Patriotism And Bollywood

Raazi ,a Bollywood movie, released a few weeks ago. Everybody who has seen the movie is waxing eloquent about it. The movie is about a young Indian girl Sehmat, who marries a Pakistani army major only to spy for the Intelligence Bureau of India. The movie has been lauded for its exceptional storytelling and the acting prowess of Alia Bhatt who plays the young Sehmat. Gadar-Ek Prem Katha released in the year 2001. It showed the gore and bloodbath of Partition, young love and uprooting of hand pumps by the actor Sunny Deol. It won loads of awards and is still one of the biggest blockbusters in the cinematic history of India. Even though both the movies are about patriotism the contrast between the two couldn’t be starker. The small, delicate Alia Bhatt versus the big brawny Sunny Deol;  Alia with trembling hands holding the pistol with delicate hands versus Sunny Deol demolishing half a village with just a hand pump.

I contrasted Raazi with Gadar to point out the different facets of patriotism portrayed in Indian Cinema. Gadar was jingoistic, it demonstrated the superiority of India over Pakistan. Raazi, on the other hand, looks into the human cost of war without any name calling, it is almost pacifist in its approach. These days Indian nationalism involves chest thumping, sabre rattling and harking back to the days of yore.  Anyone who criticizes the ruling government or points out flaws in our nation is quite liable to be branded an anti-national. This current environment seems to be more suited to a movie along the lines of Gadar. Raazi, however, comes as a breath of fresh air in this environment of hatred for our neighbour. The fact that Raazi has done a business of more than one hundred crores proves the director Meghana Gulzar correct when she said that to show ourselves good we don’t need to show the other person bad. It proves you do not need to be vitriolic to be patriotic and the audience for the moment seems to agree.

Raazi, Haqeeqat, Border all these movies seemed to follow the mantra of the poem “Charge Of the Light Brigade”. In all these movies the protagonist follows the orders given, howsoever unsurmountable the target may be or even against their basic humanity.The dialogue from Razzi, “Watan ke aagey kuch nahi, khud bhi nahin”, summarizes their approch to patritotism. Some might argue that these are war movies, but then isn’t war the best setting for patriotism? War brings death, destruction and the need to succeed as not you or your life but your entire country is at stake. These movies just take the setting of the war to drive home the point of patriotism.

On the other end of the spectrum is the movie Rang De Basanti. Rang De Basanti, or RDB as it came to be called in popular parlance, was not your regular movie on patriotism. It dealt with a rebellious group of friends who are cynical about the state of the Nation. Acting in a documentary about Bhagat Singh and his friends,  they realise that they could not remain detached when injustice was happening. The movie was a wakeup call for the youth of India. The youth realized that with the public being cynical and with a “Chalta Hai” attitude, the politicians have been taking the country for a ride. It made the youth realise that they could change things, if not on the big stage then definitely at the grassroots level. The cynicism is not gone, the ground reality has not changed much, but the people are more aware. They exercise their electoral franchise more ( even though the pickings are slim), they volunteer more, they raise their voices more. The dialogue of the movie, “Koi bhi desh perfect nahi hota, usko perfect banana padta hai” became the mantra to work towards a better nation.

There are a plethora of movies on patriotism in India from Manoj Kumar’s Shaheed to LOC Kargil to Raazi. If you include movies fighting social evils also as patriotic movies then one of the oldest would be Achyut Kanya, starring Ashok Kumar in the fight against untouchability till the more recent ones like Toilet-Ek Prem Katha.

In a movie-mad country like India, the impact of movies can be seen on people. You have people going to early morning shows to whistle and clap when Sunny Deol decimates the enemy; candle-light marches to raise their voices against injustice ( though recently this again seems to have been hijacked by the politicians); people building toilets after watching movies of their favourite actors. It is true that we cannot praise Bollywood for each positive result nor for each social evil. However, the ground reality remains that Bollywood is a medium which reaches out to the maximum number of people, and patriotism as a product sells. This is why in a family movie like Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gum, there is a particular (cringe-worthy) scene of Kajol running with Lata Mangeshkar’s iconic song playing in the background. The scene was completely unrelated to the theme of the movie, but then again, patriotism sells.

Movies cannot instil patriotism but they can fan public pride like in the case of Gadar, which came soon after Kargil War, or they may awaken the public like in Rang De Basanti. That may be the reason why on Independence Day or Republic Day the cable TV channels show one patriotic movie after the other, just to remind people of their dues to their country, plus to increase their TRPs.

 

 

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