Patriotism in Bollywood

It was 6 months after Mahatma Gandhi had started the Quit India Movement and promulgated a nation wide non-violent campaign against the Britishers. In Bombay, lyricist Kavi Pradeep was working on a song for the new movie “Kismet” which was to star Ashok Kumar. Although the movie was about a small time pick pocket and had a few bold themes for it’s time, Pradeep wanted to use the platform to send across a message to the colonised Indian masses. What better way than to compose a song about rising up against oppression and giving the people a rallying cry. The song ‘दूर हटो दुनियावालों, हिन्दुस्तान हमारा हैं (go away foreigners, India is ours) became a defacto slogan which could be heard everywhere post the movie’s release.

Kavi Pradeep had defied the very system which had an iron grip on anything which reached the masses. So the song which indirectly addressed the Britishers, was shown to be about the brutish Germans. The censor board of that time, mostly old Englishmen, liked the idea of a song denigrating their perennial enemies of the time and it passed without cuts. Kavi had done something which was hard to imagine during those days, that is reaching the masses with a war cry of sorts. However, it didn’t take much time for the Britishers to figure out their ignominious mistake and Kavi Pradeep had to go underground for a while. But it remains the first instance of an artist weaving nationalism in a Bollywood movie. In fact, the masses were so enraptured with this smart act of defiance that theatre owners had to replay the entire movie just for the audience to watch the song and sing along again! It’s no surprise therefore that “Kismet” became India’s first superhit movie, grossing almost 50 times it’s production budget.

The Bollywood industry has since come a long way and today we make a variety of patriotic movies covering a myriad of topics, some showing historical events, some sporting glory and finally some which eulogises feats which place India in the global podium, like this week’s release ‘Mission Mangal”. Today, patriotic movies have become a genre in itself. For a country like ours, patriotic movies are a great unifier. A country divided by language and colour, comes together and celebrates an Uri : The Surgical Strike as a festival almost. Akshay Kumar, Mohanlal have made careers out of making hard hitting movies which evoke a sense of Indianess among all.
2018 itself saw more than a handful Hindi movies which had patriotism as it’s central theme. From Raazi to Parmanu, many A-listers have helmed such movies. From Kavi Pradeep going against the establishment to include patriotic elements in a pre- Independence movie, to Bollywood coming up with various hard hitting movies which put the spotlight back on the ones who protect us, have won us our freedom and those who represent us globally, we surely have come a long way.

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