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India at 75: From Mother India to Rocketry; deconstructing India’s dynamism through the lens of cinema

Here’s a short history of changing sentiments of the Indian youth since independence seen through the eyes of cinema.

Films have been instrumental in the nation-building process

A film’s relationship with its audience is not always unidirectional. It can also reflect the public sentiment of its viewers. This is why it is considered a discourse film. Films have been instrumental in the nation-building process, starting with the silent film era and continuing through Bollywood after independence. Like other forms of mass media, films are made to imitate the life of their subjects. For instance, in the 1950s, movies that were successful at the box office told stories that were relevant to the current state of affairs. Films from the contemporary era have also sought to convey political and economic messages in a more candid manner. Here’s a short history of changing sentiments of the Indian youth since independence seen through the eyes of cinema.

Mother India:

In 1957, Mehboob directed the film “Mother India.” It portrayed the various economic problems faced by the country at that time, from farm distress to rural indebtedness.

Based on the life of Radha, the main character of the film, Nargis, who plays the role of a selfless mother, shows the conflict between India’s traditions and its steps toward modernity. The film also portrayed the exploitation of the poor and the reality of rural India. The movie earned its first Academy Award nomination.

Naya Daur

Naya Daur explored the various aspects of industrialization and the painful process of managing the transition from one era to another at the cost of displacement and technological adoption in the backdrop of Industrial Policy Resolution. It also highlighted the common human struggles faced during this time. The movie has gained a significant following due to its depiction of the exploitation of peoples’ lives.

True to its title, the movie continues to be ahead of the times. It features a variety of characters and storylines that are both relatable and entertaining.

Pather Pachali

Satyajit Ray’s directorial became a resounding success at the international film festival. The film, which is set in a rural village, is a depiction of India’s socialist economy. It shows the simple but powerful message of growing up amidst the hardships of poverty. Ray’s film set in a rural area shines with the way he manages to capture the essence of India. He has also managed to create an emotional depth that is unlike anything that other filmmakers have been able to achieve. The tension between the village and the city is explored in the film, which is a reflection of our current climate.

Mahanagar

Based on the short story “Abataranika,” Mahanagar documents the changes that occurred in Calcutta during the 1950s. Ray’s film is a reflection of the changes that occurred in the middle-class Bengali community. Through his screenplay, he explored the various emotions that were brought about by the changing social mores in the city brought on by consumerism and its effect on personal relationships — through the dreams and desires of a family.

Also Read: India at 75: Five things Bollywood needs freedom from

Zanjeer

The movie, which was released in 1973, started the Indian cinema’s trend for the Angry Young Man. It portrayed the various aspects of the pharmaceutical industry through a nuanced depiction of the Indian Patents Act, which was enacted in 1970. By breaking away from the typical hero’s avatar, he became more relatable to the audience. His character was able to channel the audience’s anger and frustration with a broken system.

Manthan

Written by renowned playwright, Vijay Tendulkar, and directed by Shyam Benegal, Manthan is a historical fiction film about the White Revolution that happened in Gujarat. It is based on the story of Amul, the brand most associated with dairy and milk in the country. The film was financially supported by 500,000 farmers. The film is full of complex characters and storylines that deal with multiple aspects of social and ethical issues from caste, and privilege to morals that come from doing good.

Bandit Queen

Shekhar Kapur’s “Bandit Queen,” which was based on the life of Indian bandit Phoolan Devi, captured the imagination of the world. It highlighted the oppression and vengeance faced by the women and lower castes in the country. Although the film focused mainly on the issues of women and the lower castes, it also addressed the issues related to the political and legal situation in the country.

Hum Aapke Hain Kaun

In 1994, Sooraj Barjatya’s film, “Hum Aapke Hai Kaun,” became the biggest grosser in the history of Indian cinema. It collected an estimated Rs 120 crores. The movie’s success helped pave the way for the growth of the multiplex industry and became a trendsetter of its own kind. 

In its first year, the film was able to collect over $63.8 million. It was then recognized as the highest-grossing Indian movie by the Guinness Book of World Records. In 1996, it has crossed the billion mark.

Dil Chahta Hai

The film “Dil Chahta Hai” (2001) by director and writer, Farhan Akhtar, became a significant turning point in Indian cinema. It was unapologetic in addressing the rising aspirations of the young urban youth and the changing professional and personal lives of the millennials.

For the first time in Bollywood, a rich hero didn’t have to go through major conflicts to win or fight for his life. Instead, he was able to start a story unapologetically by himself, about and for a distinctly globalized city sensibility.

Swades

The Indian diaspora is a vital part of India’s strategic asset. It is the largest source of human capital flows and financial transactions in the world. In 2004, a film titled “Swades” highlighted the increasing number of people who came back to India after working or studying abroad.

Like Mohan’s desire, his caravan is too big for his small town. Like his ambition, it can never be enough to make a home. Swades is a tale of homecoming, of rediscovery, a love letter to the idea of home itself.

Rang De Basanti

In 2006, a film titled “Rang De Basanti” was released which highlighted the political situation of the country. The story revolves around the youth of the country who decided to fight against the prevailing government. While the industry was fixated on films such as “Don,” “Dhoom,” and “Krissh,” Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra changed the game with a more relatable and uplifting film. It remains to be one of the most talked about films of the decade.

Mission Mangal

A movie that celebrates the changing discourse of India in the space of science and technology. While the women in “Mission Mangal” were fictional, they were the real people who were involved in India’s first mission to Mars. The film focused on the team members who were involved in the mission, which was carried out in just 18 months. During the course of the mission, the team worked up to 14 hours a day to successfully place a satellite in orbit around Mars.

Gully Boy

In recent years, the rise of authentic hip hop in India has been regarded as a significant cultural phenomenon. It is the only political space in the music industry that’s currently being represented by people from the underprivileged.

The commercial success and critical acclaim of “Gully Boy” have highlighted the changing tone of Indian cinema. Through a combination of traditional cinematic elements and new narrative ideas, director and writer, Zoya Akhtar, has delivered a film that is both uplifting and challenging. The film’s songs have also raised various concerns and questions about the current political situation in the country.

Newton

Newton is an anti-bildungsroman. It introduces a young man and sets up a series of obstacles that he will have to overcome in order to reach his goals. It’s not about his eventual success but whether or not it has a larger meaning.

One of its main goals of Newton is to just keep going. It’s a dark comedy that explores the political situation of the country and its people through a series of personal struggles. This film is also deeply personal, and it’s not often seen in Hindi cinema.

Rocketry: The Nambi Effect

In “Rocketry,” the state machinery can quickly turn against an individual despite being an exemplary citizen. Despite this, the film is still a patriotic one. Nambi doesn’t accept the nation’s apology, yet he still tries to get the Padma Bhushan despite knowing that doing so would become his legacy.

The film shows how the country’s needs are constantly being met through rule-breaking. These are contradictions and complexities worth exploring. But Rocketry doesn’t want to stop and think, it only wants to run.

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