Bollywood influences and almost the entire population of the nation, and the Hindi movie industry’s understanding of freedom is embarrassing and this is reflected on what they decide to show us on Independence Day.
National holidays are always a reason to celebrate. Even if they do not come with a festival, they prove to be a holiday we never knew we needed. A breathing space, quite similar to a Sunday, but incredibly precious. While our lazy brain cells debate whether or not to spend the day holed up binging on a senseless television show, corporations are at work.
If we could rank holidays on the basis of which can be most easily capitalised, Independence Day would surely be at the top. It does not just carry meaning; it carries immense emotion and history, too. It also helps that independence is a spectrum – any incident in our lives could be loosely tied to the idea of freedom. The sheer number of products and the brands they belong to hence find different ways of associating themselves with this day, and frankly the results are incredibly creative and inclusive. For example, last year Ola’s campaign, #MyIndependenceDay followed Meghna Sahoo, their first transgender driver, getting ready for the day’s work or #UnitedByHope from Benetton.
Although these advertisements are produced by corporations that value profit more than anything else, they push the boundaries and very often start conversations. It is important for imaginations to be filled with myriad notions of freedom and patriotism. Bollywood, on the other hand, seems insistent on feeding us one type of patriotism and one idea of freedom. Judging by what the industry has been serving on Independence Day for the past few years, they seem obsessed with an aggressive and predominantly masculine brand of patriotism.
Let’s consider Independence Day releases of the past five years. Here’s a list for your reference-
2019 – Mission Mangal, Batla House, and
2018 – Toilet- Ek Prem Katha
2017 – Rustom
2016 – Brothers
2015 – Singham 2
It doesn’t take a lot to notice that the protagonist is almost always a dedicated male soldier, a dedicated male police officer, a dedicated father, etc. It’s one man’s fight to save a city or the country.
Mission Mangal stands out presenting a different brand of patriotism, one that involves the use of intelligence and team-work. Even though the poster makes it very clear that the male scientist is more important and hence takes roughly the amount of space given to five female pivotal characters, it is refreshing to see that, for once, it is not one man’s fight to make the country proud. In fact, a lot of people were involved and all of them had equally important roles to play.
Isn’t that a much more holistic and realistic approach to understanding what being a patriot is? The ability to collectively make the country a better place? The decision to release these movies on Independence Day has consequences.
They begin to set the rules for what defines patriotism for popular imagination as they set the standard. People fill theatres on Independence Day, expecting this standard and then production houses continue making this brand of movies to suit this standard. It is a vicious cycle.
Another problem with these movies is that they always end well. That one man does succeed to save the city (no surprises there). Independence Day is a happy and proud occasion but independence is a process. It did not end on 15th August and it does not end when the credits start rolling.Bollywood barely tries to scratch the surface on the idea of freedom. The amount of influence they hold on public consciousness is no secret. Yet, they steer clear of uncomfortable conversations. Mainstream production houses never produce films that make you squirm in your seats. Look at the wasted opportunity, our country still houses communities who are yet to achieve an independent existence.
Our movies need to reflect realities, they need to urge us to define our own patriotism by making decisions that benefit the country in some way. We need to stop being fed stories that make us believe that there is no work left to be done, or even if there is, there is a muscular man out there to do it.
Feature Image Credits: The Times of India