Nearly everyone’s familiar with this famous line from the movie Deewar in which Shashi Kapoor’s character utters “Mere paas Maa hai…” to his estranged brother played by Amitabh Bachchan. For a proud Indian, this land, this country is synonym with the word Maa or Mother as it stands in English.
January 26 is celebrated as the Republic Day in India and along with August 15 which is celebrated as India’s Independence Day, a host of television channels vie with each other to attract a sizeable chunk of the audience’s attention. And what better way to do on these two days other then playing with human emotions and telecasting patriotic films and films evoking nationalistic pride in the common man.
Patriotic films and films evoking nationalistic pride have been regularly being made since the dawn of cinemalisation in India. If we had a Rang De Basanti and Lagaan recently, we also had a Kranti in the 80s and Mother India and Saat Hindustani before that and then there were a host of films earlier in the pre-independence era of black and white films. Bollywood has given us two gifted film makers in Manoj Kumar and J. P. Dutta who strived to make patriotic films. It was with Shaheed on the life of Bhagat Singh played by Manoj Kumar that gave an unprecedented patriotic flavor to the audience. He was soon to follow with a whole list of other films such as Upkar in 1967 which gave us Indians a song that will forever blare from the loudspeakers on Independence and Republic Day – ‘Mere Desh Ki Dharti…’
Post independence, it was another Shaheed in1948 staring our very own Dilip Kumar which was about the Indian independence movement that had continued the trend of patriotic films post independence. Another memorable film from the early 50s was Anand Math based on a book by the same name and which gave us the immortal ‘Vande Mataram’ song.
It was in 1964 that Chetan Anand gave us Haqeeqat, one of his masterpieces that was based on the 1962 Indo-China war which India lost. It spoke of the grim reality that the war had caused between the two nations – China backstabbing brother India. A case of Hindi-Chinni bhai-bhai relationship going sour.
Over the years, we had tons of movies based around the India-Pak wars that instilled a sense of pride in us Indians. J. P. Dutta gave us Border in 1997 which had the sensational song, ‘Sandese aate hai. This movie was all about Indo-Pak war in 1971 where Pakistan had treacherously tried to get into India with its army. This movie turned out to be Sunny Deol’s film who played the role of Major Kuldeep Singh. The movie went on to be a big hit and reaffirmed that patriotism in Indians was still alive when the audience thronged the movie halls.
Sunny Deol was back to winning his audience and keeping alive a sense of patriotism by his Sardar act in the epic Gadar – Ek Prem Katha that was centered around the 1947 India-Pakistan partition. A colossal hit and immensely loved by the audience.
And then there is LOC Kargil, another film from J. P. Dutta war camp in 2003 based on the actual Kargil war that took place a couple of years earlier. This film too like other war films had a plethora of top actors and was wildly appreciated by the audience.
But not all films were about being patriotic. There were a lot of films over the years that aroused nationalistic feelings in us Indians such as Chak De India and Swadesh featuring the king Khan Shahrukh and Rang De Basanti featuring the genius Amir Khan. These films instilled a strong nationalistic pride in the Indians and gave them a reason to be proud of their country India.
Surprisingly, it took an Englishman to make a major film on the life of Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation with his English film Gandhi in 1982 that again surprisingly had another Englishman Ben Kingsley play the lead role in the film. The film went on to win several awards including eight Academy awards.
Bollywood was not to be left behind in its rush to make films on the lives of freedom fighters. Sardar, a film directed by Ketan Mehta and featuring Paresh Rawal playing the title role was a critic’s delight. And then there was Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose by Shyam Benegal and Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar directed by Jabbar Patel that were based on the lives of the great men in their struggle for freedom.
If Gandhi spoke about India’s freedom struggle and Gandhiji’s role in India gaining independence from the British rule, Gandhi, My Father, an Hindi feature film produced in 2007 by Anil Kapoor, spoke about the strained relationship that Gandhi (enacted by Darshan Jariwala) shared with one of his sons Harilal Gandhi (played by Akshaye Khanna). For a change, the film dwelled on the human side of Gandhi and the impact of his fight for India’s independence on his personal life.
Lately, Hum Dono, a film from the 50s in which Dev Anand plays a double role has been in the news for its colored version. It’s soon bound to make it to the small screen on either of the two national days.
The golden eras of the 50s to the 90s had tons of patriotic and nationalistic films. Even superstar Amitabh Bachchan acted in quite a few of them such as Mahaan and Pukar in 1983. Desh Premee in 1982, Hindustan Ki Kasam in 1999, Major Saab in 1998, Main Azaad Hoon in 1989, Mard in 1985, Inquilab in 1984 and Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Sathiyon and Deewar – Let’s Bring Our Heroes Home in 2004. If Rang De Basanti wasn’t enough, Amir Khan had given us another sense of being a proud Indian with Sarfarosh a few years earlier.
The list would be incomplete without the mention of Nana Patekar and his Krantiveer directed by Mehul Kumar that had the audience whistling at his lines. And then there is 1942 – A Love Story starring Anil Kapoor and Manisha Koirala. And a host of other films that the audience has loved over the years.
Coming back to January 26, a host of patriotic and nationalistic films that will be aired on the various channels will be a good stimulant to enjoy the fervor of the Republic Day. With multitude of channels and equal number of patriotic and nationalistic films, who wins the ‘Mere paas (dharti) Maa hai’ award, the TRP at the end of the day will declare. Till then, Happy Republic Day!