Depiction of patriotic feelings and sentiments of the Indian masses in Hindi films dates back to the time when India was still a subject nation under British Rule. There was no censor board in those days, but still the British administrators kept a hawk-eyed vigil on the content of each and every Indian film and would try to suppress Indians’ aspiration to be an independent nation. In promoting patriotism and national solidarity, Hindi films have all along played a very significant role. In colonial time, Hindi films inspired people cutting across castes and creeds to participate in the Freedom Movement with full fervour.
In 1942, when Mahatma Gandhi started the “Quit India” movement asking British rulers to leave India, the whole nation responded by supporting this call enthusiastically. Indian freedom struggle is a saga of suffering and sacrifices. Millions and millions of people all over India, chanting the fiery slogan, “Inqalab Zindabad”, came out on the roads to support this movement. Many of them were arrested and put in jails all across India. This massive participation of the Indian people in the freedom movement under Mahatma Gandhi’s leadership naturally alarmed the British. In those very days came a Hindi film entitled “Kismet” (1943), in which a song written by Kavi Pradeep and set to music by Anil Biswas literally took the nation by storm.
The song, “Aaj Himalaye ki choti se phir hum ne lalkara hai, dur hutto, dur hutto, ai duniys walo Hindustan hamara hai…” became as popular as our national anthem is today. It inspired Indians to work dedicatedly for the emancipation of their country from British rule. Shortly after independence, another significant patriotic film entitled “Shaheed” (1948) was made by Filmistan Studios under the direction of Ramesh Saigal. “Shaheed” became a super-duper hit. One song from this film, “Watan ki rah hamein watan ke naujawan shaheed ho…” in the voice of Mohammad Rafi and Khan Mastana became a craze with nationalistic-minded people. Producerdirector- actor Sohrab Modi made his most ambitious film entitled “Jhansi Ki Rani” in 1953. It depicted how the indomitable Lakshmi Bai, Rani of Jhansi, bravely fought against the British in India’s first War of Independence in 1857. It was a lavishly made film and the first one in technicolour in the history of Indian cinema.
The dawn of independence in India was naturally hailed by the Indian masses with great hopes, even though the partition of the country had brought untold suffering to millions of people who were uprooted from their homes. But, reposing their faith in their leaders, people in India looked forward to all-round progress and development of the country and banishment of poverty, backwardness, and illiteracy from this land. Content-wise, our films started gradually undergoing a change after Independence. But India was still abysmally poor, subsisting on foreign aid. Agriculturally a deficit state, India had to depend on shipments of wheat periodically received from America under the PL-480 scheme. But soon India started making all-round progress in various fields. Mega steel plants were established to produce steel. Dams to produce hydro-electric power were constructed and canals were dug up to ensure assured electricity and water supply to farmers all over the country. India’s Green Revolution proved a great success.
It started yielding excellent results. Today, agriculturally India is a surplus state. We now export food- grains and fruit to several needy countries. In most of the old Hindi films of the Black & White era, there was a lot of tear-shedding because the stories of these films often revolved round people living in dismal poverty. From the early 1950s to mid-1960s, it was the age of tear-jerking family melodramas. The protagonists of these films would be poor marginal farmers, or ill-paid clerks, or daily-wagers, or rickshaw-pullers, and so on. Some well-known films of that period were “Hum Log” (1951), “Do Bigha Zameen”(1953), “Naukri” (1954), “Boot Polish” (1954), “Garam Coat” (1955), “Mother India”(1957), and “Ab Dilli Door Nahin”(1957).
All these films related the stories of distress-ridden poor people of our country. India has all along tried its best to have good relations with all its neighbourly countries. But China was the first to betray our trust. In 1962 Chinese soldiers attacked India and the Indian armed forces confronted them bravely. But it was a shattering experience for Prime Minister Pundit Nehru who had never expected an aggressive China attacking India. Chetan Anand made a memorable film on Indo-China war of 1962, which was entitled “Haqeeqat” (1964). The film was a great box-office success. A song of this film written by Kaifi Azmi, “Kar chale hum fida jano-tan saathiyo, ab tumhare hawaale watan saathiyoo…” became a chartbuster of that year.
Shortly after the Indo-China war, Lata Mangeshkar sang the non-film song, “Ai mere watan ke logo, zara aankh mein bhar lo paani, jo shaheed hue hain unki zara yad karo kubaani…” It was an inspiring patriotic song written by Pradeep. Pandit Nehru was present on the stage Lata sang this song. It is said that Nehru’s eyes welled up with tears as he listened to this song. From the early 1970s to right up to late 1980s, when India was comparatively well off economically and was making rapid progress in various fields, there was a noticeable change in the content of our films. Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan were the leading young actors of those years. The films that were then made were mostly romantic dramas.
But patriotic films were still being made from time to time. Some well-known patriotic Hindi films made during the last two decades are, “Border” (1997), “Lagaan”(2001), “Swades” (2004), “Mangal Pandey – The Rising” (2005). Ashutosh Gowarikar’s “Lagaan” was a period film but it very relevantly focussed on the cruelty of unjust taxation system under British rule. The film beautifully presented the invincible spirit of nationalism in our simple but strong-willed village folk putting up a brave fight to get justice. T
he unlettered village people ultimately get their taxes waived by winning a cricket match against their arrogant and stiff-necked Burra Sahib team. “Chak De India” (2007) was another patriotic Hindi film on sports that aimed at promoting a strong sense of nationalism among Indians. It is the story of how Kabir Khan, captain of India’s hockey team, is suspected of his pro-Pakistan loyalty when under his captainship India loses a match to Pakistan. Kabir Khan is shattered by this false accusation. How seven years later he comes back as the coach of Indian women’s hockey team and redeems his honour and proves that he is as patriotic an Indian as anyone else – that, in brief, is the gist of the story of “Chak De India”.
As the years have rolled by, India has undergone a great socio- economic change. Liberalisation of the government economic policies in the 1990s spelt the death knell of the notorious quota-permit regime, with the result that the private sector started becoming a big player in our development schemes. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) was welcomed in insurance, communication system, and several other fields. The present NDA government at the Centre has introduced many economic reforms, with the result that FDI is now being allowed in many more fields. India’s rapidly surging GDP graph is now changing the face of India.
Increasing presence of the indigenous corporate sector and foreign companies in various development projects is significantly accelerating our growth rate on all fronts. Of course all these changes in India’s socioeconomic sphere are now reflected in the content of our films. India’s burgeoning reality sector has also caught worldwide attention. We have now world-class airports, malls, national highways, flyovers, metro rail stations, swanky new cars and buses, multistorey apartment houses surrounded by tastefully landscaped green spaces, five- star hotels, and elegant-looking restaurants. India will soon have bullet trains.
Formerly we had low-paid government clerks or school teachers as our film heroes, but now their place has been taken by engineers, scientists, IT specialists, and successful scions of tycoons. Mani Ratnam’s film “Guru” was the story of an entrepreneur who achieves unprecedented success in his venture by fighting against a decadent bureaucracy and the government’s expensive and wasteful socialistic policies. India is on the upswing now, and if in the coming years our growth rate is pushed up to around 9 per cent and our relations with our neighbo uring countries are normalised, there is little doubt that we will take our place among the developed nations of the world in the next 10 to 15 years.