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Indian Critics Are Taking Issue With the Lack of Indian Soldiers in 'Dunkirk'

While Dunkirk continues its run of commercial and critical success around the world, some critics in India are taking issue with a historical inconsistency in the film: Dunkirk does not feature any Indian soldiers, though four Royal Indian Army Service Corps companies served on and around Dunkirk beach in May of 1940, the film's setting.

Since the film's premiere in India on July 21st, the Times of India and the Hindustan Times (and, stateside, Slate) have noted the absence of Indian soldiers from the film. During World War II, three "Force K6" companies from the Royal Indian Army Service Corps—some 1,800 soldiers—made it to the French coast to aid the British, and one was dispatched to an inland area not far from Dunkirk. The three Indian companies at Dunkirk were successfully rescued during the mission Dunkirk depicts, Operation Dynamo; the inland company was captured as prisoners of war by the Germans, and most are believed to have died in captivity.

"Yet this significant contribution is missing from Christopher Nolan's recent Hollywood film, Dunkirk," Manimugdha S. Sharma notes in the Times of India.

While the Indian troops at Dunkirk didn't constitute a significant number of soldiers, historical accounts suggest they were well-organized and calm in the face of battle, Slate author John Broich notes. "Their appearance in the film would have provided a good reminder of how utterly central the role of the Indian Army was in the war," Broich writes. "Their service meant the difference between victory and defeat."

But at least one critic isn't too miffed by the absence of Indian faces. In the Hindustan Times, Rohan Nahaar argues that critics of the absence of Indian characters may be coming down a bit hard on the film's director, Christopher Nolan. Characters are not described beyond basic identification information, like first name and rank: "These characters are meant to represent everyone who was involved in the operation," Nahaar writes. "And if Indians were involved, the film, however abstract it is in its ways, pays homage to them too."