why India should not have been shortchanged, it would behoove us — Indians everywhere — to understand India’s role in these Great Wars better for ourselves.
The American author, George Santayana, famously wrote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Here, we have a case of not even knowing the past, which is, surely, even more egregious.
Further, to avoid succumbing to the various dangers of a “single story,” as author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, has described so beautifully, we would do well, as a community or nation, to expand our view of all that we were capable of in the past and what came of those capabilities. To that end, here is a starter list of 10 well-researched and well-written books about India’s role in the two World Wars.