Ours is a country that is perhaps the epitome of what one would call diverse, and for that reason alone, patriotism then becomes an extremely personal emotion. Ours is also a country that glorifies hyper-nationalism and jingoism, especially through the films it makes, the recent ones like Sooryavanshi and Satyameva Jayate 2 are testament to the same. However, it's not as if we haven't produced some excellent patriotic films. Long before patriotism was propaganda and a money-making machine, some films truly had their heart in the right place, and some even managed to do it, even these times. Here are five films that remain special to me, for the way they speak of India, a country that is more an emotion, than a land.
Swades is a film that is synonymous with patriotism. While a majority of patriotic films feed us an aggressive notion of patriotism, Swades teaches us what it means to really 'love' one's country. It redefines patriotism in a way that no film ever has, or maybe ever will. Swades provides for a viewing experience with nuanced storytelling, and a refreshing idea of pride, san the chest-thumping.
Another film that aptly captures the emotion of pride and love for the nation is Rang De Basanti. A landmark film that sheds light on the becoming of revolutionaries. The film is comforting and unsettling at the same time, a trait that becomes the formidable thing about the film. Just like in the film, Rang De Basanti acts to awaken the youth, the aloof audience that doesn't care until tragedy hits home.
An unusual choice for the list, I am sure many will believe, but journalism or media is the fourth pillar of democracy, and for a democracy like India that struggles to thrive at every second, the crumbling of its fourth pillar is more dangerous than it may seem. Despite my reluctance to use phrases like 'ahead of its time', Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani was truly before its time, almost foretelling the scenario today.
Our patriotic films have always shown the 'neighbouring nation' as devils with horns, and monsters with no heart. Raazi was a fresh breath of air amidst this, depicting soldiers of both sides as human. It was sensitive, poignant and an eye-opener for people who believed that the men on the other side of the border were just vultures.
Shershaah, the 2021 blockbuster, is quite a wonderful film. Primarily because it follows the story of Vikram Batra, a man who left a gigantic impression on India with his sacrifice, and secondly because it's a sensitive portrayal of the army, instead of the usual hostile hyper-masculinity. Shershaah is template material for both what biopics and war films should look like.