A rundown of the best political films made in Bollywood

An overview into how Hindi Cinema used to make good political films that had coherence and didn’t pander to the ruling party

The state of the recent political movies in Bollywood cuts a very sorry figure. Movies like the Accidental Prime Minister and PM Narendra Modi are woeful products in more ways than one. Yes they are incoherently staged both in terms of acting and storytelling, but apart from these aspects the movies have been used as tools for negative political propaganda. In the case of The Accidental Prime Minister it was clearly made to malign the former Prime Minister of India Manmohan Singh along with the entire Congress party. PM Narendra Modi on the other hand was meant to absolve Modi from all crimes and put him on a pedestal.

On the other hand both Kashmir Files and the Kerala Story are hugely islamophobic in nature. There is no denying the sufferings of the Kashmiri pundits but director Vivek Agnihotri presented a rather one sided pictures with all the Hindus being sufferers and Muslims being monsters. The Kerala Story on the other hand hugely exaggerated story of Hindu women being radicalized by the ISIS. Much like Kashmir Files here too you won’t find any positive Muslim character. This hate against Muslims represents the attitude of the BJP government. The success of both these movies is a byproduct of the times we live in.

Then there are the likes of Uri: The Surgical Strike, Tejas and this year’s Fighter. Uri: The Surgical strike was a highly dramatized account of Indian army retaliating to the URI Attacks. The movie was clearly meant to establish that the surgical strike had taken place in real. Not surprisingly the BJP party used the movie as a tool of propaganda particularly the dialogue “How’s the josh”. Hrithik Roshan’s Fighter was on the other hand was inspired by the Balakot strike. The climax of Fighter is straight out of a single screen universe with patriotic dialogues and ample dose of jingoism.

This year the team of The Kerala Story returned with Bastar: The Naxal Story which made a mockery of the Naxal movement, it didn’t find audiences even with those who like propaganda movies. Article 370 on the other hand directed by Aditya Suhas Jambhale did fairly well primarily due to the performances of the two leading ladies Yami Gautam and Priya Mani. However the characterizations of the Kashmiri locals which include the politicians was highly laughable. The director made it look like only Prime Minister Modi and BJP are concerned about the welfare of Kashmiri population.

Not surprisingly Narendra Modi mentioned about the movie urging the viewers to watch it a few before the movie’s release. Even you look at Kashmir Files the party workers played a significant role in promoting the movie. But it has to be said that political movies in Bollywood has not always been like this and following is an overview into some of the well crafted political ones.

Rang De Basanti directed by Rakesh Om Prakash Mehra was about the corruption in the defense department that leads to the death of a pilot played by R Madhavan. The movie did not shy away from showing the deep rooted corruption and the cynical attitude of the youth who believe that no good change can come.

What also added to the impact of Rang De Basanti was the way it intertwined the sacrifices made by our revolutionaries Bhagat Singh and Chandrasekhar Azad among others and today’s youth who think thoughts of revolution and sacrificing for the country is an outdated thought. The gradual change in the protagonists played by Aamir Khan, Siddarth, Kunal Kapoor, Sharman Joshi etc was wonderfully written and directed.

Prakash Jha is someone who is well known for directing movies that have an undercurrent of socio political aspects. For example his 2010 film Rajneeti was modeled on the epic Mahabharata while looking at the dark underbelly of the political scenario in our country. Through the huge ensemble of actors Director Prakash Jha cooked a gripping cocktail of complex relationships, an uncontrollable lust for power and rivalry of the siblings among other things.

A major highlight of Rajneeti was the strong characterizations of all the actors.  For example Ranbir Kapoor’s character Samar starts off as a young man leading a quiet life in the US. But getting sucked into the family politics brings out the monster in him. There is a hugely poignant scene towards the end where Samar decides that he has had enough and politics is not for him. Apart from the strong characterizations Rajneeti also had some powerful scenes showcasing the political circus that takes place when candidates meet ordinary people.

Aarakshan on the other hand directed by the same man took up with the burning topic of reservation, special benefits being given to people belonging to a particular caste. There are some powerful scenes in Aarakshan particularly the first half which depicts the class and caste conflict. Case in point being Pratik Babbar and Saif Ali Khan’s characters expressing their contrasting views about reservation, Pratik’s Sushant is a typical rich brat who thinks that Dalits should not be given any special privileges and are afraid of working hard.

Tamil Director S. Shankar is well known for making movies featuring vigilante protagonists. Through his protagonists the director has covered issues that are important to the common man. S. Shankar’s Nayak: The Real hero is the remake of his own Tamil movie Mudhalvan.  Unlike the vigilante protagonists of his previous movies who have an inbuilt social consciousness Anil Kapoor’s Shivaji Rao Gaekwad is more of a reluctant hero who wants to lead to peaceful life. Shivaji starts off as a cameraman in a popular television channel; from there he eventually becomes a reporter. One day his life takes a dramatic turn while interviewing the chief Minister of Maharashtra, Shivaji questions the chief minister on certain things like choosing to not control a violent riot that causes a lot of damage. In a very filmy turn of events Shivaji ends up being the Chief Minister of Maharashtra for a day and does a lot of good,  eventually he replaces Amrish Puri’s Balraj Chauhan.

Of course there is nothing subtle in the way Shankar goes about depicting the issues plaguing the society. Every point feels hammered in but at the same time there is no denying the relevancy of what Shankar addresses. There are scenes in the movie that mirror the real life corruption that we read about everyday from grassroot to national level. Through the character of Amrish Puri director Shankar also explored the harmful affects of vote bank politics and appeasing a certain community to just win the elections.

Nayak: The Hero is a movie that has aged well. Sure it was not a hit movie at the time of its release but over the years it has made a certain place in the viewer’s hearts.

Anurag Kashyap’s  Gulaal is also a noteworthy political movie. The plot of Gulaal is set in Rajasthan focusing on the community of the former royalty who want to restore both the Rajputana province and the kingship.

The central protagonist of this tale is Dilip Singh (Raj Singh Chaudhary), Dilip Singh starts off as an unconfident guy but soon gets involved in local politics after the death of his roommate cum friend Rananjay Singh (Abhimanyu Singh). Rananjay Singh was contesting in college elections, a local commander Dukey Bana (Kay Kay Menon) insists Dilip to contest in place of his slain roommate and he makes sure that Dilip does win on the behalf of the Rajputana party. Running side by side are multiple subplots.

Anurag Kashyap’s depiction of student politics and the violence is hard to stomach; nevertheless the movie makes a strong impact. Gulaal also works as a critique of some movements that talk about how a particular community or a region is superior to the rest.

Sometimes the movie also plays out like a Shakespearean tragedy combing elements of jealousy, greed and corruption. At other times you have the Quentin Tarantino touch in the staging of the scenes that show the lawlessness.

Here’s hoping that Bollywood gets back to making solid political movies. The current trend of propaganda political movies have reached a saturation point which is evident in the lackluster response of the recent ones.

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