Patriotic Films Slither Into Paki-Bashing

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 Not that we are not given enough reason to be provoked. But lately patriotism in Hindi cinema has become equivalent to Paki-bashing.
This needn’t be so.
Says Rakeysh Mehra, “Cinema and politics should be kept completely separate from one another. Cinema should have its own point of view.I think the centre of filmmaking has shifted from Mumbai to many parts of the country. Mumbai became the centre of filmmaking after azaadi. There was Prabhat Theatres in Pune and the Marathi film industry was very evolved. Then immigrants like Prithviraj Kapoor, P.C BaruahBimal Roy, Guru Dutt  and Manoj Kumar made Mumbai their homes and built studios in Mumbai. The entire film fraternity was in Mumbai. Nowadays it’s very difficult for a small-town filmmaker to get a foothold in Mumbai. Circumstances in Mumbai are also not conducive to encouraging their creativity. It’s time for college and universities across the country to introduce courses in cinema and filmmaking. A sense of nationalistic pride will emerge from there.”
Rakeysh sees a palpable absence of history in today’s cinema. “Even when there is a sense of history it is imagined through the prism of romance. I think now that India is shrinking geographically there should be filmmaking talent emerging from other parts of India. Maybe Delhi can become another headquarter for filmmaking.Uttar Pradesh and Bihar can have a filmmaking culture.”
Pakistan-bashing , says Rakeysh, is a festering phenomenon on our films. “For a very long time  we nurtured a hatred for our neighbours, and they did the same for us. But cinema needs to have its own point of view.We need to tell stories about our roots and culture, and not tell stories in the style of American cinema.The only way we can become global is by becoming more Indian.The question of what works at the boxoffice also ties down our filmmakers.We need to grow more confident about individual talent and about the million of Indian stories that wait to be told.”
Bedabrata Pain whose recent patriotic film Chittagong garnered glorious reviews feels Paki-bashing in films is symptomatic of the larger sickness. “It is an accepted cliché that art imitates life. Sometimes, we fail to recognize just how much. The portrayal of patriotism in terms of chauvinism – that chest-thumping-flag-waving-neighbour-cursing variety – happens for a reason. 66 years after independence, when the question of nation building has appeared in a most acute way, it is this endeavor that has taken a back-seat from the political calculus of the elites and economic-and-political powers that be. And the expediency of chauvinism has taken a firm root, because after all chauvinism is an easy refuge of every scoundrel. I am reminded of Sahir’s poem, ‘Chin-o-arab humarahindostanhumararahene ko ghar nahin haisara jahan humara.’ Perhaps, today such a poem will draw the ire of our leader as being anti-national!”
Manoj Kumar who has made many of Bollywood most popular patriotic films in the past feels Paki-bashing is perhaps a sign of a growing intolerance within the country against outside aggression. “When the common man feel his freedom is being attacked from the outside he is bound to react aggressively.It is only natural that cinema inspire the patriotic nationalistic sentiments towards Mother India. I feel cinema can go a long way in inducing nationalistic passion in civilians . And that would motivate them to join the army. Civilians have stopped joining the army in large numbers because they have forgotten to be a good citizen of India. In order to be a true Indian you must first learn to be a good family man, then a good neighbor in your locality, then a good member of your city and then a good countryman.”Cinema today, feels Manoj Kumar, does not reflect any nationalistic fervour. 
“There are some efforts like Bhaag Milkha BhaagMilkhaSingh represents a golden chapter in our heritage history. He may have lost the gold medal at the Rome Olympics. But I feel he has won it now through this film.”
 However Manoj Kumar has quibbles with Rakeysh Mehra’s earlier paean to patriotism Rang De Basanti. “In that film Rakeysh tried to bring in various elements of history and contemporary politics. He spoke of Bhagat Singh and scams in the same breath. It was an interesting experiment. Somewhere we all feel the same helplessness and anger.We do vent our grief and anger about the scams. But we are not able to do much about it. Rang De Basanti captured the anger of youngsters who captured the radio and station and went on a killing spree against politicians. The ending left many people dissatisfied.”
Manoj Kumar would love to make another patriotic film. “But whom will I cast in the lead? The biggest asset for the writer-director Manoj Kumar was the actor Manoj Kumar. I played the lead in all my patriotic films Upkar,Purab Aur PacchimRotiKapada Aur MakaanKalyug Aur Ramayan. I didn’t need to pay the lead star. Today the whole film industry and its economics are controlled by stars. And you can’t blame them.Producers voluntarily pay them their staggering fees.One of the corporate houses approached me to make a  film for them, praised my music sense and storytelling and then asked which actors I can get them.I said Ram Mohan and Prem Chopra. Instead of focusing on what I’ve achieved and what I can do they want to know what stars I can bring in.Do stars  even listen to scripts?”
So until Manoj Kumar gets a production house to believe he can make a patriotic film without Shah Rukh Khan being cast as Emperor Ashoka or Ajay Devgn as Bhagat Singh, we won’t see another Upkar emerge from Manoj ‘Bharat’ Kumar’s production house.
“Although I can’t afford a star I will make a film ,maybe cast a tvactor. We’ve some very talented actors on television.That boy Vivian Dsena on Madhubala is a tremendous actor. Or I will make it with a newcomer. Remember every star was a newcomer once,” says Manoj Kumar hopefully.
Filmmaker Ananth Mahadevan  who has just completed a film on the life of a freedom fighter thinks the Manoj Kumar brand of patriotism is no longer relevant.  “I guess the atmosphere of the 60s and 70s no longer exists.
