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Akshay Kumar’s “FAUX”-G is an Awkward Nationalist Project

Written by Atri Mukherjee

20th September 2020

Following the government’s recent ban on the Tencent-owned Chinese video game PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, the mourning of the Indian gaming community was interrupted before the forty eighth hour mark by the announcement of a fresh addition to the Prime Minister’s Atmanirbhar campaign. Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar announced the release of a successor, an Indian developed game conveniently abbreviated FAU-G (Fearless And United Guards). The video game is under development in a Bengaluru-based mobile gaming and interactive entertainment company, nCore, with angel investor Vishal Gondal backing the project. The GOQii founder told Indian Express that the timely ban on PUBG was entirely coincidental, with their video game being in the pipeline for months. While the rumours around FAU-G capitalising on the emotional and economic gap left behind by PUBG may be deemed conjecture, the motif and foundational essence around the game warrants a discussion on the politics it represents. 

The celebrated selling point of the game revolves around the protagonal role of the Indian Army, with specific chapters inspired by their notable military accomplishments in safeguarding Indian sovereignty. A good time as any to celebrate the various feats of the Army, the time of release and endorsement of the video game raises a few eyebrows. Following the infamous interview that offered striking insight on mangoes and the Prime Minister’s personal political struggles, Akshay Kumar’s affiliation to the politics of the ruling party are well established. Besides his newfound botanical and vegetational hobbyism, the actor has emerged himself out of the big screen and assumed vociferous spokesmanship for the party, offering his tributes and support to the policies of the Centre. His repeated praise of the Indian military’s brilliance have showcased themselves on-screen, in his movies such as Holiday: A Soldier Is Never Off Duty and off-screen, on his multiple congratulatory social media posts. The BJP has coupled with the actor in their assumed role of spokesmanship for the Indian Army only too often, citing their military bravado and sacrifice as superseding any criticism whatsoever. Besides exploiting the Army’s activities to fulfil a political transcript, the BJP’s attempt to synonymise the party with the Army has been a longstanding effort. The Prime Minister’s visit to the North Himalayan regions of Ladakh earlier in July was already praised by BJP supporters, who claimed the military victories in Sino-India to be masterstrokes of the Modi cabinet. The cordial relationship between the actor and a Prime Minister who’s hallowed political opportunism paints the Army’s achievements to be accolades of his party’s intellect, makes the release of this game a rather unsubtle political move. 

Promotional picture for the game

The commodification of the ‘Indian Soldier’ is not without its various ethical criticisms. Depicting an over-glorified status of the Army, the unlawfulness of the acts that the institution perpetrates is sidelined and subdued under chants of praise and veneration. Al Jazeera and Washington Post reports over the years have harboured international discussion of the jurisdiction of the Indian Army to mete torture in posted areas. Despite evidence from international, domestic, and citizen journalists from multiple ground zeroes such as Kashmir and Manipur, the status of the Indian Army has always been equated along a nationalist narrative where questioning their actions is synonymous to alleging Pakistani citizenship. Major General SP Sinha, an ex-Indian Army chief, even called for the rapes of Kashmiri women in 2019 on live television. By pedestalizing and commercialising the Indian Army in games such as FAU-G, a culture of hyper-nationalism is only further perpetuated. The potential political consequence of this can be seen in the form of hooliganism that took place during the CAA-NRC protests by right-wing nationalist outfits. At the time, goons reigned in institutions of academic brilliance and guns were waved to shoo away dissenters. The release of a violent video game legitimised by nationalist rhetoric that is then endorsed by actors and political parties that routinely normalise hooliganism could test the political and constitutional maturity of India. 

Despite not being a Battle Royale game model, the video-game draws inspiration from previous successors in the community, including the unmissable similarity of name with the recently banned PUB-G application. Not only does this reflect poorly upon the capabilities of Indian game developers to come up with original ideas in the industry, it may even be perceived as intellectual property theft. The infamous poster of the game that dramatically represents soldiers emerging out of greenish fog laden with firearms is in reality a copyrighted stock photo from a USA-based website discussing the usage of robot-cops in Science Fiction movies, which may be equated to product fraudulence, if not struck with copy-right charges. For an entertainment company that takes pride in harbouring originality and brilliance that can contest with the best across competitors, this represents an immensely contemptible and unprincipled idea of the Make In India initiative, whose noble intentions are antonyms to games such as FAU-G. 

Such poaching of ideas and appropriating them into local products by Indian tech-giants has become a common occurrence in the Make In India movement, instances of which we observed in the similarity of the user interface of Reliance’s ‘JioMeet’ with the ‘Zoom’ video-calling application. This then creates a market that celebrates unoriginal thought and invention, consequently massacring the foundational motives behind encouraging an indigenous market. Presently, FAU-G is a whole lot of nothing masquerading itself as groundbreaking.

Experience Further: In their 1997 hit album ‘OK Computer’, Radiohead’s seminal number ‘Electioneering’ is a satirical dialogue on opportunist governments and their stakeholders, whose only success motive is determined by ensuring votes in elections over legitimate reform. 

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