All aboard the Aazaadi Sawaari! Your favorite patriotic films?

**Please see bottom of post for movies discussed in this series**

Would love to get your recommendations, and please do not hesitate if you are not of Indian origin. What unites us is our love of Hindi cinema, and that's all that matters! Updates and reviews at the bottom of the post.

One world. One dream. Saw the spectacular opening ceremony of the Olympics
at a Chinese restaurant (voted for Thai but deferred to friends) where at least 30 countries were represented. It was like one big global family watching the event. Fun! The lighting of the torch must have featured clips of these Bollywood actors who carried the torch in New Delhi (here's a recent interview with Aamir -- would you believe his haircut was banned in some Bangalore colleges?). And listening to the NBC announcers, one would think every region aside from the U.S. and Europe was politically incompetent (I could have lived with unstable -- and this isn't even Fox!). They're missing the point of the games. Oh well. Go Teams U.S. and India!

It's August, and we're less than a week away to August 15! Figured it would be a good month to discuss some of my favorite patriotic films, centered around the struggle for independence or the struggle to sustain goodness decades later.

Our Aazaadi Sawaari (independence vehicle) will go through films on the subject, listed at the bottom of this post (by year, as placed in films). Each has strong memorable moments on some mode of transport, whether in a song or otherwise. The modes range from elephants... bullock carts.

More bullock carts...

...and bullocks without carts (backdrop).

Tractors (how cool is this color palette?).



...and horse-drawn carriages.

Motor homes.





Bikes and jeeps.


Heck, even snowmobiles!

Aside: Of late, they tend to feature this dude at his best.

No matter what your preference, there's a vehicle for you! We'll be going through the following films over the next few weeks. All frames above are from these (at least one from each):

  • 1857: Mangal Pandey (2005) -- review added at this link.
  • 1893: Lagaan (2001) -- but we've been there!
  • 1947: Earth (1998) -- review added at this link.
  • Post-1947: Mother India (1957) -- review added at this link.
  • 1999: Sarfarosh (1999) -- review added at this link.
  • 2004: Swades (2004) -- review added at this link.
  • 2006: Rang De Basanti (2006) -- review added at this link.
  • 2006: Fanaa (2006) -- review added at this link.

So hop aboard the Aazaadi Sawaari, and let's move forward and enjoy the ride! Chale Chalo. And while we're at it, which patriotic Bollywood films do you like most?


Filmi Girl said...

I'm not sure if you can count my vote, seeing as I'm not Indian, but I love Manoj Kumar-style patriotism in Roti Kapada aur Makaan and Purab aur Pachhim.

Maybe the patriotic movies beloved by non-desis can be another topic... :)

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Filmi Girl: Of course, of course all opinions count equally! Now that you mention it, I should have done a better job of encouraging those not of Indian origin to comment. Apologies if this wasn't evident in the post. And there's a desi in each of us, isn't there?! ;)

I haven't seen the Manoj Kumar films you mentioned, which means given my love for period films and this topic, I need to check them out! Thanks!

A2line said...


another comment from a non-desi girl : my favorite are Swades and Mangal Pandey. And Chak de India.
oh and I just love this video from Shankar's Indian :, even if the movie is quite bad.

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi a2line: Thank you for your comment! Completely agree with Mangal Pandey and Swades. I really liked Chak De India too the first time I saw it!

Thank you for sharing that video! It's interesting how they set ablaze that fallen sepoy...reminds me of the festival of Dussehra!


Filmi Girl said...

You're right, Bollywood Fan, there is an inner-desi in all of us. :)

I think patriotic movies that move even those who are not from the country in question are very special. The best ones are inclusive - not exclusive - defining patriotism by who we *are* instead of who we *aren't.* Films like Lagaan and Chak De India are wonderful examples of that. :)

theBollywoodFan said...

That's a great way to look at it, Filmi Girl. Glad you approach these films with that mindset, and hopefully we'll find more films that are inclusive.

