India-Pakistan Relations and Spy Movies: A Socio-Strategic Analysis 

Source: impawards



Films offer a chance to study and develop an understanding on a particular subject. A huge team of specialists works together for months to produce a good feature film. There is a tradition of adaptation of literary stories or novels into films in Bollywood like other film industries of the world. In this paper we have analyzed the content of a movie which tells story of a female spy who puts her life in risk to accomplish a mission to save her nation and sacrifice her personal as well as family life. The film is based on realistic story of a biographic novel. The dilemma and intra-role conflict of a women spy in an enemy country where her life is surrounded by various threats every moment. Beauty of this film is that it never projects any agenda or slogan of nationalism and aggressive patriotism, instead it silently forced audiences to ponder about eternal rivalry and animosity with its neighboring nation and its repercussions, simultaneously. From India-Pakistan partition in 1947 till date two-nation theory still affects psyche of masses of both countries. Hindu-Muslim dichotomy and antagonistic, stereotyped perceptions between both communities still prevails and affect their thought process and discourse, consequently mutual hatred deepening continuously in both communities. Pakistan and Kashmir both are conceived sources of conflict. However, success of film ‘Raazi’, which portrays story of a patriot Muslim women spy from Kashmirreveals that common man think differently and have faith in peace, harmony, fraternity, and co-existence instead of hyper-nationalism, communal hatred and war.        

Key words:Bollywood,role-conflict, spy, nationalism, patriotism, India, Pakistan, two-nation theory, Hindu-Muslim dichotomy, communal hatred.  


Motion pictures are cheapest medium of socialization, entertainment, and cultural transmission and medium to spread message. Movies are just literary texts which reflect realities of society with some extent of fantasy and imagination. Films are amalgamation of fact and fantasy, precisely take inspiration from our daily life practices, ideas, likes and dislikes. Movies are also very effective tool of image construction and propaganda. Movies are a sort of soft power and easily accessible cultural element which affect large number of audiences in no time. Recently released film ‘Raazi’ is cinematic adaption of novel ‘Calling Sehmat written by Harinder Sikka, former Lieutenant Commander of the Navy. This novel and film Raazi is based on the real story of unsung, brave and great patriot Indian female spy ‘’. On May 11, 2018 Indian Express writes about the movie Raazi “at a time when hate and anger are the currency of the subcontinent, a film like Raazi needs to be made. For peeping into the valley and finding a true-blue patriot, for looking across the border and finding decency, and for giving Kashmiri embroidery as worn by Alia an authentic, modern, feather light touch. Like a delicious Indian irony, expect the clothes to linger around longer”.

Meghna Gulzar directed and recently released Raazi is one of the greatest movies produced in Bollywood. Qualified daughter of veteran director, poet and lyricist Gulzar Sahab began her carrier with movie ‘Filhaal…For the Moment’. Like ‘Raazi’ the debut film Filhaal was based on female centric issue.  Filhaal, Just Married, Talwar and now Raazi raise our expectations about Meghna Gulzar. She is serious about meaningful and sensitive issues. Gulzar came to India from Pakistan after partition in 1947. H was born in Dina town of Jhelum district of Pakistan. Through his songs and films he has expressed his views about Pakistan and maintains personal and professional relations with artists as well. He has imbibed rational and humanitarian values in her daughter Meghna. In an exclusive interview with Indian Express Meghna says “in my house, Pakistanis seen as ‘bichhde hue log’. Through her film Raazi she tried to disseminate the message that only villain between India and Pakistan is war. Pakistani people are also good human being like Indians.

Defining Concept


According to Oxford Dictionary of Sociology, “Feminism is a social movement, combining theory with political practice, which seeks to achieve equality between men and women. Common goal of feminism is to define, establish, and achieve political, economic, educational, personal, and social equality of sexes. Feminist cinema, advocating or illustrating feminist perspectives, arose largely with the development of feminist film theory in the decades of 1960s and 1970s. Feminist film theory is generally based on sociological theory and focused on the function of female characters in film narratives or genres.   1972 saw the first feminist film festivals in the U.S. and U.K. as well as the first feminist film journal, Women and Film. Feminist critiques examine common stereotypes depicted in film, the extent to which the women were shown as active or passive, and the amount of screen time given to women.


