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Is Manoj Kumar’s Brand Patriotism Dead?

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Whatever happened to the patriotic films of yore? There was time when Manoj Kumar made a series of patriotic films beginning with Shaheed and Upkar. Today after a long period of hibernation he is all set to return  to filmmaking with a film on genealogy rather than deshbhakti.

So is filmy patriotism dead?

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Rakesh Omprakash Mehra, who directed one of the last and finest patriotic film Rang De Basanti in recent times, recalls the heartbreaking assault on his spiritual and emotional connectivity with the theme.

“There were 4-5 Bhagat Singh films that didn’t connect with the audience. Then there was Ketan Mehta’s Mangal Pandey. That too failed.  And my film starred  ‘Mangal Pandey’  Aamir Khan.  So any sign of patriotism  in my film was read as a  danger sign.  We  never thought about whether it would work or  not. It’s so  much fun to raise the bars.Someone has to believe in you if you give two years of your life completely. UTV did.   My kids forgot my face.”

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Recalls Mehra, “In school I wanted to join the air force.  It didn’t work out for me. In college in Delhi  I was predominantly  a sportsman. It didn’t work out because  I was from a lower middle-class family. And the first priority was to bring money back into the family….As kids in Delhi  on August 15 when we flew kites, we could hear India Gandhi speaking…On the other side there were the patriotic songs on the loudspeaker….Ae mere watan, Mere desh ki dharti…We were looking at  the idea of our country through  a kite….Films like Mother India, Do Bigha ZameenNaya Daur which came  on TV, touched all of us.  This  was the era when escapism hadn’t seeped into cinema  or real life.  I wanted to make a film on the life of the revolutionaries. What I didn’t want to do was to shoot them with halos ….I wanted to shoot them as normal youngsters . I wanted to call it The Young Guns Of India.The race for Bhagat Singh started. Initially I wanted to enter the race. Then I realized we were all insulting his memory. Attention was diverted by who would get into theatres first. I moved on….I did a focus group  in Delhi and Mumbai. I took a new story idea to youngsters between 17 and 23.  Our survey showed that for our generation a relationship meant, ‘Let’s get married and make babies together.’ Not to this  generation. The  youngsters we spoke to were driven by ambition. And  I  didn’t even know how to get on the internet!  Anyway, we then moved into surveying them about the country and  the tri-colour. The borders of patriotism had  blurred. Pagdi sambhal jatta was no more relevant. Not too many kids knew who Chandrashekhar Azad was. I told my writer KamleshPandey there was no point in making a  film about the freedom fighters. He insisted , reminded me  of  the passion that Manoj Kumar’s films used to incite. But that  was a different era. I sadly abandoned the original idea and hit on another idea of a  British documentary filmmaker coming to  India to make a film   on the Indian armed revolution. She finds kids  who are more western than her.  Two lines… the past and present run together. They intersect. Finally my heroes took to the gun. At the end my heroes realize how futile it was to kill the home minister. Every story  has to follow its own course. When heroes in a mythology enter  the caves to fight the demons , they’ve to  perish. Mani Rathnam’s Yuva didn’t work  for me after  the heroes went into the parliament….What’s jolting the audience is, they love my heroes and they don’t want them to die. What I was trying to say is, we got independence from the goras. But we got enslaved  by our own.  Now we’re killing each other. Take any government from the Congress’ Emergency to the Americans in Vietnam. You’re from Bihar. You know what I mean. There can be  no neat solution to the problems we face.  My film  was  a conversation  with the masses.”