Of course, there will be cases when the target audience is deliberately segmented by filmmakers (and sometimes, they would argue, purposefully), where this is more challenging.

Thanks for stopping by!

joss said...

My inner desi loves Swades! How can I finish watching this film, for the fifth time, feeling homesick for somewhere that I have only ever spent two weeks in? Why do want to 'go back', away from the place I was brought up? I think I must be an NRNRNI: non-resident, non-returning, non-Indian! I need help!

phir milenge

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Joss: Thank you for your comment. Swades was one of the few films that succeeded in making us feel homesick, wasn't it? Loved how Ashutosh Gowariker put it together. The plot, the music, the acting, everything about it was excellent.

Your experience with the film is very interesting, thanks for sharing! I'd even coin the NRNRNI term if I were you! =)


Anonymous said...

These are some great patriotic movies.

It might be dorky, but I love the Manoj Kumar style patriotism. So, even though I am not a big fan of Sairabanu, I accepted her in Purab and Pashchim.

I am not sure I understand the non-returning part of NRNRNI. Is it because of lack of time or money? I can't imagine that a swadesh loving inner desi would not return by choice.

Joss said...

I am non-returning because of ill health only. I have been unwell for 18 months now ... but the hope of visiting India again motivates me to get better soon. Likewise, I hope to one day learn Bollywood dancing, go to an Indian wedding, and buy a sari like Sushmita Sen's in Main Hoon Na (the red one!)

It will all happen one day, I'm sure.

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Anonymous: Thank you for your comment and for the recommendation. I definitely need to check out Manoj Kumar movies!

The non-returning part is interesting. In many cases it does have to do with financial resources. In other cases such as mine, it has to do with family and the desire to lay a foundation for a career in an economy that has most to teach. In that respect, the greed to learn (in an undoubtedly better corporate and academic infrastructure) can be quite overwhelming, I'll admit.

We have a little more control of time, and it's always a shame to hear anyone complaining of not having time. We can *make* time!!!

Some day, the swadesh loving inner desi will take many of us back to India.

Hi Joss: Hope you feel better soon! You *will* InshaAllah get to do everything you note (that's a great sari choice too!). Hang in there!

salek said...

BollywoodFan, this is a great list you have, but I would object to 1947 Earth being categorized as a “patriotic” Bollywood film. Although Earth is set at the time of India’s independence, it certainly is not a film that seeks to promote nationalism. The author of the novel that served as the basis for the film, Bapsi Sidhwa, is Pakistani, and I don’t she think intended to glorify any sense of national identity. Rather it was humanity she felt that should unite all of us, above any sort of national, religious, or ethnic identity. While Indians dominate the cast and crew, Earth is not so much a patriotic film as one that speaks to the universal human experience. However I can see why this film is on your list of favorites - it’s simply one of the best ever made on the Partition era.

theBollywoodFan said...

Hi Salek: Thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. Agree that Earth is 'simply one of the best ever made' on partition. Also agree that Earth does not explicitly promote nationalism, or glorify a sense of national identity. In fact, it could be argued that it does quite the opposite. Point taken.

Here's my thought process behind its inclusion in the list:

The films are stated as "favorite patriotic films, centered around the struggle for independence or the struggle to sustain goodness decades later."

Focusing on the second half of this sentence, I think few other films have come this close to questioning the definition of patriotism from *both sides*, begging the viewers to ask themselves the question: "Have we changed since, and why/why not?" In some ways, I interpreted this as questioning patriotism and loyalties (not always negatively, just invoking thought thereof, which is a feat nevertheless), as the film does throughout. Although I appreciate and completely understand that not everyone looked at it this way. The film was not without its share of controversies.

I haven't read the book, so maybe there's more to it than I saw?! :)


Darshit said...

hey man, the Swades link took me to TZP post !!

theBollywoodFan said...

Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Darshit. I've updated the link. That's what I get for updating multiple posts together, LOL. Just as a reference to everyone, links to all reviews are always available in the A-Z film listing noted in the sidebar near the top-right.