60 years of patriotism, Bollywood style

Aug 12, 2007 Priyanka Khanna

New Delhi, Aug 12 (IANS) Fables of patriotism almost always have sent cash registers ringing at the Bollywood boulevard and as we gear up to celebrate India's 60th Independence Day, nationalism has got a reel life makeover with Shah Rukh Khan starrer "Chak De! India".

The film that released Friday may be one among many Hindi films espousing nationalism but the Yash Raj Films (YRF) production redefines reel patriotism without stroking hatred for another nation.

And unlike a zillion Hindi films where women play non-consequential roles as the male lead forges ahead and saves the pride of the nation, in "Chak De! India" the country relies on a gaggle of 17 girls to save the day and bring home the World Hockey Championship.

Last year itself the same banner had released "Fanaa" about romance between a blind Kashmiri girl, essayed by Kajol, and Aamir Khan as a Pakistan-backed terrorist masquerading as tourist guide. The film ended with Kajol taking the life of her country's traitor. The film, however, was not projected as a story of a patriotic woman.

Bollywood has always reflected the times. Before "Fanaa" hit the marquees, Aamir was seen in "Rang De Basanti" in which a group of young men draw lessons from the freedom struggle and justify using violence to rid the country of a corrupt leader.

However, this was not Aamir's first patriotic role. He had played a pre-independence villager in "Lagaan", who beat the Brits at cricket, and a patriotic cop in an earlier hit "Sarfarosh".

The same goes for Shah Rukh. Before donning the hat of a former disgraced Indian hockey team captain-turned-coach of Indian women's hockey team on a mission in "Chak De! India", he has played an NRI in "Swades" (2004), who comes back to India to work for the uplift of villagers.

In 2003, a film with rabid Pakistan-bashing histrionics of Sunny Deol in "The Hero" slumped at the box-office. Clearly, the face of patriotism has moved from Manoj Kumar to Sunny Deol to the 17 women hockey players; just as the meaning of patriotism has changed from fighting imperialists to fighting the enemy across the border, to fighting the enemy within, and finally to announcing the arrival of India as a global giant.

That's perhaps why Rajkumar Santoshi's out-of-history-books "Legend of Bhagat Singh" did not do half as well as "Rang De Basanti", which used the same legend to galvanise today's apathetic youth to action.

Ditto with John Mathew Mathan's 2005 release "Shikhar". The film that espoused the Gandhian cause sank without a trace while "Munnabhai M.B.B.S." and "Lage Raho Munnabhai" have become a cult.

Far from the fear of Western culture gobbling up Indians as in yesteryears' feature film "Purab Aur Paschim", it is evident that anything Indian is piping hot internationally. Colonisation of the west by Indian culture is evident and Hindi films are not far from capturing this.

Coming Friday, actor Salman Khan will be seen romancing a Hollywood starlet in an Indo-US co-production "Marigold". As Prem, the mega star will make Ali Larter fall in love with everything that is Indian, making this a film to watch for all those with a patriotic zeal.

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