India’s Independence Day is a time for celebrating liberation alongside nationalism.
It has been 71 years since India was free of the British Raj and since then, there have been several noticeable changes in the country.
But if there is anything that has not changed, that is the sentiments of ‘Desh Bhakti’ – what we know as patriotism.
Over the years, Hindi cinema has encompassed patriotism through films of several genres.
So, on this auspicious day, Filme Shilmy presents you with some must-watch patriotic films, based on various genres.
Purab Aur Paschim (1970): Drama
A freedom fighter’s son, Bharat (Manoj Kumar), has grown up and goes to Britain to study.
On his arrival in Britain, he is quite shocked to find that the Indian population settled there, ignore India and Indians.
He takes it upon himself to try and change their way of thinking, meets with Preeti (Saira Banu), a Blondie of Indian origin and both fall in love.
Preeti accompanies him to India and is appalled at the conditions that Bharat and his family are in. Will this shock end their relationship?
It is interesting to see the clash between Eastern and Western cultures – a trope which is later explored in films like Namastey England and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge.
This movie is patriotic in a sense that it proves that no matter where you go, a Hindustani will always remain a Hindustani!
Border (1997): War
JP Dutta’s award-winning war film has a huge ensemble cast, assembling major stars like Sunny Deol, Suniel Shetty, Tabu, Raakhee, Pooja Bhatt and Akshaye Khanna, to name a few.
The film is an adaptation from real life events that happened at the Battle of Longewala during the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971.
Border oozes of patriotism as it depicts the lives of the Javaans (soldiers) fighting in the war.
Dialogues like “Shayad tum nahi jaante… yeh dharti sher bhi pehda karti hai” highlight the courageous and valiant natures of the soldiers.
But despite being a war film, there is also an anti-war message conveyed in the end as it depicts most soldiers dead and how it causes trauma to their family members.
As such, the poignant song ‘Sandese Aate Hai’ haunts us about the sentiments Soldiers face on a daily basis during a battle.
Lagaan (2001): Sports
Ashutosh Gowariker’s epic sports-drama is a battle for freedom, without any bloodshed. Lagaan is set in the Victorian period of India’s colonial British Raj.
It narrates the story of a small village whose inhabitants, burdened by high taxes, find themselves in an extraordinary situation as an arrogant officer challenges them to a game of cricket as a wager to avoid the taxes.
The narrative spins around this situation as the villagers face the gruelling task of learning the alien game and playing for a result that will change their village’s destiny.
Patriotism here is depicted through the farmers of all religions as they unite to participate in the cricket game.
Plus, the song ‘Mitwa’ conveys the emotions about how one should not fear any foreigner capturing their land as “Yeh Dharti Apni Hai, Apna Ambar Hai Re”.
Moreover, there is an emphasis on how the truthful should always be fearless and as such, triumph is imminent. Hence the lines “Sach Aur Saahas Hai Jiske Mann Mein… Ant Mein Jeet Usiki Rahe.”
Having swept several awards at prestigious Indian ceremonies, the Aamir Khan-Gracy Singh starrer was nominated at the Oscars, though it sadly did not win.
Gadar: Ek Prem Katha (2001): Romance
Even amidst turmoil, love develops and conquers all. Anil Sharma’s Gadar is set in the backdrop of the 1947 Partition between India and Pakistan.
It follows the story of a Sikh truck driver Tara (Sunny Deol) who falls in love with a beautiful young aristocratic Muslim girl, Sakina aka ‘Madamji’ (Ameesha Patel).
The movie beautifully conveys how borders and religions cannot separate two star-crossed lovers.
Seeing Sunny Deol as the chivalrous Tara defending the honour of a woman is an epitome of how every Indian man should be.
Plus, the nationalistic dialogue “Hamara Hindustan Zindabad Tha, Zindabad Hai Aur Zindabaad Rahega” has gone on to become an iconic line of Sunny Deol.
The Legend of Bhagat Singh (2002): Biographical Drama
The story of Shaheed Bhagat Singh is one of courage and desh bhakti.