Bedobrata Pain is the director of the only patriotic film in the past few years. His Chittagong is a take on the well-known Chittagong uprising against the British Raj in 1930 .Pain feels patriotic films have run out of steam. “I think one of the problems with our patriotic films is that it focuses more on sacrifice and hero worship  and less on the victory. I tried to get away from that.In my film there’s this feeling that it won’t end in sadness rather than on an uplifting note.I think today’s India wants to hear stories of winning.they also feel that a patriotic film will not be very exciting.Take a film like Braveheart .I think we have not been able to create such a big canvas. I don’t believe people have become apathetic to nationalism.I think the challenge for filmmakers  is to keep it exciting .I wanted to see if I could tell the story of a boy growing up in an age of optimism – and tell it in a very simple way,and keep the audience engaged  much like what our puranas or our epics have done.”

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Pain feels the patriotic fervour of Manoj Kumar’s cinema has run its course. “The patriotic cinema of ManojKumar type does not evoke the same sentiments today.That was the era of optimism, of hope, of vision , of anticipation of something big that was going to happen , for which people were willing to lay down their lives.But after some 65 years of independent India  that story of hope and vision  has been replaced by cynicism.

Very few films dare to talk about creating a new society.The pervasive theme is of cynicism The heroes are the marginalized of the world ,or the lumpen proletariat.Anurag Kashyap’s films are a classic example.Even Rang De Basanti succumbs to that. Despite their valiant resistance and their rebellious acts, the film’s protagonists  run out of ideas at the end.And despite their fabulous actions the film ends in a despair. I think we live in an age  where we don’t see solutions,where we don’t see inspiration.In Chittagong I wanted to tell a story of inspiration. If we compare M.S.Sathyu’s Garam Hawa with Sudhir Mishra’s HazaronKhwahishey …both beautiful films …I loved both of them. But Sathyu made me smile through my tears, whereas Sudhir made me sad even as I wa overwhelmed with the beauty of the film.”

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Pain feels today’s generations in India are averse to history. “Just see how many films were made on WWII or the Irish uprisings.But ours can be counted on our fingertips. At the same time, it’s not that the genre doesn’t work. Ashutosh Gowarikar had given us a hit movie with Jodha Akbar. Despite my misgivings about the film it worked.”

According to Pain the Emergency during Mrs Indira Gandhi’s regime was the turning-point in cinema’s relationship with history. “ I think the concept of India underwent a change with the onset of 1975 emergency. The India that we dreamt of  culminated in and ended with emergency.It almost feels like India had to be re-imagined.And then came the era of new economic policy in 1992.The last connection with the past was gone.So the quest for India took a very different turn. It’s almost as if a new discovery of India had to be written.Our present generation is a product for good or for worse (mostly worse I feel) of globalization.Their head is much stuck in the glitter of international wealth and American way of life than rooted in India. Most of the middle class urban youth today has no concept of slums and those who are in the lower rungs (or say in smaller towns)  don’t want to change their situation, they want an escape from it. We don’t want to create a new India.We want to escape it.And that’s what has caused our young generation to be disconnected from the present and the history of India.”

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Says Irrfan Khan cynically, “Patriotic films are replaced by T20 and 1-day matches between India and Pakistan.”

Says  filmmaker Sanjay Chauhan who directed Lahore, a film on IndoPak amity, “In contemporary cinema the definition of stereotypical patriotic films  has undergone a change.It is believed that one-dimensional flag-waving films studded with themes sacrificing one’s life for the beloved nation, like Anil Sharma’s Gadarhave lost their audience. I beg to defer.Filmmakers are imbibing them streak of patriotism in subtle ways and blending them effortlessly into themes depicting myriad realities of life. Rang De Basanti  with its candle-light protest stands tall in its support of how cinema can impact the mindset of society.Even my  film Lahore which many thought was anti-climactic because it showed Pakistan’s victory on a sports platform,, is a quintessential example  of new-wave patriotic cinema.Spoon-feeding the audiences with preachy patriotism is out.”

