New Delhi: Akshay Kumar's film "Airlift" - based on the record evacuation of Indians after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait by Iraq - has left diplomats seething over their portrayal.
While a section of officials posted at the embassies in Kuwait and Baghdad at the time believe they have been projected as villains, KP Fabian, then joint secretary MEA in charge of Gulf, however, told NDTV the Government of India "could have done a lot better".
The film, written and directed by Raja Menon, shows diplomats posted in Kuwait leaving at the first sign of trouble. As the embassy shut down, it fell upon a band of local businessmen, including Akshay Kumar, to organise a refugee camp, negotiate with the Iraqis and return home in the biggest civilian evacuation in aviation history involving 1.7 lakh Indians.
Recalling on NDTV's show Agenda how an Indian delegation to Kuwait reached 12 days later, when the Indian community was very angry, Mr Fabian said then foreign minister IK Gujral, who had led the delegation, was advised by the Ambassador not to speak to the locals.
He also recalled that he had to tell Mr Gujral that the selection of those to be evacuated had to be fair and they could not be all from the minister's home state, Punjab.
A still from Airlift, based on the evacuation of Indians after the 1990 invasion of Kuwait by Iraq.
Foreign ministry spokesperson Vikas Swarup, however, tweeted saying Airlift was "great entertainment but rather short on facts". "We in MEA consider protection of Indians abroad of foremost importance. This film has also taken artistic liberties in the depiction of the events that happened,'' he said.
And Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao ripped into the film on Twitter.
"Airlift" the movie falls completely short in its research on role of @MEAIndia in 1990-91 Gulf War.- Nirupama Rao (@NMenonRao) January 25, 2016
Director Raja Menon told NDTV that Indian officials did look positive since they managed to airlift so many. "There are real situations which are not easy, for instance, how can you give passports without knowing the people and who they are?" Mr Menon conceded.
A nurse working at Kuwait's Al Jarah hospital at the time said the order of evacuation was arbitrary and reinforced rumours of payments.
While pregnant women, old people and those with medical issues were given priority, "even then, they were selling tickets and we had to pay in dollars or other currency per ticket," Juanita, who runs a spa in Mumbai, told NDTV.