Christopher Nolan’s World War II epic Dunkirk has come under fire in India, since the film doesn’t include the depiction of Indian soldiers in the film. The 10th film by Nolan, Dunkirk won over critics in its debut in theaters last weekend and exceeded box office expectations by scoring $50.5 million in its opening frame, and is already receiving Oscar buzz.
Set in May, 1940, the film through its unique triptych narrative chronicles Operation Dynamo and the effort to save 400,000 Allied troops stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk, France, after being surrounded by German forces. And while Dunkirk mainly keys in on the rescue of mostly British (and some French) forces through efforts in the sea and by air, complaints have surfaced over the apparent lack of inclusion of Indian soldiers in the film.
According to THR, Dunkirk opened in India with $2.4 million in ticket sales, but along with the film’s box office success comes criticism over Nolan’s omission of what the Times of India calls a “significant contribution” of Indian soldiers during the historical event. The Times seems to place the blame of the omission squarely on Nolan’s shoulders as evidenced by the headline of the article, “How Nolan forgot the desis (Indians) at Dunkirk” — noting that three Force K-6 companies were evacuated to safety during Operation Dynamo.
The headline of another article, from India Today, wasn’t as pointed, yet read, “Miracle at Dunkirk: Indians too were trapped with Allied forces”; while Slate outlined how the inclusion of Indian solders in the the film “would have provided a good reminder of how utterly central the role of the Indian Army was in the war. Their service meant the difference between victory and defeat.”
While the criticism is certainly warranted, Nolan – who is a meticulous filmmaker – is certain to have some sort of explanation over the omission. It’s possible that he filmed scenes with Indian soldiers that didn’t make the final cut, or it could also be that the service of the Indian troops weren’t central to the story he was trying to tell. In any regard, it’s highly unlikely that the respected writer and director snubbed the Indian troops deliberately.
Since Warner Bros. is sure to launch an Oscar campaign for the film in the fall, journalists will undoubtedly have another opportunity to broach the India subject with Nolan. At the very least, the film is bringing to light an extraordinary event that many people outside of Britain previously had little knowledge about; and in turn, while frustrating to the people of India, the omission of the plight of the Indian soldiers is giving them a forum to highlight the country’s contribution during the harrowing event.
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