Tuesday, May 28, 2013

100 Years, 100 Movies - Patriotic Cinema

The events and heroes of the Indian Independence struggle and the Partition of India and Pakistan form the basic themes for most Indian patriotic cinema. Other subjects include contemporary social realities such as terrorism and corruption. And then, of course, there's cricket!

PURAB AUR PASCHIM (1970) – Hindi – As an extension of the theme of Indian Independence, this movie is about the idealistic son of an Indian freedom fighter who visits London and is pained by the erosion of national pride and Indian values among Non Resident Indians.

TAMAS (1987) – Hindi - A controversial television series, now available on DVD, Tamas is a fictionalised narrative set during the Partition of India and Pakistan told from the perspective of the common man who is depicted as a victim of mindless brutality in the name of religion.

ROJA (1992) - Tamil – When her husband is abducted by militants in Kashmir, a young bride from South India shows grit and determination in getting him freed. This mirrors a story from the Mahabharata, of Savitri who negotiates with the God of Death for her husband's life.

INDIAN/HINDUSTANI (1996) - Tamil/Hindi – After a personal tragedy, an elderly former freedom fighter decides to weed out corruption in modern society by becoming a vigilante hunting down corrupt goverment employees, not sparing even his son.

KAALAPANI/SIRAICHALAI/SAZA-E-KALA PANI (1996) – Malayalam/Tamil/Hindi – Govardhan is implicated in a case involving a train bombing and is shipped off to serve his sentence at the dreaded Cellular Jail in the Andaman Islands where along with other political prisoners, he experiences atrocities meted out by the sadistic jailor.

HEY RAM (2000) - Tamil/Hindi – When his wife is raped and murdered by a mob of Muslims in Kolkata, a traumatised Saket Ram kills them all. He returns to his South Indian roots and remarries, but is soon drawn into a plot by a Hindu militant outfit to assassinate Mahatma Gandhi for what they perceive as his lenience towards Muslims and Pakistan.

LAGAAN (2001) - Hindi – In pre-Independent India, a motley group of villagers, under the leadership of a young peasant, takes on the might of the British empire in a settlement against land taxes by way of a game of the latter's choice – cricket!

LAKSHYA (2004) - Hindi – Karan is a listless young man who, on a whim, joins and then subsequently quits the Indian Military Academy. When his girlfriend breaks up with him, he returns determined to complete the course at the IMA. Karan finally finds his purpose in leading his men against Pakistani troops in a fictionalised incident during the Kargil War.

MANGAL PANDEY – THE RISING (2005) - Hindi – Based on historic events, that of Mangal Pandey leading the Sepoy Mutiny against the English East India Company in 1857, this movie has excellent period detailing and adds an interesting dimension using a fictional Englishman called Gordon as narrator and Pandey's friend.

RANG DE BASANTI (2006) - Hindi – A group of disaffected youngsters with no sense of national pride are cast in a documentary on the Indian Freedom Struggle. Enraged by the political apathy surrounding a death, their actions become a poignant mirrorring of the idealism depicted in the documentary.     

An edited version of the article was published in Culturama's May 2013 Issue.

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