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Mulling over his long absence from direction Manoj Kumar says, “I never intended to be a director in the first place. I became one by default when during Shaheed I had to direct the film unofficially. Then LalBahadur Shastri raised the slogan of Jai Jawan Jai Kisan. That’s how I made Upkar. I give credit for my success to my parents. My father was a poet philosopher. I came to Mumbai with two targets .One was to be a hero, the other was to make 3 lakh rupees,1 lakh each for my two parents and 1 lakh for my siblings.When I had left home in Delhi in 1956 to come to Mumbai to become a hero my father gave me a letter . In that letter he said, ‘My blood can never commit blunders, only mistakes’. I made mistakes in my career. But not blunders

Recalling the grenesis of one of his most well-known films Roti Kapada Aur Makaan Manoj Kumar says, “When I was in Class 8 a senior student named Dewan a school function  chanted, ‘Maang raha haiHindustan roti kapada aur makaan. That’s where the idea came to me. Roti Kapada Aur Makaan remains contemporary. The film was inspired by a  report in a  newspaper in 1972. A young graduate tore up his degree in front of the vice-chancellor as soon as it was given to him. That set me thinking about degrees and jobs. I was in Hardwar with my children once when I heard  Hai hai yeh majboori early morning at 4 am on the loudspeaker.I found that funny.Yes ,Zeenat danced and I just watched.The irony of the situation was Bharat couldn’t join her in the rain because he had to go for a job interview.Also, after Upkar and Purab AurPachchim where I played a patriotic idealist how could I be shown getting intimate with the heroine? In the culture that I come from men didn’t touch women before marriage. Trust me it was very hard for me to not touch my heroine and still create romance.It used to be  a nightmare.In Purab Aur Paschim Saira Banuplayed a half-British girl. Wohto seedha pakad kar chummi le leti. It took all my willpower to protect the sanctity of my hero Bharat.”

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Manoj Kumar recalls the genesis of  one of the most popular patriotic songs Mere desh ki dharti  in his directorial debut Upkar.”That song is imperishable. When Mahendra Kapoorji, who sang ‘Mere desh kidharti’, expired our prime minister Manmohan Singh said he would always be remembered for ‘Mere desh kidharti’. It hurts to know so many people connected with that song – KalyanjiMahendra Kapoor and Gulshan Bawra – are no more.”

The veteran actor remembers how the song “Meri desh ki dharti” was conceived.

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“Meri desh ki dharti  happened when we had gone to a shrine to pay our respects. When we returned from the shrine in the car, lyricist Gulshan Bawra  was singing ‘Mere desh ki dharti sona ugley… jawanon bharbhar lo jholiyan… khushi se bolo boliyan.’ I kept quiet as he hummed these lyrics.Two-three years later when I made ‘Upkar’, I went to music composer Kalyanji and narrated the script. I called Gulshan Bawrahome and told him the situation. I recalled the lyrics I had heard him hum near the shrine. It had stayed in my mind I saw it as a great idea that needed to be improvised.But I didn’t like the lines ‘Jawanon bhar lo jholiyankhushi se bolo boliyan?I removed it from my ‘Upkar’ song. Instead we had ‘Meri desh ki dhartisona ugley ugle heere-moti’. Both Kalyanji and Gulshan were hesitant. They said the ‘mukhda’ of a song couldn’t be of one line. But I was adamant.An hour later Gulshan, who was sitting in the next room jumped and said, ‘This is great’. Every filmmaker while writing a screenplay comes to a landmark point in the plot where he thinks a scene can be narrated musically. That situation is given to the lyricist and explained. That was how Mere desh ki dharti happened.”

Filmmaker Ananth Mahadevan feels the concept of patriotism has undergone a ‘see’ change in cinema. “Shaheed, Kranti and then came the last of the patriotic films Khelenge Hum Jee Jaan Se and Chittagong, about characters fighting for their country in pre-Independence India. The outlook has changed. Patriotism is  defined in the cuurent context.. Ketan Mehta’s Mangal PandeyAshutosh Gowariker’s Khelenge Hum JeeJaan Se and Bedobrata Pain’s Chittagong were the last blast from the past.”