Manoj Kumar’s themes and treatment were more palatable to audiences then.But AshutoshGowariker’s  Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se or BedabrataPain’s  Chittagong doesn’t find the same enthusiasm among the new generation. Is patriotism on the wane?I can’t really say. But film makers feel it is too dry a subject for “students of the year”. Hence the understated approach  in my forthcoming biopic GOUR HARI DAStaan-THE FREEDOM FILE which tells the story of a freedom fighter’s fight for identity in a country he fought to free. Not every common man can become Anna Hazare or Arvind Kejriwal.They don’t have the reach or temperament. Their wars are silent like Das’. No sloganeering,fasts or fist raising pontification. The film is directed more towards the disillusionment of today’s youth and a new socio-political awareness that hits them”
Shoojit Sircar wants to make a patriotic film. “Earlier too many were being made. But now the time is right for a patriotic film. I am strongly tempted to attempt one.”
However Rensil d’Silva whose film on terrorism Kurbaan couldn’t crack the boxoffice thinks patriotic films are passé. “They are thought to be more serious in content. Right now mindless entertainers are the favoured flavour.”
Rahul Dholakia who made a vivid film Lamha on Kashmir militancy agrees with Shoojit. “We can’t have patriotic films because they can’t have item numbers, double meaning  dialogues and jokes about every race and community. Such films rake in Rs 100 crores. We are more fascinated by Dawood than Sardar Patel.Rehashes and remakes interest us much more than  researched patriotic films. Also, patriotic films are shot in India and not in exotic foreign loctions. I guess we’re more interested in making 100 crores than making films that will live for a 100 years.”
Says Bedabarata Pain, “It is a fine sentiment to say ‘mera bharaat mahan’.Who does not want  his own countrymen to be lifted out of their morass and prosper and become shining example in the world? But it takes real courage to recognize and admit what we haven’t achieved, and having done so, jump in to solve the problem. Patriotism is not just about the country, not just about the national anthem, not just about painting your face in tri-colors, it is first and foremost about the deep and unflinching love for your country-people. Mark Twain had once stated ,’Patriotism is supporting your countrymen all the time and your government when it deserves it.’  Do we have the courage to be patriotic?
It is easy to rouse people by looking outward, by proclaiming one’s real or supposed supremacy over the other, by denouncing the real or imagined ‘foreign enemy’. But nation-building is a difficult, arduous and often thankless task. It requires patience, forgiveness, and hard work. It doesn’t come with quick gratification or publicity blitzes.”    Pain feels patriotic films require an excess of dedication on the part of the filmmaker. “It is actually a serious challenge to our creativity – artists, film-makers or whatever have you – to make these honest stories attractive to the audience. Yes, it is far easier to tell a story of a gangster or of two lovers or even of love unrequited, but it takes real craftsmanship to tell the story of mother India.”
However Pain feels patriotic films must be made. “Where our elites and leaders fail, the artist must succeed .That’s the only way  to interest Indians in India. Not the shining, rising, incredible India – but India of workers, women, peasants, youth … That would be the true hallmark of a patriot.Frankly, in all honesty, today, there is a tremendous need to look inward – to introspect. To think and feel for the depredation and misery that large sections of Indian population endures, to figure out what our priorities must be to create conditions for the billion people to prosper and live with dignity befitting a human being. Instead, the specter of foreign terrorists and ‘evil’ designs of our neighbouring powers is used as a diversion from taking up the nation-building project. Today, 40-45% of our children are underweight, malnutrition is widespread, despair and suicide among peasants so common-place that we have almost forgotten, hunger levels are alarming (yes, even in vibrant Gujarat), millions of youth without direction … while the jobless growth carries on.”
  Filmmaker-thinker Muzaffar Ali cinema has  the clout to generate a sense of collective amity in people. “The power of our nationalism lies in the healthy evolution of a secular democracy which in today’s context  is possible through the language of moving images as it has happened in the USA.”
Muzaffar Saab blames the anti-Pakistan brand of Bollywood patriotism on our political bankruptcy. “ In the absence of an internal agenda we keep falling into Pak-bashing which helps them more than it helps our own image and self esteem. This task has been left half baked since 1947 when we got freedom at the cost of a deep communal divide which was thrust on people against their wishes. Our nationalism lies in understanding and strengthening the principles of those values of independence and delving into the cause and effect of the divisive colonial rule that the country witnessed since 1857 till 1947, which through cinema should have been explored threadbare like the Holocaust of Hitler , to ensure such calamities never happen again.”
 The maker of such socio-culturally rich cinema as  Gaman and Umrao Jaan ends on a note of pessimism about the quality of our films. “Indian cinema has only evolved technically aping the the West without going into their why and what of doing something and arriving at the essence and need of nationalism that empowers great nations.”
As Prasoon Joshi’s song says , ‘Raghupati raghav rajaram/Uth kar karne hain kuch kaam/Ab tak dheeraj mangattha/Prabhu ab dheeraj mat dena/Sehte jayen sehte jayen /Aisabhi mat dena/Uthkar karne hain kuch kaam/Raghupati raghavraja ram/Tum karuna saagar/ Tum paalan karta/Par jo zulm haikarta/Wohkahan tum se darta?’ Satyagraha is my most patriotic film to date. Some people think it’s about Anna Hazare’s campaign against corruption. But why should I model my crusader-hero on a contemporary crusader when  Mahatma Gandhi’s image and ideology are so vividly etched in the nation’s collective conscience? My hero is Gandhian. The fight in my film is to revive the values that the Mahatma left behind. But we can no longer fight corruption passively. The fight needs muscle and strength.Today’s patriot needs to rise in revolt and say, ‘Enough’ to corruption.”

Maths Genius Anand Kumar On His Meeting With His Screen Avatar Hrithik Roshan

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