Just at the tender age of 23, he was executed alongside Sukhdev and Rajguru as a result of the Lahore conspiracy case.
Paying a tribute to India’s revolutionary and freedom fighter, Rajkumar Santoshi documents Bhagat Singh’s life from his childhood where he witnesses the Jallianwala Bagh massacre until the day he was hanged on 23rd March 1931.
The freedom fighter is essayed by Ajay Devgn, who even won a National Award for his excellent performance.
Emotions of patriotism are evoked through dialogues like “Shareer Qaid Kiya Jaa Sakta Hai… Vichaar Nahin” and songs like ‘Des Mere’, ‘Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna Hai’ and ‘Mera Rang De Basanti’.
The end visual of Bhagat Singh being executed with Rajguru and Sukhdev leaves the audience feeling numb because it makes us realise how much sacrifice has gone into freeing India from the British Raj.
Rang De Basanti (2005): Coming-Of-Age
Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s Rang De Basanti (RDB) was shortlisted for an Oscar and yet it surprises me that it did not get nominated because this film is a masterpiece.
The movie shows how after a group of friends graduate from Delhi University, they listlessly haunt their old campus, until a British filmmaker (Alice Patten) casts them in a film she’s making about freedom fighters under British rule.
Although the group is largely apolitical, the tragic death of a friend owing to local government corruption awakens their nationalism.
Inspired by the freedom fighters they represent in the film, the friends unanimously decide to avenge the killing.
Exhibited through a dual narrative style, the movie highlights patriotism of a different kind. Through choosing a wrong path, the youths try to achieve justice.
With an ending that leaves us distraught, RDB makes us really think whether India is really free given that corruption is still at large.
Chak De India! (2007): Sports
The Shimit Amin film stars Shahrukh Khan as Kabir Khan, former captain of the Indian men’s national field hockey team (Hockey is the national sports for India).
After a disastrous loss to Pakistan, Khan is ostracised from the sport and he alongside his mother are driven from the family home by angry neighbours.
Seven years later, to redeem himself, Khan becomes the coach of the Indian national women’s hockey team and becomes determined to turn its sixteen contentious players into one championship unit.
There are several moments which really awaken moments of national pride – especially when SRK probes the team to not play for themselves or their states – but to play for their country… India.
Chak De India! also has some nationalistic songs including the title track, which is often played when Team Indian win sports championships!
Meghna Gulzar’s Raazi is an adaptation of Harinder Sikka’s novel Calling Sehmat which is inspired by real events.
It revolves around an Indian spy Sehmat (Alia Bhatt), who gets married to a Pakistani military officer Iqbal (Vicky Kaushal) prior to the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 on the order of her father (Rajit Kapur).
The film is famous by the dialogue, “Watan Ke Aage Kuch Nahin. Khud Bhi Nahin.” Alia’s character Sehmat is a timid young girl who despite not being a professional espionage, bravely trains herself to become one and fulfil her duties for her country.
What is interesting is that there is usually a strong ‘us and them’ rhetoric when it comes to films revolving around the India and Pakistan conflict. This is also visible in Raazi.
But what really sets this film apart from all others is the mutual understanding between both Sehmat and Iqbal. In a sense, they both are aware of each others’ duties towards their countries.
Plus, it is wonderful that Raazi even has a patriotic song titled ‘Ae Watan’ – which simply addresses nationalism in a very neutral way. Perhaps this is something we could be inspired by in life too.
Besides our list, there are several other interesting movies you could look out for. These include Deewar (2004), Upkar, Parmanu, Netaji: Subhash Chandra Bose, The Rising: Mangal Pandey, Airlift, Sarfarosh and many more.
What I find interesting is that in 2018, there are plenty more patriotic films lined up to come out, including this week’s big releases: Gold and Satyameva Jayate.
These new films are a reminder of how India has fought arduously to live in a nation free of the British Empire and it is about time this gets reinforced worldwide.