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India gears up for independence anniversary with Bollywood war hero film

·2-min read

MUMBAI, Aug 10 (Reuters) - A new Bollywood film depicting a young army captain fighting heroically in the disputed region of Kashmir comes out on Thursday as patriotic fevour builds in India in the run-up to this week's independence anniversary.

"Shershaah", which roughly translates as King of Lions, refers to 24-year-old Vikram Batra, who won a key victory against Pakistan-backed forces in Kashmir before he died in 1999.

It is the latest of a series of Bollywood films set in a nationalist framework.

Militants in the Indian-administered part of Kashmir, India's only Muslim-majority state, have fought Indian rule for more than three decades. Neighbouring Pakistan, which controls the rest of Kashmir, denies Indian allegations of stoking the revolt, saying it provides only diplomatic and moral support.

Two years ago this month, Indian Prime Minister Narenda Modi's government stripped the Himalayan region of its autonomy.

Director Vishnu Varadhan told Reuters the film was an opportunity to tell the story of a war that most of India's younger generation is not familiar with.

Batra, became a hero in India after newspapers and television channels splashed stories describing how he called into base after capturing a crucial peak against the odds with a slogan from a popular ad "the heart wants more".

It was part of a brief conflict waged in 1999 by India and Pakistan in the mountains above Kargil along on the Line of Control, the defacto front line between them.

Batra was posthumously awarded the Param Vir Chakra, India's highest military honour that year, after he was killed in enemy cross-fire while trying to move an injured colleague to safety.

"This film is a tribute to all the 500+ martyrs we lost during the Kargil war," Sidharth Malhotra, who plays the role of Batra in the film, told Reuters. Also starring Kiara Advani, the film will be released on Amazon's Prime Video streaming platform on August 12. (Reporting by Sunil Kataria in New Delhi, Writing by Shilpa Jamkhandikar in Mumbai; editing by Philippa Fletcher)

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