Airlift, a Bollywood movie about the evacuation of 1.7 Lakh Indians from war-torn Kuwait during the First Gulf War has taken off in a really big way in the Indian box office. However, the release of the film was followed by counter-claims by Indian officials that the movie was more faff than fact.
An edge-of-your-seat thriller, it tells the story of Ranjit Katyal, a businessman who organizes the escape of a large Indian expat community in Kuwait during the Iraqi invasion. However, the film shows “diplomats posted in Kuwait leaving at the first sign of trouble”. A spokesperson for the Indian foreign ministry called the film, “great entertainment but rather short on facts” in a tweet and added, “We in MEA consider protection of Indians abroad of foremost importance”.
In an article for Hindustan Times, Jyoti Sharma Bawa, compared the film to Argo, and went as far to say that the filmmaker Raja Menon, much like Ben Affleck had followed Mark Twain’s motto, “Get your facts first, and then you can distort them as much as you please.”
Bawa also credited the film for invoking a form of populistic nationalism among the “average cinemagoer” even though KP Fabian, Joint Secretary Gulf, in an interview for New Delhi Television’s show Agenda clearly stated that the very idea that India’s Ministry of External Affairs didn’t take calls from stranded Indian émigrés was “absolute rubbish”.
Both Fabian and a nurse working at a Kuwaiti hospital also added that Indians who could afford to bribe their way into those outgoing flights did so, at the expense of their poorer counterparts. In an interview with ABP News, Mr. Mathur, an officer in the Indian embassy in Kuwait at the time also alleges that atrocities against the Indians by the Iraqi army have been grossly exaggerated in the film.
The film was released on January 22, 2016.