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 Patriotism: A Bollywood journey

Patriotism: A Bollywood journey

Trans World Features (TWF) | 02 Aug 2015, 07:35 pm
Bollywood films with patriotism as a theme has evolved since the days when Manoj Kumar made Shaheed on Bhagat Singh in 1965 because borders of the concept 'homeland' has changed perceptively too, feels Shoma A. Chatterji

Patriotism is a state of mind, a concept, an attitude that evolves from an inner realisation of love for the homeland. Which ‘homeland’, one may ask, as there is a larger question on the concept itself. Is it the homeland you are born in, migrated to, live now?

The question crops up even in reference to Bollywood films. Which films are patriotic? Shaheed Bhagat Singh was one of the first martyrs in India’s freedom struggle and Manoj Kumar’s  film on him Shaheed  made in 1965 was out and out ‘patriotic’ in that sense. And who can forget the 1962 Sino-Indian war film Haqeeqat starring Balraj Sahni, Dharmendra, and Priya Rajvansh the most haunting Bollywood song of the genre, 'Kar Chale, Hum Fida, Jaan-o-tan Saathiyon...' penned by Kaifi Azmi and sung by Mohammed Rafi.

 
But then there are many films on personalities, Indian icons, or made in the background of Partition etc. which also perhaps deserve to be included in this genre.  
 
Multi-starrer Border made in 1997 on the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971. by J. P. Dutta is clearly a patriotic film followed by his film on the Kargil War -LOC Kargil- made in 2003.
 
Patriotism is not only about war or about laying down one’s life for the country. So, today, in Independent India, a patriotic film or a film that reflects love for the homeland is defined by the ideology the film represents, or, the life story of the protagonist that in some way relates to the spirit of patriotism.

The next true representation of history that underscores patriotism before Independence is Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi which is a pity because it had to be a  director from abroad  who took the initiative to make a film on the father of the nation. One may add, however, that Attenborough was backed by the National Film Development Corporation for  funding.

 There are films that are packaged as ‘patriotic’ but they are filled more with pretensions than patriotic feelings and are made to hit the box office and invite the masses. Examples are not far to seek. Films like Border (1997) and Sarfarosh and Tango Charlie (2005) are sugar-coated with love, romance, family melodrama woven in with violence, and highly romanticised deaths. They were big hits with the masses, though.

 Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s 1942: A Love Story was a period love story set against the backdrop of the freedom struggle. And then suddenly, a flood of films on the freedom struggle began getting made by a generation of post-Independence film makers. Among them, are a few whose memories of freedom at midnight are a part of their boyhood days.

 It would perhaps be politically appropriate to assume that, barring exceptions like Shyam Benegal's The Making of the Mahatma, or M.S.Sathyu's Garm Hawa, most of our commercial filmmakers use the patriotic element as a political strategy to get the film exempted from income tax and thus, boost the sales of tickets at the theatre counters.

 Benegal’s Netaji – The Last Hero is also a patriotic film but it was neither a critical success nor a commercial one. His Manthan, on the other hand, might be labelled patriotic because it sheds light on the cooperative movement in India through the country’s first successful milk cooperatives that rescued the milkmen from being exploited by middlemen.

 Must one therefore conclude that films like Swades (2004) are patriotic films that reflect different emotions linked to one’s love for one’s homeland? Swades talks about a successful Indian scientist returning to an Indian village to take his nanny to America with him. But he becomes deeply concerned about the village running without electricity and pioneers, with the help of the villagers, to usher in electricity in the village. This is a positive statement of development in contemporary India and is a truly patriotic film.

 Can Gadar be slotted under the category of patriotism reflected through cinema? Yes and No. Yes, because it underscore an intense, obsessive passion for the motherland. No, because at the same time, it is out to offer full-blown, no-holds-barred entertainment. The ‘Pakistan’ in the Raj Kumar Santoshi film is a typically Bollywood-created Pakistan that is a figment of the scriptwriter’s Pakistan. The film takes us back to one of those Sylvester Stallone Hollywood blockbusters that brazenly make a grand show of one man routing out the entire enemy, be it in Vietnam or India or anywhere else.

 Perhaps, Shyam Benegal's Mammo could be defined as a moving human document on the trauma of Partition on the lives of two sisters driven apart because of the Partition and the sister who is forced to go away again, returns to India because she considers it her homeland never mind if she is reduced to begging outside a dargah to survive.

 Representations of authentic history as presented through films like Chittagong can also be read as patriotic.

 The films depicting the struggles and the triumphs of national heroes in sports and other fields are also patriotic films because these men and women are representatives of their homeland apart from excelling in a field of sport. Chak De India (2007) could be slotted under the list of patriotic films because first, it draws attention to the national game of hockey, marginalised in real life, second, it focuses on the determination of a bunch of girls drawn from across the different corners of India who win an international trophy and also, it resurrects a disgraced hockey player by making him the coach for these girls where he trains and disciplines them to bring pride to his homeland. Mary Kom and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag are other examples.
 
 Aamir Khan-acted  hit film Laagan  also falls into this category putting across patriotic sentiments through a cricket-match between the coloniser and colonised in pre-Independence India.

 Even I Am Kalam, a children’s film inspired by late ex-President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam is patriotic film in a sense putting across the opportunities and possibilities in democratic India.

 

Patriotism: A Bollywood journey

Trans World Features (TWF)
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