Jingoism has always found a place in the country and especially in Bollywood. If one has to go by definition, it appears now in a more aggressive form with a constant need to cry out ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai!‘ If not obeyed, there’s a special word called ‘anti-national’ reserved for anybody who refuses to toe the line.
With social media recording every moment of one’s opinion, whether it includes a benign comment on the country’s safety to artistes from neighbouring country Pakistan working in India, the lines between patriotism and jingoism have blurred. This has managed to seep into the silver screen as well. Some films now look straight out of a government-sponsored project. Needless to say, films on India’s fight for Independence and undoing colonisation set by the British Raj continue to be a difficult subject to portray on screen.
Richard Attenborough did it with Gandhi (1982), so did Balraj Sahni with Garam Hawa (1973) and Tamas (1988). Quality films backed by terrific storytelling dealing with the subject of patriotism, without looking like propaganda, was also evident in films such as Rang De Basanti (2006) and Chittagong (2012).
This Independence Day, we take a closer look at films dealing with the quintessential Bollywood brand of patriotism that has an unnerving amount of chest-thumping, the feeling of having a lump in one’s throat and scream out the country’s name with pride.
Here’s a closer look at a few films:
Hindustan Ki Kasam (1999)
The film begins with Amitabh Bachchan’s character berating a man for disrespecting India’s flag. The scene soon shifts to a montage of India’s diversity and the Wagah border ceremony. There’s the war cry heard, the tone is melodramatic and loud. The story, too, focuses on the idea of Indian patriots trying to rescue the Prime Minister of Pakistan from terrorists. There’s a lot of ‘Jai Hind’ screamed throughout the movie, too, with Bachchan’s character reinforcing the need to love one’s country no matter what.
When one thinks of this movie, the words ‘nostalgia’, ‘pride’, ‘home’, and a whole thesaurus of nationalism comes to mind. A movie that’s 177 minutes long, with an ensemble cast of actors flitting in and out of the scenes, and hyperbolic action sequences and songs that manipulate you into crying (remember Sandese Aate Hai?) and thinking of your mother. Border was based on the Battle of Longewala during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 and included scenes that had characters jumping off airplanes and in front of explosive tanks. There was a lot happening and also depicted most scenes filled with soldiers dead and the trauma it caused to their family members.
Maa Tujhe Salaam (2002)
What is with Bollywood war films constantly focusing on the India-Pakistan feud? In this yet another Sunny Deol starrer, dialogues such as ‘Dhoodh maango gey to kheer denge, Kashmir maango gey to cheer denge’ (You ask for milk, we’ll give you kheer (sweet dish). You ask for Kashmir and we’ll rip you apart) are mindlessly uttered throughout the film. The movie didn’t do too well despite Sunny vanquishing the evil single-handedly with his machine gun and Indian flag in tow.
Moving away from Sunny Deol’s films comes Akshay Kumar’s Rustom, the story of a man who killed his wife’s lover and is pardoned solely because of him being a patriot. Because he fought for the country, ergo he must be a good man inside. The film even won Kumar his first National Award which is surprising because a lot may remember his performance in other films superseding this one. Silverscreen’s review of the film also agrees: “Rustom wouldn’t do anything against the interest of the nation” becomes the bottom-line of the movie which started off somewhere around “I killed my wife’s lover”.
Hind Ka Napak Ko Jawab: MSG Lion Heart 2
If you are a fan of MSG Lion Heart aka Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, there’s a lot to love in this caricature of an anti-Pakistan film that takes itself so seriously that it becomes troubling. Having played the greatest messenger of God in his two other films, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh goes a step further and even dubs himself the messiah of India who will save the country from the evil neighbouring country. The film is based on the 2016 Uri attack. This was also the time when Karan Johar’s ‘hostage video’ came out with him trying to explain an hyperbolic nation why a Pakistani actor is in his movie. This film, however, has questionably high score on IMDB and boasts of a box-office estimate of Rs 1 billion.