Colours of patriotism

M.L. Dhawan recounts how the freedom struggle has been depicted on the silver screen down the years

Every year on August 15 Indians wake up to the tunes of Apni azadi ko hum hargiz mitta sakte nahin, Mera rang de basanti chola, Kar chale hum fida jan-o-tan sathiyo ab tumhare hawaley wattan sathiyo. The freedom struggle has inspired a large number of films. The recently released films like LoC- the Kargil, Deewar, and Lakshya while hailing our brave soldiers, spell out the futility of the war with number of young soldiers dying on both sides. Soul-stirring Dhoop, based on a true story depicts the trauma and survival of a couple (Om Puri and Revathi) who lose their son, Sanjay Suri, during the Kargil war.

Bhuvan and his friends in Lagaan stake everything to fight the British
Bhuvan and his friends in Lagaan stake everything to fight the British 

LoC ó The Kargil  fuels nationalist fervour
LoC ó The Kargil fuels nationalist fervour

Memories of a martyr: The Legend of Bhagat Singh
Memories of a martyr: The Legend of Bhagat Singh 

A still from Lakshya: love for the country is the aim
A still from Lakshya: love for the country is the aim

Other movies marked by patriotic fervour are J.P. Duttaís Border in which a battalion of 50 Indian soldiers drives back Pakistanís 2000-strong contingent at Longewala. R.V. Pandit and Gulzar came out with thought-provoking Maachis portraying terrorism in Punjab. The movie was a telling comment on the politics of religion and a scathing attack on disgruntled leaders who lure youth into the vortex of terrorism and the brutal bullet-for-bullet approach of the police.

Mani Ratnamís Bombay was inspired by the riots between Hindus and Muslims, which steeped India, and Bombay in particular, in blood after the Babri Masjid at Ayodhya was demolished. The film made a fervent appeal for tolerance. Vidhu Vinod Chopraís 1942 A Love Story was a romance set against the backdrop of Indiaís struggle for independence. The affair between Anil Kapoor and Manisha Koirala exposes a plot to assassinate British General Douglas whose role was modelled on that of General Dyer of the Jallianwala Bagh tragedy.

Patriotic zeal is evident in Mani Ratnamís Roja in which the hero comes crashing out of a window to extinguish, with his body, the Indian tricolour which was set ablaze by Kashmiri militants. The martyrdom of Bhagat Singh, Rajguru and Sukhdev has been captured in films like The Legend of Bhagat Singh and 23 March, 1931.

In Aamir Khanís Lagaan, Bhuvan stakes everything he and his village hadótheir crops, prestige and glory to fight and beat the British at their own game. Without using violence and weapons, he wins the battle on a cricket ground. The film industry was particularly charged with patriotism following Independence. The filmmakers thought of new vistas and brought in a vision that changed the very look of Hindi cinema.

The freedom struggle that stretched over a couple of hundreds years has been captured on camera by our filmmakers, some of whom had even participated in the struggle.

Patriotic films were popular in the 1940s and 60s. Many films were made on the theme, including the Bombay Talkiesís Kismet (1943), whose puportedly anti-German and Japanese songs such as Door hato ay duniya walo Hindustan hamara hai written by Kavi Pradeep were charged with anti-British connotations.

Filmistan Productionís Shaheed (1948) was a nationalistic melodrama set against the backdrop of the Quit India Movement. Dilip Kumar, son of a colonial police officer, joins a revolutionary group and is involved in subversive activities against the British empire. The theatres showing the film resounded with the slogan of Inqlab Zindabaad when Dilip Kumar was hanged.

Samadhi (1950) by Filmistan Production was a patriotic drama addressing Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose and the INA. Phani Majumdar made Andolan (1951), which paid homage to the Indian national movement. Kishore Kumar played a militant in the film. Filmmaker Heman Gupta made his Hindi debut with Anandmath (1952) - about the 18th century revolt against the British led by a sanyasi (ascetic).

The film portrayed poignantly the pain and passion of a revolt that is crushed. Sohrab Modiís Jhansi Ki Rani was a landmark film marked with patriotic fervour.

The trauma of Chinese aggression was exemplified by Kavi Pradeep in a lump-raising emotional song Ay mere wattan ke logo zara aankh mein bhar lo paani.. sung by Lata Mangeshkar. In 1964, Chetan Anandís Haqeeqat portrayed with honesty the mistakes made by our leaders and the humiliating defeat suffered by India in Indo-China war of 1962. The film generated a sense of unity among the masses when the nationís morale had hit rock bottom.