At a time when the current brand of onscreen patriotism has been met with polarizing responses, in the spirit of Republic Day, we asked a series of filmmakers and writers what their favourite patriotic movie moments are.
Mine is Roja. Arvind Swamy's character Rishi rolling over a burning tricolour and A R Rahman's background score in Mani Ratnam's Roja. Usually, it's an army man or a revolutionary in pre-independent India who drum roll 'patriotic feelings' but Mani Ratnam makes an educated, computer geek in the form of the fragile and baby-faced looks of Arvind Swamy unleash patriotism.
The scene that has stayed with me the most is from Gandhi. When Gandhi ji has been arrested, a large group of men walk in protest outside Dharasana Salt works, aware that they will be lathi-charged upon. That scene still gives me goosebumps. Men in a group of five or six walk up to the gates, get hit by laathis and bleed. Women run, carry them aside and another group of men replace them and walk up to the gate and are also beaten up. This carnage continues through the day till every single man has submitted to the cause but not one retaliates back in violence. Even the journalist witnessing this incident is shaken up. Gandhi's nonviolent, peaceful, non-cooperation ideology is too deeply entrenched in everyone's heart. Gandhi's approach of "we will not fight but we'll not comply" has seeped in every citizen's conscience. That's the kind of trust and faith he evoked in his men. The kind of selfless patriotism where they were willing to give themselves up. That scene affects me every time I see the film.
The climax of Rang De Basanti. Is that patriotic or not patriotic? A lot of people say it's actually vigilante-ism, where a group of young boys went and shot the defence minister etc. But did I applaud the fact that they locked themselves up in a radio station and spoke to the rest of India? I was standing up and cheering.
It has always been from Gandhi. When Gandhi travels across India, upon his return he sees a poor woman without clothes in a river and he lets the cloth he has worn flow down the river to her. For me, patriotism has never been about cricket wins and Pakistan -bashing. No one kicks a dead dog. It has always meant doing the right thing. For your countrymen and anyone else too. That to me means being an Indian. I saw this film as a kid and I still remember that moment. The look in Ben Kingsley's eyes conveys the change that has come over Gandhi. He has found a purpose – to free his people from British slavery so that their lives can be better.
Probably Roti Kapada Aur Makaan. When a soldier forcibly stops himself from coughing and drowns in his own blood. I saw it as a kid and was amazed at the sacrifice. A man just took his own life to save other soldiers! It's a gobsmacking scene. Notice how Amitabh Bachchan reacts when he realizes his friend is dead.#
My all-time favourite film is Manoj Kumar's Shaheed where he plays Bhagat Singh. It's a film that really inspired me and made me feel patriotic in the truest way. There is a great scene in jail between him and his mother played by Kamini Kaushal, I think it is the pre-climax of the film. Every time I watch that scene, I tear up and it gives me goosebumps. I first saw the film when I was 11 or 12 on Doordarshan. It always used to play on TV either on his shaheed divas, which is 23rd March or on Independence Day.