Nationalism includes many terms like sentiment, aspiration and consciousness in itself. Nationalism is a political, social, and economic system characterized by promoting the interests of a particular nation particularly with the aim of gaining and maintaining self-governance. Nationalism is an ideology in which patriotism is a central social value and which promotes loyalty to one’s nation as a conscious emotion. Nationalism involves a sense of common destiny, common goals and common responsibilities for all citizens of the nation (Scott1999:270). In few countries of the world religious ideology play very crucial and determining role to shape their nationalism. Actually, Religious nationalism is the relationship of nationalism to a particular religious belief, dogma, or affiliation where a shared religion can be seen to contribute to a sense of national unity, a common bond among the citizens of the nation. For instance Pakistani nationalism is based on Islam.


When political behaviors are organized on the basis of religious identity communalism emerges. Polarization of two or more groups with different faith and religiosity happens in such political atmosphere. Defining ‘others’ on the basis their religion and single out them with hate and discriminatory treatment communalism adopt its content and form. Communal behavior is harmful for shaping an egalitarian society. In India Hindu and Muslim communities are considered spontaneous rivals. Muslims as minority community are always targeted to prove their faithfulness towards India. They are identified as ‘outsiders’ and ‘others’ by few radical groups.


According to Oxford dictionary of sociology “individuals who consider themselves, or are considered by others, to share common characteristics that differentiate them from the other collectivities in a society, and from which they develop their distinctive cultural behavior, form an ethnic group…ethnic nationality is rooted in biological necessity rather than individual choice. It runs in families and is believed to be an inherited characteristic. People are born into a particular nationality, which then determines their interests, sentiments, and sense of attachment to a particular nation (Scott& Marshall 2009:226).


William Graham Sumner (1906) created the term ethnocentrism and defined it as “the technical name for the view of things in which one’s own group is the centre of everything, and all others are scaled and rated with reference to it”. There is a tendency among all human beings and cultures to think that our way is the only one and the best for everyone. This leads to distrust of other communities. The most extreme case of ethnocentrism, occurring since the time of Sumner, is that of the rise of Hitler and his hatred of Jews, gypsies and others. Ethnocentrism can include rigid religious, ethnic or racial beliefs, which can be seen in many conflicts today. It is in opposition to the cultural diversity of progressive society. In India Hindu-Muslim dichotomy is very much in practice and Muslims as minority community conceived ‘anti-India, anti-Hindu, outsiders and invaders who demolished Hindu temples and applied mass conversion to Islam forcefully. The role of religion as a cultural symbol of identity and in construction of ‘self’ and ‘other’ is very crucial (Lars Tore Flaten2012, Alar Klip2011).


Louis Wirth (1945) describes a minority as “minority is group of people who, because of their physical or cultural characteristics are singled out from the others in the society in which they live for differential and unequal treatment and who therefore regard themselves as objects of collective discrimination. Minorities objectively occupy a disadvantageous position in society”.

Role conflict

Role conflict occurs when there are incompatible demands placed upon a person such that compliance with both would be difficult. Persons experience role conflict when they find themselves pulled in various directions as they try to respond to the many statuses they hold. Intra-role conflict occurs with a single individual when he or she tries to develop compatibility with various roles allocated by community or society. In case of women intra-role conflict mostly occurred when they work inside home and outside simultaneously. In studied film ‘Raazi’ female protagonist instantly face role-conflict with her family, her duty and her emotions.


It is the biggest film industry in the world, situated in Mumbai, India. Films of this film industry, this film production activity has been given the status of industry very recently (1998) by government of India are very popular in audiences throughout the world, in Diasporas and local people as well. Bollywood, the name of Indian film industry emerged as a imitation to Hollywood, the film industry of USA. Nicholas (1946) in his book ‘Verdict on India’ called it Hindu Hollywood. According to Dudrah (2006), “the naming and popular usage of the Mumbai film industry as Bollywood not only reveals on a literal level an obvious reworking of the appellation of the cinema of Hollywood, but, on a more significant level that Bollywood is able to serve alternative cultural and social representations away from dominant white ethnocentric audio-visual possibilities”(Dudrah2006:35).

