The notion of nationalistic cinema has evolved over the years, just like the notion of nationalism itself. While films like Border and Uri: The Surgical Strike became synonymous with the idea during times of conflict, films like Swades emerged as beacons of national pride during peacetime.
On this Republic Day, here’s our list of movies that uphold the idea upon which our Constitution was drafted, the idea that India is a sovereign, socialist, secular and democratic republic.
Director Amit V Masurkar’s 2017 satire is perhaps the greatest film about nationalism of the last decade; a movie that comes up with the seemingly alien notion that nationalism doesn’t mean declaring ones allegiance to a political party, but standing up for the ideals upon which one’s nation is built. Masurkar does this by framing his film around the most literal metaphor that he could find – the sight of a common man, protecting the integrity of his country from the corrupt and the cruel.
While lesser films would have played into popular sentiment and perhaps added a scene or two in which the innocent Sehmat is struck by a jolt of pride, compelling her to launch into a speech about her hatred for the enemy, Meghna Gulzar’s delicate little spy film took the humanist approach. It is incredibly ironic that Vicky Kaushal managed to involve himself in a film as level-headed as Raazi, and as high on chest-thumping as Uri, within the span of a few months.
Chak De! India
In Shimit Amin’s 2007 film Chak De!India, Shah Rukh Khan plays a Muslim man whose allegiance to his country is under question–not too different from the current temperament of the nation. After giving the hockey team his all, he is accused of being traitor, simply because he extended a hand of peace and friendship towards the rival country.
Years later, as a middle aged man wishing to prove his innocence to the country he so dearly loves, he returns to coach a team of young, bickering women who will represent India at the hockey world cup. With some exhilarating speeches, morning marathons, a goon-beating session, he shows them what true bonding and teamwork looks like. He reminds them that they do not play for their states or themselves anymore but for the team and for their one, sovereign country.
To love your country isn’t just tweeting patriotic poems to your 400 odd followers or putting a flag on your Facebook display picture. More often than not, true patriotism is love and empathy for the people who live in your country. In Ashutosh Gowariker’s masterpiece of a film, a NASA scientist returns home when the calling from his conscience becomes unbearable.
He realises that the idyllic memories of the country left behind are far from the truth. However, no Messiah will descend from the heavens to solve our casteism, sexism or classism. And most definitely not our electricity shortage. It’s we, the people, who will have to leave our cosy homes and perfect lives to climb hills, dive in tanks, install water turbines. The film is a poster child for the socialist core that India was founded on.
Anubhav Sinha literally takes Article 15 of the Indian Constitution, which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of religion, race, caste, sex or place of birth and examines whether the country’s citizens have been true to it. Ayushmann Khurrana’s Ayan is all of us; he is born of privilege and happy to live in his bubble. The film bursts his bubble and ours as it dives headfirst into the deep caste divides that force a large part of our population to live in indignity. The theme of Us and Them runs through Article 15; unlike movies, there are few happy endings in life unless we change ourselves.
It is a film that ‘we, the people’ needed; that we would do well not to forget.
Lage Raho Munna Bhai
A thug with heart of gold meets the apostle of peace; all he wants is his help to win the girl he loves. The GK lesson becomes a life-changing experience as Gandhi’s thoughts and beliefs – endearingly rechristened Gandhigiri – start running his life. Rajkumar Hirani’s Lage Raho Munna Bhai repackaged Gandh for a new generation, proving once again that he is as relevant today as he was then. It also emphasises the lifeblood of our Constitution, where it gets its strength from — the people.
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