I have always wondered as to the true objective behind making a patriotic film. Obviously, there has to be a clear intent to tug at the heartstrings with emotions of pride, love, euphoria, but these films also need to go one step further and evoke a certain social awakening. Here are my top 5 patriotic films that were an entertaining cocktail of history, romance, and social commentary.
We begin with the 2004 Farhan Akhtar-directed war-drama film Lakshya. Set against the backdrop of the 1999 Kargil War, the film does an excellent job of taking the audiences through the journey of an aimless youngster to a focused, disciplined Army officer. Facing rejection at the hands of his loved ones infuses an unwavering passion in the lead character to take his life seriously. It is a highly underrated film, in light of its slickly-produced battle sequences, realistic and taut training sequences, enthralling cinematography, and intriguing character arcs. The film does drag at times, given its three-hour-long runtime. However, it truly encapsulates the viewer as it hits the homestretch, with a background score that will rouse one to their very core.
Featuring one of Shah Rukh Khan's best on-screen performances is Swades: We the People. Inspired by real-life incidents, the film has become a cult classic. It is a beautiful, brave tale of nationalism provoking positive social change amongst the elite urban class and the rural classes in Indian villages. It is an experience of its own, giving patriotism a unique perspective. The soothing music curated by A.R. Rahman hits all the right notes, helping take the narrative forward. Rooted in reality, the film is an entertaining vehicle for positive nationalism with its gentle notes of humour.
The recently-released biographical war film, Shershaah, is based on the life of the Param Vir Chakra awardee, Captain Vikram Batra. It is a power-packed flick that aptly honours the legacy, valour, and courage of one of India's bravest heroes, with a finale that has the viewer reaching for the tissues. Sidharth Malhotra in the titular role gives in a career-defining performance. The film takes some time, ultimately finding its groove at the top of the second hour, as the intensity of the battle heats up. The sublimely-executed action sequences give us a more visceral presentation of the chaos and tension of the war. The video package at the end of the film featuring the real Vikram Batra leaves the viewer teary-eyed. The film also goes on to highlight the actual cost of war in terms of lives lost, making the audience ponder over the harsher realities of victory.
The Alia Bhatt-starring spy thriller, Raazi, is an adaptation of Harinder Sikka's novel, Calling Sehmat. The actress completely steals the show in this tear-jerking, heart-pumping, incredibly emotional, spell-binding espionage drama. Meghna Gulzar provides an intelligently-written sensible thriller for a mature audience, enabling them to appreciate the concepts of honour and patriotism. The beautifully-enchanting cinematography supported by crisp editing, a strong plot, well-fleshed-out characters, and a gem of a soundtrack composed by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy makes for some riveting viewing. The film defies the tried-and-tested features of an espionage drama, pulling in more emotions as compared to explosions, while gradually allowing the underlying tension to ramp up for an intense finish.
The top honor goes to the skilfully-crafted, thought-provoking entertainer, Rang de Basanti. Standing firmly on the palpable, raw energy of a young cast that included the likes of Aamir Khan, Siddharth, Sharman Joshi, Atul Kulkarni, Kunal Kapoor, and Soha Ali Khan; the film hooks the viewer in right from the very beginning. The simply poetic transformation of the youngsters into heroes strikes a powerful chord with the audience. Backed by A.R. Rahman's splendid soundtrack, the film artistically highlights the contemporary reality of a modern India. It instigates political thought, encouraging the youth to become more responsible citizens of the country. Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra could have easily given into preachiness, but instead uses cinematic excellence to bring his message across.