Research methodology

This paper is based on secondary sources. Concern materials collected from Books, journals, newspaper articles and Bollywood feature films for this study. We have applied textual analysis method to elaborate central theme of this paper. The textual method helps researcher to gather information about those processes by which human beings conceive the world. A text is something that we make meaning from. Textual analysis is useful in various fields like cultural studies, media studies in mass communication. Therefore we have used books, news paper articles, films, journal and magazines as text and analyzed their contents. We have applied this method in the present study to understand the content of recently released Bollywood movie ‘Raazi’ based on life and work of a Muslim and female Indian spy ‘’.

Female Centric Movies of Bollywood

Bollywood has a long and strong tradition of making female centric movies though it is patriarchal in nature. Movies are reflection of the society that we live in as well as one significant form of literature and history. Their inspiration comes from cultural practices, psychological framework and the likes and dislikes of the society. And that might just be true to a certain extent. India is a patriarchal society and we find its reflections in Bollywood movies. In the depiction of genders, there’s been a huge debate about the very definition of feminism. We are compiling a list of movies that show not only strong women characters, but also how they break the stereotypical notion of feminism:

Anubhav (1971), Ankur (1973),  Aandhi (1975), Bhumika (1977),  Arth (1982),  Paar (1984), Mirch Masala (1987) Damini (1993), Damini (1993),  Bandit Queen (1994), Mrityudand(1997), Aastha (1997), Godmother (1999), Astitva (2000), Fiza (2000), Lajja (2001)  Zubeidaa (2001), Filhaal (2002), Pinjar (2003), Aitraaz (2004), Chak De! India (2007), Fashion (2008), 7 Khoon Maaf (2011),  The Dirty Picture (2011), Turning 30 (2011), No One Killed Jessica (2011), Heroine (2012), Kahani (2012), Mary Kom (2014),  Highway (2014), Mardaani (2014), Margarita With a Straw (2014), Tanu Weds Manu: Returns (2015), Piku (2015), Angry Indian Goddesses (2015),  Nil Battey Sannata (2016), Pink (2016), Parched (2016), Padmavat (2018).

Spy Movies in Bollywood

There are few movies which portray stories of spies; here we are mentioning just name a few:

C.I.D. (1956), Farz (1967), Jewel Thief (1967), Farz (1967), Aankhen (1968), Prem Pujari (1970), Johny Mera Naam (1970), The Great Gambler (1979), Suraksha (1979), Johny Mera Naam (), The Great Gambler (1979), Baadshah (1999), 16 December (2000), The Hero: love Story of a Spy (2003), Gangster (2006), Mukhbiir (2008),  Kahani (2012), Agent Vinod (2012), Ek Tha Tiger (2012), Vishwaroop (2013)  D day (2013),  Madras Café (2013), Phantom (2015), Baby (2015), Tiger Zinda Hai (2017).

Women Spy Movies

Now we are providing list of those movies where female protagonist portrayed in the role of spy:

Don (Priyanka Chopra 2006), Gunday (Priyanka Chopra 2014), Kahani (Vidya Balan2012), Bobby Jasoos (Vidya Balan2014), Ek Tha Tiger (Katrrina Kaif2012), Tiger Zinda Hai (Katrina Kaif2017), The Hero: Love Story of the Spy (Preity Zinta2004), Agent Vinod (Kareena Kapoor 2011), Kurban (Kareena Kapoor 2009), Dus (Esha Deol2005), Force 2 (Sonakshi Sinha2012), Baby (Taapsee Pannu 2015), Naam Shabana (Taapsee Pannu 2017), Raazi (2018).

