The film “Bawaal,” directed by Nitesh Tiwari, has come under scrutiny for its portrayal of the Holocaust, drawing criticism from the Israeli embassy and the Jewish organization, The Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC).
“Bawaal” revolves around the journey of Ajay Dixit (played by Varun Dhawan), a high school history teacher, and his wife Nisha (portrayed by Jahnvi Kapoor) during their Europe tour, where they visit significant World War 2 sites, including Auschwitz and Anne Frank's home in Amsterdam. The film includes controversial lines that compare marital discord to Auschwitz and greedy individuals to Hitler. Furthermore, it showcases a fantasy sequence featuring Janhvi and Varun wearing striped pyjamas in a Nazi camp.
The Israeli embassy expressed its concern over the movie's treatment of the Holocaust in a statement. They acknowledged that while they do not assume malice was intended, there was a poor choice in the usage of some terminology in the film. The embassy urged individuals who may not be fully aware of the horrors of the Holocaust to educate themselves about this critical subject. They emphasized their commitment to propagating educational materials on the Holocaust and expressed willingness to engage in conversations to foster a better understanding of the universal lessons derived from it.
Israeli ambassador to India, Naor Gilon, also weighed in on the matter through a tweet. He stated that he had not watched the film “Bawaal,” but based on what he had read, he believed there was a poor choice of terminology and symbolism. He stressed that trivializing the Holocaust should disturb everyone, and he urged those with limited knowledge about the Holocaust to educate themselves on the subject.
The Simon Wiesenthal Center had previously voiced their strong objection to the film's portrayal of Auschwitz. Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the SWC Associate Dean and Director of Global Social Action, stated that Auschwitz is not a metaphor and should not be treated as such. He criticized the movie for trivializing and demeaning the memory of the 6 million Jews and millions of others who suffered under Hitler's genocidal regime. Cooper urged Amazon Prime, where the film was released, to stop monetizing “Bawaal” by removing its banal and insensitive portrayal of the suffering and systematic murder of Holocaust victims.
In response to the criticism, Nitesh Tiwari defended his film, stating that he carefully incorporated chapters from history that contribute to the development of the lead characters' arcs. He emphasized that each incident in the movie had been thoughtfully chosen, given the vastness of World War 2 and its profound impact on history.
As the debate continues, “Bawaal” remains a subject of controversy, sparking discussions on the responsible portrayal of historical events in cinema. The film's treatment of the Holocaust raises important questions about the ethical boundaries in storytelling and the need for sensitivity when dealing with such significant and tragic historical events.