New Delhi: With less than a year left for general elections, Bollywood is pumping out a stream of movies riding the new cool wave of patriotism.
After Raazi and Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran that released in May, director Anubhav Sinha is coming up with Mulk this weekend. Others in line include Akshay Kumar’s historical sports drama Gold and John Abraham’s vigilante action thriller Satyameva Jayate for Independence Day. Later in the year, there is Yash Raj Films’ Sui Dhaaga aimed at promoting the country’s indigenous textile industry, based on the Make In India initiative.
“It’s to do with the mood of the country right now," said Satyameva Jayate director Milap Milan Zhaveri. “India has grown by leaps and bounds over the last few years, we’re a power to reckon with. So, people are in the mood to celebrate that and true cinema can always instil a decent sense of patriotism. That is why I think so many films with this sentiment are being made and appreciated also."
Film distributor and exhibitor Akshaye Rathi agreed this is a viable box office strategy, given that patriotism is a sentiment common to every Indian regardless of caste, creed or gender. And it’s only logical to play to the gallery as long as you’re respecting those sentiments.
To be sure, Bollywood has had a history of patriotic films, led by Manoj Kumar’s Upkar (1967), Purab Aur Paschim (1970) and Kranti (1981), Dev Anand’s Hum Dono (1961) and Prem Pujari (1970) and later Subhash Ghai’s Karma (1986) and J.P. Dutta’s Border (1997) and LOC Kargil (2003). But the current crop of movies has a different take on nationalism.
“Most of the other (older) patriotic films are celebratory in nature, without really addressing what we have done for the country. But the new films bring to the table a lot of questions we are scared to broach, which are taboo and which we are kind of trying to talk about openly," said Mulk director Anubhav Sinha, referring to movies like Ashutosh Gowariker’s Swades (2004) that spoke about coming back to the country to help solve its problems or his own Mulk that talks about togetherness and inclusion.
“Obviously we’re not used to it, we don’t say those things to each other but the sooner we address those questions, the sooner we’ll be past them," Sinha said.
“This is the right time for such films that help build a sense of community and national identity though one can’t say how much they will ultimately help," said Jai Murg, a Mumbai-based political analyst. Murg pointed to the telecast of epic series Ramayana and Mahabharat during the 1980s that had coincided with the rise of the BJP and inadvertently served as the early mass campaign for the Vishva Hindu Parishad.
However, not everyone agree.
“Films often dilute the impact with songs and fights, and patriotism remains another entertainment element. One can’t say if they will have a significant impact on political dynamics," said film historian Theodore Baskaran.