Akshay Kumar is known for doing patriotic and nationalistic films. From Holiday, Baby, and Airlift to Rustom, Gold and Kesari, one thing that is constant in all of these films is that they have loyal and dutiful characters who don’t hesitate to sacrifice for their nation. His films have also won numerous accolades and awards and have been praised by both critics and their audiences. Akshay Kumar’s latest film Bell Bottom has gotten mixed reviews from film critics.
Although the film performed moderately at the box office, its ban in the three gulf countries, namely Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar on the grounds of tempering with historical facts aroused controversy as to whether the film is a veracious account of the Khalistan Movement. Let’s look at the facts to answer the question: is Bell Bottom a true story?
Where Is The Bell Bottom Story Inspired From?
The plot of Bell Bottom is inspired by hijacking events in the 1980s which (in reality) happened in India by Khalistani separatists, who sought to create a homeland for Sikhs by creating a sovereign state known as Khalistan, such as the Indian Airlines Flight 423, 405 and 421 hijackings. While the movie focuses primarily on the August 1984 hijacking, it has also taken some additional inspiration from other events, for example, the August 4, 1982 hijacking, where the agents were disguised as diplomatic aides to prevent the hijacking. It was one of the longest hijacks in the history of plane hijacks in India.
All in all, I think every Indian filmmaker knows that there has to be some ‘drama’ put into the plot so that the film comes out to be gripping and engaging, for it to be a commercial success, also known as the Big Hindi Movie Formula. Bell Bottom is a great example of a ‘based on true events’ movie which largely focuses on the main character’s personal life rather than showing what happened back then (just like every other Bollywood movie). Basically, the ‘rescue’ is only shown in the last thirty minutes of the movie.
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Why Did The Three Gulf Countries Ban It?
The sole reason why Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Qatar banned Bell Bottom is that according to history, during the hijacks which took place in 1984, the real heroes who got the hijackers weren’t the ones who are shown in the movie. Rather it was the United Arab Emirates’ Defence Minister Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum and the other UAE authorities who carried out the rescue mission.
So, the gulf countries, in order to save their citizens from believing that it was ‘Indians’ who saved the flight passengers rather than them, banned the film saying that the filmmakers have tempered it with historical facts.
Is Bell Bottom Historically Accurate?
Unfortunately, the answer to this question is not a simple ‘yes’ or a ‘no’. It is quite nuanced, keeping in mind that there are some events which are shown in the movie that actually took place, for instance, Indira Gandhi was, in fact, the Prime Minister of India when the hijackings occurred. On the other hand, some factual information is untrue. Take, for example, the first Kabaddi World Cup, which was held in 2004, but in the movie (which took place in 1984 by the way), the Kabaddi team was on the flight. Moreover, the character of Vani Kapoor named Radhika is shown working for MTNL, which everybody knows was established in 1986.
It also focuses on the trivial details of Akshay Kumar’s character’s back story, including ‘how’ he fell in love with his wife and how the typical ‘bad guy’ was involved in his mother’s death (so that he can have a personal connection to his job). Well, that and please don’t get me started on the recruitment process of RAW (Research and Analysis Wing). The way India’s foreign intelligence agency manages to hire a ‘mere’ clerk as their agent by abducting him is beyond me.
Coming back to the question, yes, it is based on true events (The Khalistan Movement) and no, one cannot save the 210 hostages by simply changing the weather report and expecting a sandstorm.
Is Bell Bottom Worth Watching?
Yes. It is a one-time watch especially if you like spy thriller movies. The movie can be slow at times but Lara Dutta’s portrayal of the late Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi is mind-blowing. Just don’t expect too much from it that you’re watching a movie ‘based on true events’ and you’ll be satisfied.
Bell Bottom is currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.