International charity Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is taking legal action against the producers of a new Bollywood film, saying its misrepresentation of the medical group could put its aid workers, deployed in conflict zones, at risk.
Action-thriller Phantom was released on Friday and features British-Indian actress Katrina Kaif as an MSF aid worker who helps a disgraced Indian soldier, played by actor Saif Ali Khan, to assassinate Pakistani militants accused of being behind the 2008 Mumbai bombings.
In promotional interviews for the Hindi film this week, Kaif was quoted as saying, "NGO workers have ties with local fanatical groups" in war-torn regions, without mentioning that many aid groups maintain strict neutrality in order to do their work safely.
In the film's trailer, her character is seen firing a pistol and rifle in two different scenes.
MSF said it had not been consulted over the content of the film and was not associated with it in any way. The humanitarian agency had "a strict no guns policy" in all its clinics and did not employ armed guards, it added.
"None of our staff would ever carry a gun. Any portrayal that suggests otherwise is dangerous, misleading and wrong," MSF said in a statement late on Thursday.
"We have contacted the film’s production team and are taking legal action in order to correct this dangerous misrepresentation of our organisation and its work."
The film's director Kabir Khan and producers Sajid Nadiadwala and Siddharth Roy Kapur could not immediately be reached for comment.
Phantom was banned by a Pakistani court last week in response to a petition filed by Hafiz Saeed, the man India accuses of masterminding the killing of 166 people over three days in November 2008.
Saeed, the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba which the United Nations has listed as a terrorist organisation, said the film whose main villain is a man called 'Hariz Saeed' maligns Pakistan and vilifies him.
MSF — which has thousands of health workers such as doctors, nurses, surgeons, anaesthetists and psychiatrists in more than 70 countries — said it was essential that the group was not misrepresented given the dangerous nature of their work.
"The only way we can safely work in places such as Syria, Afghanistan and Yemen, where there is active fighting, is by explaining to every group on the ground that we are independent, neutral and impartial and interested only in providing medical care to people who need it," MSF said.
"Any portrayal that suggests MSF does anything other than provide medical care could endanger our patients, staff, our ability to work in places where people might not otherwise have access to healthcare and undermine our reputation."