The camera never forgets. And neither does Bollywood cinema which imprinted on celluloid India’s collective cry for independence from British rule on August 15, 1947.
Moviemakers both at home and from abroad found a trove of material to draw from but their central theme remained the same tumultuous events in an acknowledgement of the struggle of men and women who rid India of foreign rule.
Reminiscing over some of the unforgettable Bollywood films that have stoked the fire of patriotism in three generations of Indians.
Directed by S. Ram Sharma, ‘Shaheed’ released in 1965 starred Manoj Kumar, Kamini Kaushal and Pran. Based on the life of revolutionary Bhagat Singh, ‘Shaheed’ was the first of Manoj Kumar’s quartet of patriotic Bollywood films, followed by Upkar (1967), Purab Aur Paschim (1970) and Kranti (1981).
Manoj Kumar himself directed ‘Kranti’ with actors Dilip Kumar, Shashi Kapoor, Hema Malini, Shatrughan Sinha, Parveen Babi, Sarika, Prem Chopra and Madan Puri forming the galaxy of arguably the best-known patriotic film to date. The movie set in India’s pre-freedom era marked the comeback of Dilip Kumar after a five-year hiatus.
The 1982 co-production ‘Gandhi’ by British director Richard Attenborough was perhaps the most iconic Bollywood film on Mahatma Gandhi. Hollywood star Ben Kingsley played the key role and the film spanning a spectacular ocular landscape commented on the trials and triumphs of India’s father of nation from his nascent days in South Africa to his 1948 assassination.
Legendary filmmaker Shyam Benegal’s directorial ‘Junoon’ hit the theatres in 1978. Based on British-origin Indian author Ruskin Bond’s book titled ‘A Flight of Pigeons’, it spins the saga of Indian uprising of 1857 which the British call the Sepoy Mutiny. Actor Shashi Kapoor played a reckless feudal chieftain with a Muslim Pathan heritage, whose world revolves around breeding homing pigeons. His younger brother-in-law, played by veteran Naseeruddin Shah is politically aroused and he soon plots to take the fight to the British. The film also features Shashi’s real-life wife Jennifer. It also stars Nafisa Ali, Tom Alter, Shabana Azmi, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, and Deepti Naval.
Bollywood’s first production that qualified as a war movie was released in 1964 as homage to Indian soldiers who fell during the brief but brutal border war with China two years earlier. ‘Ab Tumhaare Hawaale Vatan Saathiyo’ is still a chartbuster and a reminder of the sacrifices of our security forces. ‘Haqeeqat’ was directed by Chetan Anand and features Dharmendra, Balraj Sahni, Priya Rajvansh and Vijay Anand.
‘1942: A Love Story”
The Jackie Shroff and Manisha Koirala action starrer ‘1942: A Love Story’ released in 1994. The film, which is directed by Vidhu Vinod Chopra, revolves around the son of a politician, loyal to the British, who romances the daughter of a freedom fighter. They separate during the revolution when her father plots to assassinate a British general.
Aamir Khan-starrer ‘Lagaan’, or agricultural tax in English, was released in 2001 and directed by Ashutosh Gowariker. The sports drama from the British Raj era spins a tale of a farmer named Bhuvan who wagered a bet with the English to beat them in cricket and earn a tax holiday of three years. The Bollywood film earned a nomination at the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film.
‘Mangal Pandey: The Rising’
Based on an Indian soldier named Mangal Panday, which was helmed by Ketan Mehta, it was essayed by Bollywood actor-producer Aamir Khan. ‘Mangal Pandey: The Rising’ is a true story based on the life of the title character. The soldiers revolted against his then British masters with others in 1857.
‘Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey’
Starring Deepika Padukone and Abhishek Bachchan ‘Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey’ released in 2010 and was directed by Ashutosh Gowariker of ‘Lagaan’ Fame. It tells a story of the Chittagong Uprising against the British rule in 1930, showcasing an attack on the British by a bunch of schoolgoing kids who plotted the assault without their parents’ knowledge.
(Durga Chakravarty can be contacted at email@example.com)