(This story was first published on 8 August 2017. It has been reposted from The Quint's archives on the eve of India's 75th Independence Day)
It’s hard to imagine a life devoid of freedom, living under someone’s rule, and a life of subservience — something our forefathers had to face under British rule. They fought hard and never gave up, breaking free from the clutches of the colonisers. This paved the way for a free India as we know it today.
As we embrace and celebrate India’s 75th Independence Day, let’s not forget the struggle of those who made it a reality. What better way to revisit the freedom struggle than watch movies which capture the essence of the fight for independence?
Here are seven movies that are a must-watch on Independence Day.
1. Mangal Pandey: The Rising
Set against the backdrop of India’s First War of Independence, Ketan Mehta’s Mangal Pandey takes you right to the centre of the 1857 sepoy mutiny – the first organised rebellion against the British forces. The face-off between Mangal Pandey and the East India Company, and the contention of the sepoys with the Enfield rifle greased with animal fat, forms the crux of the plot. The rebellion that ensues and the desire for self-rule makes Mangal Pandey worth a watch.
Watch it to witness the First War of Independence and for one man’s dream of freedom, which comes alive only 100 years after his rebellion.
Mahatama Gandhi remains a towering presence in India’s struggle for freedom. Ben Kingsley’s Gandhi chronicles the life of Mahatama Gandhi — from his days living in South Africa to his call for freedom in India. The movie beautifully captures key moments of Gandhi’s 30-year-long struggle beginning in 1915.
Where the movie does a brilliant job is in capturing the humane side of Gandhi and not the revered saint he is celebrated as. Watch it to be a part of India’s Mahatma-led freedom struggle!
3. The Legend of Bhagat Singh
The Legend of Bhagat Singh attempts to remind you of the sacrifices, courage and valour of Bhagat Singh. The life story of the revolutionary freedom fighter who gave his life at the tender age of 23, fighting for his dream of a free India, is inspirational.
Watch it to witness Singh’s struggle, his powerful slogans, and his unwavering desire for freedom.
4. Raag Desh
A court drama featuring the trial of three officers of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army (Azad Hind Fauz) is what Raag Desh is about. It is a story that goes into the intricacies of the British-Indian Red Fort Trials of 1945. In doing so, it captures poignantly the simmering political climate of the country aching for freedom, and the vulnerability of the British.
A nuanced take on patriotism, this is the latest entrant in movies that chronicle the freedom struggle.
5. Gadar: Ek Prem Katha
Gadar painfully chronicles the horrors of partition and the frenzied communal tension that followed. At the heart of it is a love story that began in undivided India only to see its culmination, among various trials and tribulations, in an India divided on the lines of religion.
A realistic portrayal of partition, the movie manages to evoke myriad emotions as the plot progresses. Watch it for Sakeena and Tara Singh!
Lagaan transports us to a small village named 'Champaner' in 1893 – a time when the British colonial rule was at its peak. The vulnerability of the naive villagers and the despotism of the British administration is realistically captured by the director. Where the film deserves credit is in its ability to subvert the narrative of the coloniser through a game of cricket.
Watch it to celebrate the indomitable spirit of the locals, who would do anything (read: defeating the British at their own game) to fight the injustice meted out to them.
7. Rang De Basanti
We seldom value things that come easy to us. This is true, to a large extent, of our freedom as well. Moving to and fro between two time zones, capturing pre- and post-independence India, director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra raises some uncomfortable questions. He does this through the complete metamorphosis of the characters – something that the audience can relate to. Needless to say, Rand De Basanti is a soul-stirring film that provokes you to take control of things and find solutions to difficult situations.
Watch Rang De Basanti to learn how to value freedom and what true patriotism means.