India-Pakistan Relations and ‘Raazi’

It is just a coincidence that former RAW chief Amarjit Singh Daulat and Pakistan ISI chief Asad Durrani team up to write a book entitled ‘The Spy Chronicles: RAW, ISI and the Illusion of Peace’. This book was released on 24 May 2018 in New Delhi by former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh, and former vice president Hamid AnsariMeghna Gulzar directed Bollywood movie ‘Raazi’ is based on a female spy of RAW released on 11 May 2018. This movie is based on a novel “Calling Sehmat” written by Harinder Sikka, former Lieutenant Commander of the Navy. This novel and film Raazi is based on the real story of unsung, brave and great patriot Indian spy.  Another coincidence is former Indian naval officer Kulbhushan Jadhav imprisoned in Pakistani jail.

Female protagonist of film ‘Raazi’ is a Muslim woman from Kashmir and her family has a tradition of patriotism. Her grandparents fought against British rule for Indian freedom. Her father Hidayt is also working as Indian spy and collects important strategic information from Pakistan through his friendship with Pakistani army friend. Raazi is a real life story of a ‘Kashmiri Muslim, patriot and nationalist women spy’. At a juncture of time when their integrity and patriotism are under question and Kashmiri residents (including women and children) are busy with stone pelting against Indian army (AFSPA) and organized for ‘Azadi’ from India, can they correlate themselves with women like Sehamt from Kashmiri soil? When young insurgent boys are being ‘poster boy’ and ‘youth icon’ of Kashmiri youths, would they join Indian army outfit like Samar Sayad, son of Sehmat? When Pakistani Army and terrorists are violating ceasefire and residents of border villages are forced to leave their villages, household and agriculture-fields, can these two neighboring nations develop better relations and peaceful co-existence? Ex ISI chief receive explanation call from Pakistani army outfit for his co-authored book with ex RAW chief, people of Pakistan are criticizing this act of Asad Durrani (ex-ISI chief), could we expect peaceful and rational co-existence in such intolerant environment? We witnessed that whoever will cross ‘Line of Control’ without passport and visa considered spy in both countries and will be punished for his/her mistake or act. Real and reel life experiences tell same story in this context. Sarabjit and Kulbhushan Jadhav are best example of this sort.

Marriage relations between the citizens of India and Pakistan are still in practice. Bollywood heroine Reena Roy married to Pakistani cricketer Mohsin Khan. Tennis star Sania Mirza got married to cricketer Shoaib Malik. Friendship relations also exist among the people but intelligence and political relations have been very complicated from the beginning. Pakistan blames Indian intelligence services ‘RAW’ for insurgent movement in Baluchistan and Pakistan-occupied Kashmir against Pakistan. Similarly, India always blames Pakistani army, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and terrorist groups for terror attacks, illegal infiltration and anti-India uprising in Kashmir. There are various issues of contention between both nations. On 2nd May 2018 violence erupts at AMU over Jinnah portrait and many students were injured and hospitalized. Jinnah is always blamed for propagating ‘two nation theory’ and partition of India and Pakistan in 1947. Therefore people were protesting against using his portrait in an Indian university campus which created communal uproar and polarized the masses here in India. ‘Omreta’ (2018) a biographical film based on life of British terrorist of Pakistani descent Ahamd Omar Saeed Sheikh produced by Hansal Mehta and released in Indian screen during the same period. These two films which were released simultaneously and portrayed India-Pakistan bilateral relations neutrally tell stories without being ethnocentric, judgmental or hyper-national. These films represent the situations exist and emerge both side of the L.O.C. and incidents took place without any hammering. In such style audience and viewers get a chance to understand the reasoning implicit behind different incidents, mutual responses and consequents.

On 27 May 2018 Shah Faisal, himself a Kashmiri writes an article about film Raazi entitled “What a spy thriller teaches us about patriotism and empathy” in Times of India (Sunday Times). He writes “Raazi takes us through the full horror of a spy’s life and the scale of sacrifice required for the job. It is about an India-Pakistan narrative where everything is being said in two few words, where the slogans are missing and silences have been allowed to speak. Raazi takes a different road to patriotism and patriotic cinema, deftly negotiating a minefield of emotions rather than getting caught up in the blood-pool of violence and jingoism”.

