After his two-part blockbuster Baahubali, filmmaker SS Rajamouli awaits the release of his pan-Indian historical RRR (Roudhram Ranam Rudhiram) on Friday. The film is a fictional account of freedom fighters Alluri Sitaramaraju and Komaram Bheem, played by actors Ram Charan and Junior NTR, respectively.
The focus on revolutionaries is not new to Indian cinema and there have been many films made on India’s struggle for independence. For example, several blockbusters, such as Lagaan (2001) and Indian (1996), are set against the backdrop of colonial rule. It is also notable that Tamil filmmaker Pa Ranjith is set to make his Hindi debut with a biopic based on Birsa Munda, a tribal leader from Jharkhand who revolted against British oppressors in the 19th century.
On that note, Silverscreen India brings you this list of seven films about Indian revolutionaries that you can watch ahead of the release of RRR.
Co-produced by India and the UK, Gandhi is a 1982 period film based on the life of Mahatma Gandhi, a key figure of the Indian Independence struggle, who headed the non-violent movement against colonial rule. Ironically, the film was directed by British filmmaker Richard Attenborough, with English actor Ben Kingsley portraying Gandhi. The film explores events that happened in Gandhi’s life, from the time he faced racial discrimination in South Africa to his final days before his assassination in India. It fetched eight awards at the 55th Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor. The film is currently available on Amazon Prime Video.
Loosely based on the life of Veerapandiya Kattabomman, the 18th century Tamil Nadu chieftain of Panchalankuruchi, veteran actor Sivaji Ganesan takes on the titular role in this 1959 Tamil biographical drama film. Kattabomman rebelled against the East India Company, until he was captured by the British and hanged to death. The film was a massive commercial success, running in theatres for 25 weeks, thus becoming a silver jubilee hit. A monologue by Sivaji directed at a character named Jackson Durai, questioning the reason for paying tax, is still popular among Tamil people and has great recall value. The film is available on YouTube.
Headlined by Kangana Ranaut, this 2019 Hindi film has the actor portraying the role of queen Rani Lakshmi Bai, the wife of Maharaja Gangadhar Rao of the Maratha princely state of Jhansi. She was one of the leading female figures in the Indian freedom struggle and was part of the Indian Rebellion of 1857. Till date, Lakshmi Bai’s name is synonymous with courage. The film traces the events of the royal’s life, from the time of her birth, participation in the rebellion, and her eventual death at the hands of the British. It earned the actor a National Film Award for Best Actress. The film is available on Amazon Prime Video.
This Tamil film traces the life of poet Subramaniya Bharathi. A pioneer of Tamil poetry, he not only stood up against the colonial rule but also against the discrimination that Indians face at the hands of their own countrymen, including the caste system and the oppression of women. In this biopic, released in 2000, actor Sayaji Shinde plays the titular role, with Devayani portraying his wife. It won the National Film Award for Best Feature Film in Tamil that year. The film is available on YouTube.
Mangal Pandey: The Rising
This Aamir Khan-starrer is a Hindi biopic centred around Mangal Pandey, an Indian soldier who played a key role in igniting the Indian rebellion of 1857. As an infantryman in the 34th Bengal Native Infantry, Khan plays a sepoy (soldier), who is ultimately executed by the British. The film is directed by Ketan Mehta and was released on the Independence Day weekend in 2005. It also stars actors Rani Mukerji, Ameesha Patel and Kirron Kher, among others.
This Hindi film narrates the tale of Sardar Udham Singh, a gallant and patriotic man, who fought courageously against British imperialists in India. The story showcases the undying bravery, fortitude, and fearlessness of an unsung hero from the deeply-buried annals of our history. The film focuses on the mission of Sardar Udham Singh to avenge the lives of his brethren, who were ruthlessly murdered in the Jallianwala Bagh Massacre of 1919. Released on Amazon Prime Video in 2021, this film features Vicky Kaushal as the titular character. It was also one among 14 films to be shortlisted for India’s entry into the 2022 Oscars.
In this Telugu film released in 2011, Nagarjuna Akkineni’s character is loosely based on poet Suddala Hanmanthu. The poet, who lived through the 1900s, encouraged Telugu people to revolt against the oppressive rule of feudal lords and aristocrats. Hanmanthu played a key role in the Telangana Rebellion of 1946–51, where the peasants stood up against the princely state of Hyderabad. He also wrote poetry about freedom from bonded labor, communism, and democracy. Rajanna opened to positive reviews and won six Nandi Awards. The film is available on Disney+ Hotstar and on YouTube.