Indian cinema recently completed 100 years and it’s interesting to note that a majority of the pioneers were nationalist in nature. Even though most of the filmmaking techniques were foreign, a lot of their work was unabashedly desi. Owing to poor archiving capabilities, not all of their films are available today but they did make an effort towards educating the mass about the ongoing freedom struggle. Here’s paying a tribute to a few of the brave auteurs…
The doyen of Indian cinema broke new grounds when he became the first Indian to direct a film - Raja Harischandra (1913). He later refused lucrative offers from England as he went on to make several movies in the country - not without obstacles though. His films like Kaliya Mardan (1919) daringly professed patriotism.
Along with his production house Maharashtra Film Company, he made several films on Shivaji. Due to the defiant nature of his films like Kalyan Khajina (1924), Shahala Shah (1925) and Baji Prabhu Deshpande (1929), he regularly faced censor problems and was pointed out for being seditious.
His Bhakt Vidur (1921) was banned in the wake of the controversial Rowlatt Act. This silent movie used events from Mahabharata and analogised Kaurava with British Empire. Notwithstanding the brouhaha, he re-released the film under a new title Dharma Vijay. His onscreen persona was also reminiscent of the scantily-clad Gandhiji.
Sohrab Modi, with his production house Minerva Movietone, was keen on producing films, which instilled a sense of pride in the common public about their nation. The dialogues of his movies like Pukar (1939), Sikander (1941) and Prithvi Vallabh (1943) resonated strongly with the discontent mood of Indians at the time they were released. Interestingly, they coincided with the events that led to Quit India Movement.
A patriotic filmmaker, his company Wadia Movietone launched Fearless Nadia and managed to instill a breath of confidence in the viewers. Though the concept was more entertainment-friendly, the characters were clearly representing the oppressed class with their tardy clothes and socialist leanings. Most of his films’ dialogues called for freedom, democracy and equality.
Notable films with nationalistic undertones from the pre-independence era
>> Vir Bharat (1934)
>> Azadi (1935)
>> Desh Deepak (1935)
>> Hind Kesari (1935)
>> Industrial India (1938)
>> Mother India (1938)
>> Azaad (1940)
>> Bandhan (1940)
>> Kismet (1943)
>> Jeevan Yatra (1946)
Azad starring Ashok Kumar and Leela Chitnis made fun of the Censors
The missing link
When was the last time that a soulful song from a new release brought out the patriot in you? The likes of Mere desh ki dharti or even an Aye mere watan ke logon that became the anthem of India’s Independence belonged to an era of Hindi cinema when some of the most iconic films paid tribute to the nation. But with cinema changing over the period of time, patriotic films too seem to be on the decline.
Incidentally, more recent films that had their protagonist portrayed as a soldier or a spy have hardly any semblance of a patriotic song. Perhaps the most recent film that waved the flag high for a full-fledged patriotic tune was the Aamir Khan starrer Rang De Basanti (2006) that had us tapping our feet and thumping our fists to its title track.
A few of our other favourites over the years
Aye Watan, aye watan (Shaheed)
Yeh desh hai veer jawaano ka (Naya Daur)
Insaaf ki dagar pe (Ganga Jamuna)
De di hume azaadi (Jagriti)
Hai preet jaha ki reet sadaa (Purab Aur Paschim)
Jis desh mein ganga behti hai (Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai)
Mera rang de basanti chola (Shaheed)
Ao baccho tumhe dikhayen (Jagriti)
Sandese aate hai (Border)
Dil diya hai, jaan bhi denge (Karma)
I love my India (Pardes)
Chitthi aayi hai (Naam)
Apni aazaadi ko hum hargis mita sakte nahi (Leader)
Ae mere pyaare watan (Waqt)
Kar chale hum fida (Haquiquat)
Suno gour se duniyawalo (Dus)
Nanna munna raahi hoon (Son of India)
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