The film begins with a senior Indian Army Officer Lt. Gen. Bakshi addressing a group of soldiers on board the INS Viraat the same ship which was saved by Indian army outfits in 1971 from Pakistani attack. Raazi is period film situated at the outset of freedom movement of Bangladesh the then East Pakistan which was openly supported by Indian nation-state. During that period was a college student from Kashmir. Her father and grandfather were Indian freedom fighters and she was proud of her family’s tradition of patriotism. After partition her Father Hidayat used to work for Indian intelligence as he has his best friend in Pakistan Army. When Hidayat learned about his cancer, he want to continue the family tradition of being in service to the country and to fulfill his last will he convince her daughter  to get married to an officer, the son of an Army Brigadier in the Pakistan Army, who is promoted to Major General. A few days before the marriage ceremony, received training by members of RAW, India’s external intelligence agency, in various skills required to be a spy. After the marriage and migration to Pakistan, quickly settles into her married life, adjusts to a new country, and win the trust and confidence of her in-laws. She loves her husband Iqbal, and other family members as well. Along with discharging her duties with her family she instantly sends strategic information to her handlers back in India. Eventually, she learns Pakistani army is planning to attack on the Indian aircraft carrier INS Viraat then deployed in the Bay of Bengal. We see that Sehamt shoulders with many risks to get such serious strategic information from army officers in her family. At the climax, her identity as spy is discovered but she manages to escape with the help of her handlers, at the cost of her husband Iqbal’s death. She ultimately returns to India, and where we came to know that she is pregnant with Iqbal’s child. She firmly says that she will not abort her child. She gave birth to a baby boy, named Samar Sayed. The boy later joins the Indian Army, thus fourth generation of the family serves the Indian nation though they are Kashmiri Muslim.

Patriotic Song and its Symbolism

Tagline of film Raazi is “Watan ke aage kuch nahi, khud bhi nahi (nothing is before nation, even I)”. We are giving detail content of patriotic song of the movie through which citizens of both nations express their adoration towards their respective nation at same platform. We could understand this feeling of nationalism and patriotism through ‘symbolic interactionism’ (G.H.Mead1934). We could also understand visual of this song through ‘verstehen’ method conceptualized by Max Weber. In this method people who participate in an action or event could make their perception or understanding by their subjective meaning. In the scene group of students of is presenting a patriotic song mix it with another song written by legendry poet Iqbal (lab pe aati hai dua ban ke…) on an annual program which was prepared under the direction of Sehmat. Sehma remember and admire her motherland India, while Pakistani audiences correlate this song with their own nation i.e. Pakistan. The song is as following:

Ae watan…mere watan

Ae watan..aabad rahe tu…,

Ae watan, watan mere, aabad rahe tu, ae watan…

Main jahan rahun, jahan me yaad rahe tu

Tu hi meri manzil hai, pehchan tujhi se

Pahunchu main jahaan bhi, meri buniyad rahe tu, Ae watan…

Tujhpe koi gham ki aanch aane nahi doon

Kurbaan meri jaan tujhpe, shad rahe tu, Ae watan…

Aye watan mere watan aabaad rahe tu…

Ae watan …mere watan

Aabaad rahe tu”

During the period of war citizens of a nation become organize in favor of their mother nation. The song mentioned above is being performed during the war period of 1971 between India and Pakistan. Sehmat and people from Pakistan who were present in the program appreciate the patriotic song. Visual created in this scene is very effective and communicate the message through soft power. After the war Bangladesh came into existence on 26 March 1971, as new nation which was earlier known as East Pakistan. Indira Gandhi was prime minister at that time and Sehmat as spy was helping Indian intelligence and army through sending important strategic information from enemy nation which was trying to destroy India. For Sehmat nothing was more important than her nation even herself, her husband and her family members who were very generous people.



