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Bollywood not shying away from patriotic themes

entertainment Updated: Aug 15, 2009 17:41 IST
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Has patriotism been diluted in the films being made nowadays? Bollywood filmmakers admit high-voltage patriotic movies like Purab Aur Paschim are no longer being made, but insist they haven't stopped visiting the theme even though the numbers have come down.

"I don't think filmmakers are not least after what Rang De Basanti did. It created a kind of revolution in portraying anger and love, and proved that young India could love a patriotic film," Madhur Bhandarkar told IANS.

But Bhandarkar concedes that making patriotic films is tricky.

"Taking patriotic values and making a film out of them is quite tricky. The scenario has changed a bit because making a patriotic film not only involves lot of hard work but it needs to be poignant so that it can connect with the audience... that's why 'Rang de Basanti' worked and the three films on Bhagat Singh weren't appreciated," he explained.

Mahesh Bhatt feels audiences appreciate patriotic films if they are presented with a fresh approach.

"Filmmakers are interested but one should do complete research and groundwork, which is difficult at times because nowadays it's easy to make a sequel rather than use a new concept," he said.

"Audiences love to watch novel things and not just the same old ones; as long as you're meeting their needs, they are happy and would demand more," he added.

The first Hindi film with a patriotic theme was Sohrab Modi's Sikandar in 1941. It carried an indirect message of patriotism by praising the valour of King Porus in his war against Alexander the Great.

Post-independence, the air was filled with aspirations of building a new India under the leadership of then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru.

Bollywood captured this mood in films like Anand Math (1952), Jaagriti (1954), Naya Daur (1957), Hum Hindustani (1960) and Leader (1964). They were focussed on the freedom struggle and martyrs.

Others like Jis Desh Mein Ganga Behti Hai (1960), Sikander-E-Azam (1965) and Purab Aur Pachhim (1970) talked about the greatness of India, while Haqeeqat (1964), Prem Pujari (1970) and Lalkar (1972) showcased the wars India fought and won.

A new wave of patriotism swept Bollywood in the 1990s with films like 1942 A Love Story (1993), Sarfarosh (1999), Hindustan Ki Kasam (1999) and Mission Kashmir (2000).

Then came Aamir Khan's Lagaan -- a film about the triumph of an Indian village against the British empire that broke all box-office records. But it was Aamir's Rang de Basanti (2006) that inspired a strong patriotic sentiment, especially amongst youngsters.

Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Chak De! India too revived the nationalist sentiment through the inspiring game of hockey.

In between, patriotism was also seen in Gadar: Ek Prem Katha (2001), Indian (2001), Maa Tujhe Salam (2002), LoC: Kargil (2003), The Hero (2003), Swades (2004) and Lakshya (2004).

Noted film historian Gautam Kaul says patriotic films are here to stay.

"Patriotic films have never been off the movie map... they have had their lows and peaks. Intelligently made patriotic films can never fail," he added.

Filmmakers of today incorporate current issues in their patriotic films, but avoid high voltage sentimental drama.

"It was in the 1960s to 1980s when Indian cinema used to sentimentalise the issue of patriotism. In the 1990s, cinema mellowed down from high-charged sentimentalisation to an emotional approach with real events and issues like those shown in 'Pardes' and 'Border'. But since 2001, audiences have changed... they respect patriotism but with rationalisation," said director Subhash Ghai.

"Today we don't want to kill the enemy but want to survive together for mutual interests and sovereignty. We also have to tackle more internal issues like we did in movies like Rang de Basanti, A Wednesday or Black and White and awaken the younger generation... today we are in a good position to talk about real patriotism within our country," he added.

(Robin Bansal can be contacted at