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Subhash Ghai, who made the fiercely patriotic Karma, doesn’t believe Manoj Kumar’s brand of  patriotism to be dead. “It’s still there in Indian cinema. But the definition of patriotism has changed.Audiences don’t want empty slogans, false pride and bogus dreams.Today cinema is addressing itself to Real India.You may see some reflection of that reality in my next film Kanchi.”

Writer Prasoon Joshi feels patriotism remains unchanged in our films. “It’s still about love and loyalty for the country.Earlier perhaps it was more tangible in terms of an external enemy and striving to get freedom for your country. This is where the Shaheed genre of patriotic cinema came in. Then it was  about building your country, the Naya Daur and Upkar genre of patriotic cinema. Today’s patriotic cinema is about  changing our country, purging it of the corruption and others ills that have set in.The enemy is within. Today Gandhian ideals are again finding a resonance in our cinema, e.g Raj Kumar Hirani’s Munnabhai. Be the change you want.”

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Dr Chandraprakash Diwedi who crafted that fine film Pinjar on the theme of patriotism feels the definition  of patriotic cinema has changed over the years. “Yes, there has  been a decline in films depicting past A patriotic film needn’t be historical in content.Any film that strengthens and integrates society ,cultivates peace and harmony is patriotic.For me Salim Ahamed’s Malayalam film Adminte Makan AbuGautamGhose’s Bengali Moner Manush and Amit Rai’s Road To Sangam are also patriotic films.”

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Pink Director’s Next  Featuring Yami As A Crime Reporter To Stream From February 16

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Yami

Anniruddha Roy  Chowdhury whose  Pink  featuring Amitabh Bachchan and Taapsee Pannu was one of  the  most important  films of  2016, is all set to  release his  next  Hindi film.

Entitled LostAnniruddha’s film , based on true  events, will see Yami Gautam Dhar(that’s  what the actress calls herself after her marriage)  as a crime journalist. LOST is an emotional social thriller that represents a higher quest, a search for lost values of empathy and integrity.

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Inspired by true events, Lost is a story of a bright young woman crime reporter in her relentless search for the truth behind the sudden disappearance of a young theatre activist.

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Says Aniruddha  “The shoot of LOST has been an incredible journey. I have been eager for the release of our hard-worked venture. The film is a realistic highlight of media in a social context and I am sure that it will give the audience a compelling watch. I am curious about its release and see the responses it shall get. I hope they will welcome it with open hearts.”

Yami Gautam Dhar  who plays  the lead  of  the  crime reporter  says,   “I can’t be happier and more proud of the film’s selection for the opening night at CSAFF. I feel like its one that the people will connect to and will be the one that you cannot miss, especially in the current age and time. I have loved playing this role because it was such a special experience, it allowed me to explore so many layers of emotions as an actor and the entire team has worked really hard on it. I genuinely cannot wait for the film’s release, especially to see the reactions of the audience to it.”

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The crime investigation  drama boasts a stellar cast. Along with Yami, the film will feature Pankaj Kapur, Rahul Khanna, and an ensemble of younger talent, including Neil Bhoopalam, Pia Bajpai, and Tushar Pandey, in pivotal roles.

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Jamuna Had A Love-Hate Relationship With  Bollywood

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Jamuna

Veteran  Telugu  actress  Jamuna who passed away on Friday, shared an uneasy relationship with  the Hindi film industry.She did eleven Hindi films including the iconic Milan in  1967 where Jamuna  agreed to play the  second lead, or the  supporting role if you will, to Nutan.

 Jamuna as Gauri was the Other Woman who craved for the hero Sunil Dutt’s attention whereas  he had  eyes and devotion  only for Nutan. In later  years  Aruna Irani played a similar  role in  Caravan.

