Among the plethora of patriotic Hindi movies in so many decades, there are quite a few that made statements on different issues connected with patriotism and the feeling of belonging to one's motherland. Some were jingoistic, some rhetorical, but here are a few that are inspirational, landmark and also make for good cinema - the top 10 you really should not miss. So in case you are not doing much this weekend, perhaps a movie marathon with otp 10 patriotic Bollywood films will be a great idea!
Jhansi Ki Rani
Director: Sohrab Modi
This film was a biopic of the immortal Rani Laxmibai of Jhansi, who took up cudgels against the British in the first-ever mutiny against them in 1857 and sacrificed her life. The story was largely adapted from Vrindavan Lal Varma's Hindi novel, Jhansi Ki Rani Laxmi Bai (1946). Jhansi Ki Rani was shot by Ernest Haller, the Academy award-winning cinematographer of Gone With The Wind (1939). The film was edited by Russell Lloyd, who went on to enjoy a long association with John Huston as his right-hand man on Moby Dick (1956), Unforgiven (1960), and The Man Who Would Be King (1975). The film got a theatrical release in English as The Tiger and the Flame in 1956. The film, in those days, cost Rs 1 crore to make!
Phir Subha Hogi
Director: Ramesh Saigal
Though the film spoke against Nehruvian politics, it was the first to showcase the evils of free India. Loosely based on Fyodor Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment, and adapted by actor Mubarak (who also plays a strong role in the film), Phir Subah Hogi deals with social injustice and inequality, unemployment and disillusionment, hope and despair. It makes a strong case for the average man who hoped for a better tomorrow after we attained our freedom from our colonial masters. The presence of top star Raj Kapoor and some hit songs penned by Sahir Ludhianvi, like the satirical Chin-O-Arab Hamara, helped the film score high. It may not be patriotic in the stereotypical sense of the term, but it does make a strong point that a nation's development is the development of all masses, not just a few classes.
Director: Chetan Anand
In 1962, free India faced her first war (with China) and Chetan Anand made this momentous but fairly dark and realistic saga honouring our soldiers and martyrs. Despite a top cast and cult songs like Ab Tumhare Hawale Watan Saathiyon, the film did not become a box office bonanza but remains the best war film we have ever made.
Director: Kewal P Kashyap
Writer-actor Manoj Kumar ghost-directed this masterpiece on Bhagat Singh’s life. Bhagat Singh inspires universal admiration and loyalty in Indian conscience even decades after his martyrdom. He not only shook the foundations of the British Empire but inspired millions with his audacious courage of convictions. The life story of Bhagat Singh motivated several versions though the best biographical sketch was carved by Kewal Kashyap's black and white classic Shaheed. Apparently, Manoj Kumar wielded the megaphone but didn't lend his name as a failure could hinder his acting career. The film seems to be the most authentic portrayal of the life and time of Bhagat Singh probably because screenplay inputs were provided by Bhagat Singh's close aide, freedom fighter Batukeshwar Dutt. A sensitive saga with cult songs, it won the President’s Medal (as the National award was known then), and Bhagat Singh’s mother was moved, and she blessed the filmmaker-star.
Director: Manoj Kumar
During the award ceremony for Shaheed, Prime Minister Lal Bahadur Shastri requested Manoj Kumar to make a film on his slogan Jai Jawaan Jai Kisaan, as soldiers and farmers were the prime sons of the soil. Manoj completed the rough draft of the story in the 24-hour train journey back to Mumbai. Officially taking credit as the director, he made the songs (especially Mere Desh Ki Dharti) and himself as Bharat got cult status. Manoj Kumar started his Mr. Bharat persona and his brand of patriotism & fearless courage with this film.
Roti Kapda Aur Makaan
Director: Manoj Kumar
This time, Manoj Kumar made a social commentary regarding the basic necessities of our countrymen — food, clothes and shelter — and wove a compelling drama around it, highlighting corruption, unemployment and many social ills. For good measure, this musical blockbuster started the trend of multi-starrers.
Director: Nana Patekar
The fiery actor made a debut as writer-director to boldly spotlight the country’s internal enemy — the evil, anti-social and subversive entities that hold back the nation from reaching great heights. An idealistic and patriotic army officer is pained to see that the country he has fought for is sinking into an abyss of social deprivation. When one of his soldiers (crippled in action), is brutally killed by street thugs, and the police show apathy, he takes it upon himself to curb the situation. Prahaar is a mature, thought-provoking examination of society and the individual. The raw, realistic treatment made the offbeat film make just a small profit despite its virtues. But this is a must-watch.
Director: Ashutosh Gowariker
Swades had a vital message for highly-qualified Indians abroad to heed the call of their motherland and give it priority over money and success overseas. The weak script made the movie bite the box-office dust even as it garnered critical accolades for its message.
Director: Neeraj Pandey
The common man is the most troubled by terrorism today, and this stunning drama showed how he could himself take some action against his nation’s enemies rather than only relying on the law and the soldiers to help him or prevent danger. This film was such a huge hit that it inspired an official remake in Hollywood - A Common Man, starring Sir Ben Kingsley.
Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey
Director: Ashutosh Gowariker
The film based on Chittagong uprising of 1930 starred Abhishek Bachchan as Masterda Surya Sen and Deepika Padukone as Kalpana Dutta. I wasn't very aware of the Chittagong uprising in a remote corner of Bengal, in which freedom fighter Surya Sen and his companions led over fifty teen boys in violent, elaborately-planned anarchist revolt and struck an impressive, Empire-halting blow for the motherland. It is a critical incident, one ignored by centralised History syllabi and that is why this film is crucial - as the only one on the subject. Though the film does do a lot of disservice to Surya Sen (he actually committed a daylight robbery of the treasury at the Assam Bengal Railway in 1923) and shows him as a meek school teacher unlike the militant revolutionary that he was.