The tricolour to create a sense of irony. The use of the flag-post as a guillotine to execute the corrupt. The flag as a symbol to show us how nothing has changed since Independence. We take a look at 10 scenes that was written around the Indian flag.
In Shaji Kailas' The King, the tricolour is used to show us how far we've come since independence and the new leadership that has replaced the British. Krishnettan (Kuthiravattam Pappu) is a frail and ageing freedom fighter who has come to the Collectorate to appeal to get his pension restarted. He is stopped midway and as he waits for the leaders to arrive, a stampede begins with younger politicians (all dressed in white) knocking him down and breaking his spectacles. In a sequence, we see multiple cars pulling up, each adorned with the Indian flag on its hood. An aged politician, around Krishnettan's age, emerges from one of these cars. He barely knows where he is and he barely cares. It's a scene that shows what modern Indian politics has done to the people who fought for the country's freedom.
In Joshiy's Praja, the entire climax revolves around the Indian flag with the flag-post becoming the stage for its protagonist Zakir Hussain (Mohanlal) to deliver a long speech that aims to clean up the democracy. In the final sequence, he ties up four of the film's main villains—an unholy nexus of a politician, a corrupt cop and two businessmen. Despite Zakir Hussain's personal enmity towards each of them, he asks the people or the praja to decide what they want to do with them. A bomb in the form of a bouquet is given to the politician, when Hussain throws the remote into the crowd. As they are blown up, the tricolour flies away until it floats straight into the hands of a hero in the final shot. Holding onto the flag, he voices the film's last words…alhamdulillah.
In R Madhavan's Rocketry, an entire sequence is written around the Indian flag but its symbolism is used to create irony. We're witnessing how unfairly a great Indian scientist is being treated by the entire System when we see a crane shot that ends with the flag in the foreground and Nambi Narayanan in the background. It is pouring and the man is trying to hitch a ride to get back home with his wife when the news has already spread about his involvement in a spy case. One rickshaw driver pushes him out and onto to the street. As he tries to get back on his feet, helpless and hurt, the camera slowly makes its way until it rests on the image of what India can do to its citizens.
In Mani Ratnam's Roja, Rishikumar (Arvind Swamy), a RAW agent is captured by terrorists when he is sent to Jammu and Kashmir on a mission along with his wife Roja (Madhubala). The terrorists demand the release of their leader Wasim Khan in exchange for Rishi. While the film shows the efforts of Roja to save her husband, it is Rishi's bold retorts and conversations with the terrorists that stand out in the film. His love for his country best plays out when he jumps to save a burning Indian flag.
In what's popularly known as the "flag-burning scene", the Indian government decides to not release Wasim Khan, and the agitated terrorists burn the Indian flag. Rishi, whose hands are tied, tries to break the glass door to stop the terrorist. However, when he realizes that the terrorist has already set fire to the flag, Rishi jumps on it and rolls over to stop the fire. Call it patriotism or jingoism, what adds more value to the scene is that Rishi's act is exhibited at a moment when he knows the denial of Wasim Khan's release puts an end card to his release as well. Accompanied by the powerful score of 'Thamizha Thamizha' and lyrics "Nam India Athu Ondrudhaan", this scene is arguably one of the most patriotic moments portrayed in Indian cinema.
Probably one of the most memorable sightings of the flag on this list, Chak De India (2007) teases the tricolour throughout the final hockey match against Australia. The flag shows up painted on the cheeks of cheering Indians, on the Indian team's uniform – right above their heart – and of course, the principal one, unfurled against the wind. And yet, during the famous 'sattar minute', the flag assumes the role of a palpable metaphor. The final sequence becomes as nail-biting as it is because the loss of this Indian team threatens to take on a larger meaning: it would mean the victory of sexism, of intolerance and letting our differences in states, languages and religion define us. When the final goal declares the team victorious and Coach Kabir Khan turns his tear-filled eyes towards the flag, it is the triumph over these pervasive issues that the tricolour seems to embody.
Hindustan Ki Kasam, directed by Veeru Devgan, begins with a boy running on the street toward his father. The Indian flag he is carrying sways with the wind. Standing next to a samosa stall is his father, who is holding a particularly hot samosa. The moment the boy reaches him, the father snatches the flag from him to place the snack in it.
In the next shot, we see the flag and the samosa 20 feet above the ground, and the former lands right in Kabeera's (Amitabh Bachchan) hands. He chastises the father and tells him that if he ridicules the tricolour, he too, will never be respected.
Lakshya, directed by Farhan Akhtar, reaches its peak both literally and figuratively when Karan Shergill (Hrithik Roshan) hoists the tricolour on the summit that had been captured by the infiltrators. The initial unit of 12 is reduced to three soldiers by the time Karan conquers Peak 5179. While the film is based on the 1999 India-Pakistan Kargil war on Tiger Hill, it is also representative of Karan's desire to be respected by fulfilling his sole purpose in life.
Shankar's acclaimed vigilante film Indian is loud, vivid and delightfully over-the-top in its patriotism. But it sometimes evokes the tri-colour emotion with subtlety. Its protagonist Senapathy (Kamal Haasan) is wildly similar in both pre-independent and post-independent India. But the only difference remains to be the offenders. If Senapathi had to battle British oppressors in the 40s, he clashes with modern-day corrupters of the world in the 90s. But everything he does is out of love for his country. This is best depicted in beautiful black-and-white flashback scenes in the film, which features Senapathy as a freedom fighter.
A young Senapathy gets a swashbuckling entry as a man attacking the Britain flag on a police station, further flinching it at his oppressors. But even as he spends the prime of his youth fighting for the Indian independence movement, he is ironically stuck in prison when his country finally achieves independence. His story reaches a full circle when he is released from prison and sees his newly-independent India's flag fly high atop the same building where he once destroyed the British flag. Here, the tri-colour symbolises the newfound freedom of Senapathy and his homeland.
The flag becomes both an expression of pride and a protective shield in Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani. When Shah Rukh Khan and Juhi Chawla are walking at the head of a ground-swelling protest, the police are about to shoot at them. When Shah Rukh then waves the flag, it becomes a shield because no one wants to fling a bullet at the national flag. But with a swelling score, we are also reminded that holding a flag, waving it at the enemy — who might be the apparatus of the state itself — is a matter of deep pride.
It might be strange to see Sarileru Neekevvaru pop-up on a list like this because it's one of the most forgettable mainstream movies of the decade. But the bomb scene in the second half, which had never been revealed in any of the film's promotional content, ended up being a surprisingly well-imagined masala block. One of the reasons I particularly love this stretch despite its woeful execution is that it recalls patriotism and the Indian flag without referring to Pakistan or the Bad Muslim. It seems like a scene from a pre-I Shankar film where the do-gooder protagonist chides politicians and those from within the system that are corrupt. Given that the film is about a military officer who notices a rot from within, to invoke the flag without invoking an enemy from outside the border or belonging to one identity is a reminder that the flags of patriotism and bigotry are two different entities.