Construction of ‘other’

Religion is most important factor in the construction of identity of an individual or a group. Several reasons can be cited to explain the salience of religion in the identity reconstruction of Hindus and Muslims in India. An identity which was ‘taken for granted’ in the home-country is renegotiated, reconstructed, reinterpreted in a somewhat more self-conscious way. Muslims are identified as religious minority in India and because of historical reasons they are singled out for differential treatment where their stereotyped image is taken for granted. In his analysis on identity construction Klip (2011:212) explains, “Religion as belief has significantly declined in substance and scope from the European cultural consciousness and social belief systems, religion as ‘identity’ has significantly persisted in Europe”. This trend of identity shaping similarly occurred here in India on the basis of religion. Babri masque demolition in 1992 and its reactions through India and among the Muslims around the world and consequent emergence of terrorism in Kashmir are also very crucial elements to understand construction of ‘others’. These developments which occurred in the society have been reflected in Bollywood films. In their study on Bollywood films, Pakistani scholars Shahzad Ali and others (2012) write that, “in Bollywood movies controversial issues such as the religious conflict between Muslims and Hindus and the International conflict between India and Pakistan are also the subject of Bollywood movies. Indian movies portray Muslims and Pakistani as terrorists and negative minded people. Such stereotyped images in Indian cinema communicate strong political messages to its audiences and tends to exacerbate the existing conflicts”. Similarly, on portrayal of Muslims in Bollywood films Hilal Ahamad writes, “The multilayered story of Muslims’ imaginations of the Indian republic should go beyond stereotypical portrayals as anti-national separatists or as victims and second class citizen”. Content of Film ‘Raazi’ provide us a chance to rethink on stereotyped image of Indian Muslims and their patriotism.


Understanding Indo-Pak bilateral relations in South Asia region is very complicated. On 30th of May 2018 “the hotline conversation between the Director Generals of Military Operations of India and Pakistan and their agreement “to undertake sincere measures to improve the existing situation ensuring peace and avoidance of hardships to the citizens”, and to “fully implement the ceasefire understanding of 2003 in letter and spirit forthwith” is long awaited development. The wording of the near-identical statements issued by India and Pakistan is the most promising heard from the bilateral front in the last two years, especially the recommitment to the 2003 ceasefire” (Indian Express 31 May 2018).

Raazi is a real life story of a woman spy from Kashmiri soil. Female protagonist of the film drops her studies to fulfill her ailing father’s will to serve the interest of Indian nation-state. She becomes Raazi (agree) to marry an unknown army officer from Pakistan to continue legacy of nationalism and patriotism of her family. She resides in the house of army officers which is situated in highly protected area of Pakistani army establishment and used to send all important messages for which she was trained by Indian Intelligence Outfit. Her in-laws love and respect her. She was also allowed to go out according to her will as her in-laws have faith in her though she belongs to their enemy country. Consequently, there emerge situations of intra-role conflict between a newly married woman and a female Indian spy. She does not want to kill her servant, her brother-in-law and her loving husband but she could not control untoward incidents in her own family. Whole family destroyed because of her before her eyes to complete her task and duty to save her nation. She returns to India with guilt, regrets and depression and lived unknown life in isolation. We learn about her greatest sacrifice after releasing this film which is based on a biographical novel written by a navy officer. In the last but not the least as we know she was pregnant when she returned. She denied aborting her child in very clear words. Her son joined Indian Navy to serve his nation as fourth generation to continue legacy of patriotism. He used title of his father ‘Sayad’ who was a Pakistani Muslim. This film tells a story where nobody is a villain except war. Human beings are similar both sides of line of control. Only enemy is our ethnocentric, stereotyped communal mindsets which support mutual hatred and animosity.


Ali, Shahzad & Others (2012) Portrayal of Muslims Characters in the Indian Movies, in Pakistan Journal of History and Culture, Vol.33, No.1.

Ahmad, Hilal (2017) Indian or Muslim? Why This Binary Needs to be Done Away With, on

Flaten, Lars Tore (2012) Hindu Nationalist Conceptions of History: Constructing a Hindu-Muslim Dichotomy, in South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies, Routledge, London.

Klip, Alar (2011) Religion in the Construction of the Cultural ‘Self’ and ‘Other’,ENDC Proceedings, Vol.14,pp.197-222.

Scott, John & Mrshall, G. (2009) Oxford Dictionary of Sociology, OUP, New York.

Thussu, Daya Kishan, (2016) The soft Power of Popular Cinema-The Case of India, in Journal of Political Power, Routledge, London.