By Durga Chakravarty
New Delhi, Aug 15 (IANS) The Hindi film industry has always managed to touch the hearts of cinephiles with films having a dash of patriotism and love for "desh ki mitti". Over the years Bollywood has managed to invent and re-invent movies based on nationalism and patriotism, leading to a high success rate at the Indian box-office.
Down the decades, films like "Kismet", "Purab Aur Paschim", "Shaheed", "Upkar", "Border", "Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Saathiyo", "Kesari", "Baby", "Uri: The Surgical Strike" and "Lagaan" have been but a few among many films that celebrated the essence of "deshbakti", evoking the love for the country among cinegoers.
Currently, Indian filmmakers are flipping through real stories to explore the genre. Apart from obvious instances such as recent war films ("Uri" and "Paltan" come to mind) that let filmmakers tap the patriotism genre, stories of sportspersons ("Dangal", "Mary Kom", "Bhaag Milkha Bhaag", "Gold" to name a few) and real incidents where commoners played the hero ("Airlift", "Raazi", "Pad Man", "Mission Mangal", "Batla House", "India's Most Wanted") have come to be ready formula.
Actor Arjun Kapoor, who starred in "India's Most Wanted", says patriotism in films should not be used to further personal agenda but to encourage love for the nation.
"Everyone feels patriotic. To be able to speak about it without being jingoistic is great. Sometimes you have to be jingoistic to motivate and encourage, which is also great - as long as it is not used for personal agenda. You should not exploit people's patriotic notions for personal gains," Arjun told IANS.
Actress Yami Gautam, who is on roll with the success of her latest film "Uri: The Surgical Strike" -- based on the 2016 surgical strikes that India conducted following a terrorist attack in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir - told IANS that "gone are the days of chest thumping patriotism".
New-age Bollywood films such as "Uri" seem to thrive on a maxim Yami herself endorses: "Apne desh se behad mohabbat karo, jee tod mehnat karo and desh ka naam roshan karo (love your nation immensely, work hard and make your nation proud).
She added that the success of "Uri" underlines the nation's sentiment towards its soldiers.
Producer Sandip Ssingh, who has bank-rolled movies like "Mary Kom", "Sarbjit" and "PM Narendra Modi", told IANS that it's the love for ‘matribhoomi' that makes the movies strike a chord with the people.
"Whether it was Manoj Kumar who was known as Mr. Bharat he made those films and people got emotionally connected to him... The love for the country is more than the father and the mother for people because they feel for it. These films will work it already has an emotional chord attached to it, which is the nation and people are ready for the country," Ssingh told IANS.
Hindi cinema has created waves for over a 100 years and has given birth to several acting legends. However, it was veteran star Manoj Kumar, who is still referred to as "Bharat Kumar", the ultimate son of the soil.
The actor became the torchbearer of nationalistic themes in the 1960s and 1970s and is best known for "Shaheed", "Upkar", "Be-Imaan", "Shor" and "Kranti".
The war film in Bollywood really came of age with Chetan Anand's 1964 classic, "Haqeeqat", based on the 1962 Indo-China war, and probably the most accomplished war drama Hindi mainstream has ever made.
The decades that followed saw "Border", "LOC Kargil", "Lakshya", "1971" and "Paltan" explore various military themes, mostly highlighting patriotism.
Actor Harshvardhan Rane, who starred in "Paltan", says cinema with a patriotic vibe involves the audience. This is perhaps the only aspect about the genre that has not changed over the generations.
"Love for your motherland is a very strong emotion and motivation for a story to be told. Films made with a patriotic backdrop tends to involve the audience into the plot immediately," Harshavardhan told IANS.
But with changing time, filmmakers realised that there is more to explore.
In 2001, director Ashutosh Gowariker made Aamir Khan-starrer "Lagaan", in which a group of villagers fight the Britishers for tax reduction via a cricket match. The film set a trend of blending ‘deshbhakti' with the sports genre in new-age Bollywood.
Then there was "Rang De Basanti", which, beyond being a blockbuster, also drew a connect between today's youth and their need to find a purpose and the freedom struggle of Shahid Bhagat Singh, Rajguru, Sukhdev and Chandrashekhar Azad.
Bhagat Singh, in fact, has been a subject of numerous biopics.
Actor Sonu Sood, who has essayed Bhagat Singh in 2002's "Shaheed-e-Azam", told IANS: "There is a lot of change in films that are being made on patriotism, because people are expecting it. People have got certain thinking issues towards patriotic films and the type of content provided to the actor and audience, is something which was needed for very long and I am glad that certainly we have that information towards nation.
It was just soon after that stories revolving around women made it through.
Sagarika Ghatge's "Chak De! India", Alia Bhatt's "Raazi" and Kangana Ranaut's "Manikarnika - The Queen of Jhansi" -- are some examples.
(Durga Chakravarty can be contacted at email@example.com)