Army chief General M M Naravane on Friday said the Indian Army stands "strong and tall" in the face of challenges faced on both "active and unsettled" west and north borders where exigencies have increased during the coronavirus pandemic.
General Naravane said he has always maintained that wars are not fought between two armies, but they are waged between two nations and emphasised on leveraging soft power.
His remarks came on a day when the Indian Army said that Indian and Chinese armies have completed the disengagement process and restored the pre-stand-off ground position in the Gogra friction point in eastern Ladakh.
Speaking at the inauguration ceremony of the golden jubilee celebrations (1971-2021) of the Television Wing of the Film and Television Institute of India, General Naravane hailed the role of mainstream cinema in reinforcing core values, preserving the diverse culture of the country, and galvanizing it in times of crisis.
The Chief of Army Staff, however, said that "stereotyping" of characters and Indian armed forces officers should be avoided.
"On a lighter note, I have always found the stereotyping of Indian (armed forces) officers in the films, both amusing and intriguing. The beautiful heroine's father is always a 'khadoos' (rude, snobbish) colonel, wearing a silk gown with whisky in one hand and a shotgun in the other. That really intrigues me.
"Well, creative license is understood, I believe that stereotyping of communities and characters needs to be avoided. Let's start believing in it," he said.
The Army chief said the nation is passing through a challenging period.
"The exigencies on our active and unsettled borders, both west and north (an apparent reference to Pakistan and China), have only increased in the times of the pandemic. The Indian Army, your Army, however, has stood strong and tall in the face of these challenges," General Naravane said.
"Wars are not fought between armies, wars are waged between nations. By hard power in the context always be relevant, equally important is leveraging of soft power," he said.
He said war movies have immortalised Indian soldiers and highlighted their courage.
"War movies had always had an enduring impact on people of all ages, especially our youth. These films have immortalized our soldiers in the hearts of every Indian.
"We have grown up watching these films, which have captured the valor of armed forces. It served to reinforce the supreme sacrifice of a soldier in national conscious," he said.
General Naravane said a large number of TV serials, too, have depicted the life and challenges of soldiers and creating awareness in the society while encouraging the youth to join the armed forces.
He thanked FTII for its efforts in recent times to reach out to the youth of the Union Territory of Jammu and Kashmir.
"Your workshops on screenplay writings, acting, film makers have been received with great enthusiasm in the (Kashmir) Valley and the personal initiative of FTII director Bhupendra Kainthola was the key to the successful initiative," the Army chief said.
He added that the coronavirus pandemic halted such programmes but said the Indian Army was keen to play a role of a facilitator to restart the initiative.
The Army chief said interaction and outreach of popular actors in difficult areas have further reinforced the existing bond between the military and the society.
"I would like to take this opportunity to gratefully acknowledge the role of the entertainment industry in making this possible," he said.
On the occasion, FTII's TV building was dedicated to noted writer and humourist P L Deshpande (fondly known as Pu La) by unveiling a giant mural with his iconic signature cast in metal on the building's exterior.
To honour the multi-faceted cultural personality, FTII renamed the wing as Pu La Deshpande TV Unit.
Two TV studios were named after P Kumar Vasudev and Prof Vasant Mulay.
Vasudev was the director of popular TV series 'Hum Log', broadcast on Doordarshan in the 1980s, while Mulay was the first station engineer of DD.
In 1958, Mulay joined Doordarshan when experimental TV transmission started with one camera, transmitter and only 25 television sets.
When Doordarshan officially started broadcasting on September 15, 1959, he teamed up with Deshpande as a programmer.
Gen Naravane said "Pu La" remains an iconic figure of all time.
"He wore many hats with equal ease and finesse," he said.
Film director Dr Jabbar Patel, who was present at the event, appreciated the FTII's gesture of honouring Deshpande, Mulay and Vasudev and recognising their contribution in their chosen field.
"People regard Pu La as a man of humour but for me, he was a true champion of freedom of speech, writing, and expression. It is because of Pu La, we, the artistes' fraternity, can write freely and express ourselves freely," Patel said.
Noted director Sai Paranjpye, who was among the dignitaries, recalled her association with Deshpande and said "Pu La" had opened a "magic world" of television for her.