By MovieTalkies.com, 14 August 2009
Life and art have always influenced each other right from the days of the caveman. India's freedom struggle, the glory of it's past heritage, it's fight against imperial rule have all formed the theme and story of many a Hindi film which has gone ahead to inspire generations. Pre independence cinema roused the people of the country in a much subtler manner, while the post independence era saw films which were a lot more direct and vocal.
Patriotism had many shades in Hindi cinema with films like Sohrab Modi's 'Sikander' (1941) coming at a time when World War II had just started. Back in India, Mahatma Gandhi had just launched his civil disobedience movement and the political atmosphere was wrought with tension. The film flamed the patriotic sentiments of the people and it was banned from being screened at the cantonment areas by the establishment. National conciousness was at its highest during the early forties and it led to the formation of the Indian People's Theatre Association or IPTA as we know it today. The luminaries who joined its ranks during its formation in 1943 included names like Khwaja Ahmed Abbas, Rajinder Singh Bedi, Sahir Ludhianvi, Kaifi Azmi, Balraj Sahni, Mrinal Sen and Ritwik Ghatak. Post independence, the members included directors like Hemen Gupta, who was a revolutionary himself and who had been imprisoned for many years, and went on to make a film like 'Bhuli Nai' (1948) where the slogan of Vande Mataram is raised by the protagonist just before he is hung to death. Probably his most famous film was 'Anand Math' (1952) which he made for Filmistan. Based on a novel by Bankim Chandra of the same name, the film is about the first uprising against the British. The song, Vande Mataram, also written by Bankim Chandra, appears for the first time in this film in its full form. The movie was significant also as it was one of the first appearances of the late actress Geeta Bali. There was another remarkable filmmaker who was famous for his patriotic films like 'Shaheed' and 'Samadhi'. He was Ramesh Saigal, whose 'Shaheed' (1948) and 'Samadhi' in 1950 used the Quit India Movement and the Indian National Army as the background for their stories. The first 'Shaheed' starred Dilip Kumar in the role of Shaheed Bhagat Singh, the young revolutionary from Punjab. The film was later remade by Manoj Kumar, with himself in the title role. Ironically, Kamini Kaushal who played Dilip saab's love interest in Saigal's movie, played the role of Bhagat Singh's mother in the second version.
In the post independence era, with cinema moving into the colour zone, themes changed. More than political themes, it was the social issues that Young Indian was facing, which became fodder for many movies made by the likes of Shantaram, Abbas, Chetan Anand and even Raj Kapoor. It was the Indo China war which once again gave rise to another spurt of patriotic fervour. India lost the war and there was general demoralization. Chetan Anand's 'Haqeeqat' came in at just such a point and brought home the defeat of the Indian soldiers. The film and its songs still carry a poignancy which even time cannot erase. The flag of patriotism was picked by another filmmaker and actor, Manoj Kumar, who is even known as Bharat Kumar. Each of his early films, like 'Shaheed', 'Upkaar', or 'Purab Aur Paschim' glorified India and the Indian way of doing things.
The contribution of songs to this cause cannot be underrated. Songs like 'Mere Desh Ki Dharti', 'Mera Rang De Basanti Chola', 'Ab Tumharae Hawale Watan Saathiyon', 'Apni Aazadi Ko Hum Hargis Mita Sakte Nahin', or 'Aao Bacchon Tumhen Dikhayen Jhaanki Hindustan Ki' added to the flavor of patriotism. But the most popular song of this genre has perhaps always been, Lata Mangeshkar's 'Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon', a song which did not belong to any film, but which was a call to the nation to rise from its despondency after the China war.
An independence which was won by the blood, tears and sacrifice of millions was again revisited in the times of terrorism and tensions with Pakistan. J.P. Dutta's 'Border' was one such film which was timed perfectly with the Kargil war. There was a spurt of films, both B grade and C grade which were made on the same theme but could not quite catch the pulse of the public as Dutta's film did.
Defining patriotism in contemporary times is a much more complex issue and none managed to capture the aspirations and hopes of the youth and their disconnect with their country, as perfectly as Rakeysh Om Prakash Mehra did with his film 'Rang De Basanti'. Ashutosh Gowariker too made a brilliant attempt in his film 'Swades'. However, Gowariker collaborated more successfully with Aamir Khan in his earlier film 'Lagaan', while Shimit Amin raised the Indian tricolour with his sports flick 'Chak De! India'. In between, there were films like Anil Sharma's 'Gaddar' and Shyam Benegal's film on Subhash Chandra Bose. There was a sudden revival of interest in Bhagat Singh and there were some four odd films made on the revolutionary hero. But the one which really lingers in memory is Rajkumar Santoshi's 'The Legend of Bhagat Singh'. Ketan Mehta too jumped into the fray with his 'Mangal Pandey', based on the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857. But the final word was probably had by a Britisher, Sir Richard Attenborough. His biopic on Mahatma Gandhi broke all barriers of nationality and the film best depicted the fight of Indian Independence through the life of that extraordinary human being called, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.
Tomorrow, the Prime Minister of India will raise the Indian flag at the Red Fort in New Delhi and the nation will perhaps relive the bitter and long struggle of its birth. Fresh challenges await the country and love for the nation has acquired an altogether different hue these days. But when the time comes, one hopes that the people of this country will rise in unison and protect its boundaries. Jai Hind!