International Fact-Checking Day: Why 'Afwaah' is a necessary film in the world of fake news

Karishma Jangid
New Update
Afwaah fact-checking day

Bhumi Pednekar as Nivi Singh and Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Rahab Ahmed in Sudhir Mishra's 'Afwaah'.

On International Fact-Checking Day, here's delving into how Sudhir Mishra's 'Afwaah' aptly portrays the peril of fake news and emphasizes the need for fact-checking in today's society.

Recently, Hindi cinema seems to have developed a penchant for political themes but it feels like it is stuck on repeat. These films are either diving into religious themes or trying to rewrite history. History is significant, particularly in traditional settings where the past influences the present to a great degree. This does make us wonder why the spotlight remains solely on historical matters. What about the pressing issues of our time? One menace that demands immediate attention is the proliferation of fake news. Social media is replacing credible newspapers and news channels. Now, anyone with an internet connection can fabricate or distort information with ease. Morph an image, trim a video, and voila, you have a perfectly manicured piece of news in your hand that has the potential to cause real-time consequences. In such times, 'Afwaah' serves as an important reminder of why fact-checking is essential.

Also Read: Afwaah is an intriguing and crucial film with lessons for all

Afwaah revolves around Nivi Singh (Bhumi Pednekar), the daughter of the prominent politician Gyan Singh, and the fiancée of the aspiring politician Vicky Bana (Sumit Vyas). Upon eloping when the video of a murder during Vicky's political rally goes viral, Nivi is hounded by Vicky's henchmen. Seeing Nivi being harassed by the goons, Rahab Ahmed (Nawazuddin Siddiqui), an ad-man who has just returned from the USA, jumps in to save her. When Rahab and Nivi's video goes viral, as per his social media manager's advice, Vicky twists the video, labelling it 'Love Jihad'. Sounds familiar? 

Every day, rumors, or afwaah, circulate widely across the country through major platforms like Twitter, YouTube, WhatsApp, and Facebook. Falling prey to fake news is all too easy. After all, It is crafted to provoke an immediate reaction without any fact-checking. Whether it sparks anger or sadness, it often feels simpler to read the news, get upset, share it in frustration, and move on to other pressing matters, rather than taking the time to investigate further. After all, who has the time or energy for that? And besides, who even knows where to start looking for reliable information? 

In reality, fake news sometimes appears more valuable than human life, especially if it's compelling enough. Afwaah examines how fake trust erodes our trust in fellow humans. In one scene, Chandan Singh (Sharib Hashmi), a fervent Islamophobic thug, finds himself in a situation where he needs help from a Muslim man to save his life. After spending some time together, Chandan finds out that he can coexist with a Muslim man. This underscores how fake news can override our trust in fellow humans, especially when humans are more real than chunks of news. Later, when Rahab seeks refuge from Vicky's thugs at a literary festival, the artists refuse to let him in, despite knowing that the goons are going to kill him. This illustrates how humanity can take a backseat when faced with captivating yet false news. Regardless of its credibility, if news can attract public attention, support, and outrage, it may tragically eclipse the value of human lives, a scenario all too familiar in our society.

Right from the Pehlu Khan lynching to the Sakshi Mishra case, Afwaah reminds us of all the horrors that have been committed in the name of ideologies and religion using fake news. In almost all such cases of lynchings, murders, and more, it starts off with an afwaah and ends with loss of life, shattered families, and most importantly, decreasing acceptance and increasing animosity. As the movie concludes, we witness Rahab returning to see his home burned down by believers of fake news. The scene is a powerful reminder that even if we move on, every fake news and the resulting carnage leaves a lasting mark. It not only affects the individuals directly involved but also erodes the trust within our society.

In this film, there are important takeaways not just for those who consume fake news but also for those who propagate it. Towards the end of the film, Vicky and his social media manager find themselves unable to control the spread of their fabricated news. Once misinformation is unleashed on the internet and reaches the masses, it can take on a life of its own, making it unpredictable and difficult to contain. Ironically, Vicky becomes a victim of the same hate and false information that he had spread. This serves as a cautionary tale for politicians as well. Through Nivi and Rahab's story, Afwaah holistically explores how rumors can harm both individuals and society as a whole 

In an interview, director Sudhir Mishra likened fake news to weapon of mass destruction and he mentioned how for him, the element of fear and the fact that now almost anybody can be a victim is almost absurd and if that happens, society will go for a toss, because anyone can be targeted. In the face of such chaos, Sudhir Mishra's Afwaah doesn't demand much from its audience. It doesn't require you to adopt a specific ideology or champion any particular cause. Instead, it simply encourages you to question things.

On April Fool’s Day, many of us kept an eye out for misleading ads from brands or fake wedding announcements from friends. Let’s stay equally vigilant against fake news! Whether it's in movies and TV shows or on social media, let’s not take everything at face value.

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afwaah International Fact-Checking Day