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 In Milan Jamuna  was not keen to  do a supporting role. Producer L V Prasad tempted her with three chartbusting songs. Besides, Jamuna had played the same role in Mooga Manasulu, the  Telugu original  of  Milan. But it  was the songs composed by Laxmikant-Pyarelal  which convinced  Jamuna to  take up the second lead in Milan.

 While  Nutan had no solo songs  in Milan, she did have the chartbuster duet  Sawan  ka mahina . Jamuna on the  other hand,  had two  splendid Lata Mangeshkar solos: Tohey saawariya naahin khabariya  and   the magnificent Ghazal Aaj dil pe koi  zor chalta nahin.Not only  these, Jamuna  also had a  hit duet  with Mukesh  based on her character  Gauri:  Bol Gauri  bol tera kaun piya.

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But  then, fate  intervened. After the film released  one of Jamuna’s solos, the poignant and memorable  Aaj dil pe koi zor chalta nahin was  snipped  out of the film.

Here is what  happened:  the  Ghazal , one of Lataji’s all-time greats, was very much a part of Milan when  it released on 17 March 1967. But then  it was seen to hamper the  flow of the  film and  edited  out. The  beautiful song occurred right after intermission. Producer  Prasad, a shrewd  filmmaker, got to know that audiences prolonged their  loo breaks as there was  a song after the break. Hence the sacrifice  of  a seriously  sonorous melody.

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Jamuna hardly did  Hindi films after Milan. Her last  Bollywood appearance  was in  Raj Kumar  Kohli’s Raj Tilak  where she  was lost in a multistarrer as  the royal  queen.

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Karan Johar Moves Alia Song From Switzerland To Kashmir

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Rocky Aur Rani  Ki Prem Kahaani

The  romantic duet in  Karan Johar’s Rocky Aur Rani  Ki Prem Kahaani  which was to be  shot in Switzerland and which was  delayed  due to the film’s leading lady Alia Bhatt’s motherhood, is now being relocated to  Kashmir.

Purely out of  the  love for  new mom Alia.

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Says a source in the know, “Karan loves Alia  like his own daughter. He would do anything for her. He postponed  the  release of Rocky Aur Rani Ki Prem Kahani as the love duet could not be shot before Alia’s maternity leave. Karan had decided to shoot the song in Switzerland  after Alia’s maternity love. But now he has relocated the song to Kashmir  as Alia doesn’t want to leave her  baby girl behind for  long stretches.”

And as Karan Johar argued, snow is  snow. How does it matter whether it is  Switzerland or Kashmir?

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This  song would be Karan Johar’s tribute to  his  idol Yash Chopra. Alia would be dressed in chiffon sarees while  Ranveer, for  a change, would be seen in  formals.

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Bobby Deol’s Switchover To Villainous Roles

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Bobby Deol

After  Prakash Jha’s webseries Ashram where Bobby  played a sleazy  godman, and Love Hostel  where  he was a ruthless assassin,   he is playing the villain to Ranbir Kapoor in  Sandeep Vanga’s  Animal.

Bobby says it is not conscious career decision to play negative characters  but a conscious  decision to play interesting characters. “ I don’t look at  characters as positive or negative.When I watch  films there is always  one character  that stays  with you. I want to play that  character.”

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Prakash Jha’s Ashram proved a gamechanger for Bobby.  He admits finding  challenging roles is tough.  “I am trying. I  am doing Sandeep Vanga’s Animal with Ranbir  Kapoor , Parineeti Chopra. Then I am doing the family film Apne  2 which I am  very excited  about.”

 In an  earlier  interview with  this writer Bobby spoke  about his   long absence  from screen  before Prakash Jha’s Ashram.  “My fans   would ask why I wasn’t being seen on the screen.And I couldn’t tell them it was  because  I wasn’t getting good roles. But my fans  stood by me. They gave me  the strength  to  keep looking for the right roles. Thankfully I found the roles I liked. My new  films have given  me  some new fans. I am  thankful  I am still here. Yeah , I am in a good space right now.”

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