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Lalit Rao

Mr. Lalit Rao is a film critic from Jaipur, India, FIPRESCI India member. He is currently writing a book on 25 best French films (1990-2015). Apart from ''World Cinema'', he is interested in chess, foreign languages, linguistics and philosophy. He is also the associate editor of the quarterly magazine "Cinematography Art". Mr. Lalit Rao has reported extensively on film festivals especially 'World Cinema' through more than 40 blogs and 8 videos channels. Cinema journal ‘Deep Focus’, and ‘Bangalore Film Society’ were represented by him as their correspondent in Paris for 2005-2006. He also presented a paper on Canadian cinema entitled ‘A brief overview of Francophone cinema in Québec’ during 20th International Conference on Canadian Studies, University of Rajasthan, Jaipur, 27-29 February, 2004. Apart from writing 1000 reviews on IMDB, Mr. Lalit Rao has created KINEMA, a database with information on 25,000 films. His articles in French and English have appeared in Deep Focus, Kinoglaz, Objectif-Cinema, Sancho Does Asia and Séquences. Mr.Lalit Rao studied Master 2 at Université de Paris 3 Sorbonne Nouvelle, Paris where he worked on ‘Distribution of Indian cinema’ in France. As a film critic, Mr. Lalit Rao has attended numerous film festivals in France and India.



Nationalism and patriotism in Hindi cinema © Lalit Rao (FIPRESCI) dated 15.04.2022

                   Nationalism and patriotism in Hindi cinema © Lalit Rao (FIPRESCI) dated  15.04.2022)

In contemporary times, there is hardly anybody who can deny the continuing potency of nationalism by observing the political events which shape today’s world. Nationalism refers to a doctrine which holds that national identity ought to be accorded political recognition. According to this doctrine, all nations have rights to autonomy, self-determination or sovereignty. Patriotism is a different concept altogether. It is more of a sentiment than a doctrine. Patriotism involves love of and support for one’s country.  Most philosophers are often inclined to dismiss nationalism.  For them, nationalism has no rational basis as it rests solely on brute emotions and tribal instincts. It should be mentioned that such a response simply overlooks all the different form which nationalism has taken. On the one hand, there is ‘authoritarian’ nationalism which allows national cultures to be imposed by force. This form of nationalism may justify acts of aggression against neighboring people. On the other hand, there is ‘liberal nationalism’ which upholds the rights of individuals to form political communities with all those with whom they feel identified and to protect their common culture.  The attitude towards patriotism changed in the 1980s with the revival of communitarianism. According to British philosopher, Alasdair Macintyre patriotism is a central moral virtue. The field of political philosophy is currently witnessing a great deal of interest in the moral credentials of patriotism. There is also a parallel discussion taking place which concerns the kind of patriotism that might provide an alternative to nationalism as the ethos of a stable, well-functioning polity.  Patriotism involves special affections for one’s own country, a sense of personal identification with the country, a special concern for the well being of the country and willingness to sacrifice to promote the country’s good. In the 19th century, Lord Acton contrasted Nationalism and Patriotism as affection and instinct versus a moral relation. Nationalism is ‘often our connection with the race’ which is merely natural or physical. Patriotism is the awareness of our moral duties to the political community. Lastly, for English writer George Orwell, nationalism is about power and prestige, patriotism is defensive. It is a devotion to a particular place and a way of life one thinks best but has no wish to impose on others.

Indian political leaders are known for their diverse viewpoints concerning Hindi films and cinema in general. Although Mahatma Gandhi continues to inspire Hindi cinema with more than 10 films having been directed about him, he was known for his aversion for cinema. In fact, he abhorred films. Gandhi's dislike for cinema even appeared a few times in ‘The Harijan’, a newspaper which he launched and edited. In an interview published in the May 3, 1942 issue of the paper, he stated: ‘‘If I began to organize picketing in respect of them (the evil of cinema), I should lose my caste, my mahatmaship..’’! In his lifetime Gandhi watched only two films namely an American film ‘‘Mission to Moscow’’ (1943) directed by Michael Curtiz and an Indian film ‘‘Ram Rajya’’ (1943) directed by Vijay Bhatt.

India’s first prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru was an avid cinéphile who not only played an integral part in the emergence of Hindi films but also supported and encouraged the genre of ‘films with a message’. Nehru’s commitment to Hindi films can be understood through an important incident which took place on January 27, 1963 at the Ramlila Maidan in New Delhi. It was on that day that he was moved to tears after hearing the patriotic song ‘Ae Mere Watan Ke Logon’ sung by the legendary singer Lata Mangeshkar. This song was composed by famous music director  C Ramachandra and with lyrics penned by the legendary Kavi Pradeep in honor of  Indian soldiers who lost their lives in the 1962 war with China. Nehru often liked to watch Hindi films and appreciate their creators. He wrote a letter of appreciation to director Bimal Roy after watching the film ‘‘Sujata’’ (1959) directed by him.  He also applauded the acting prowess of acclaimed actress and singer Suraiya after watching her film ‘‘Mirza Ghalib’’ (1954) directed by Sohrab Modi. He appreciated her acting by remarking that she has brought back Mirza Ghalib to life.

In current times, the success of ‘‘The Kashmir Files’’ (2022) directed by Vivek Ranjan Agnihotri has increased the awareness about nationalism and patriotism in the minds of Indians especially the youngsters who don’t know much about the recent past of India. This truly nationalist film has been endorsed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He stated that it is incumbent on those who fight for the truth to ensure that all efforts to present history in the right context are supported. Despite his busy schedule, apart from ‘‘The Kashmir Files’’, PM Modi has managed to watch 3 films such as ‘‘A Wednesday’’ (2008) directed by Neeraj Pandey, ‘‘Paa’’ (2009) directed by R.Balki and ‘‘The Light Swami Vivekanand’’(2013) directed by Utpal Sinha. Hindi cinema aficionados would be pleased to learn that the classic film ‘‘Guide’’ (1965) directed by Vijay Anand remains Indian PM Modi’s favorite Hindi film.

According to numerous experts writing on Hindi films, many Hindi films with nationalistic and patriotic themes were made after India got its independence in 1947. However, due to strict censorship measures adopted by the British rule, there were very few films before 1947 which tackled these themes in an overt manner. It is important to discuss some films which chose songs as a means of protest against the British regime. Kismet (1943) starring superstar Ashok Kumar directed by Gyan Mukherjee was one such film whose songs ‘‘Aaj Himalay Ki Choti Se’’ (Today from the summit of Himalaya) and ‘‘Door hato O Duniya walon, Hindustan hamara hay’’ (Move away, people of the World, India belongs to us) penned by Kavi Pradeep were instrumental in raising the feeling of nationalism among people. Both songs were sung by freedom fighters during ‘Quit India’ movement. There was also the Hindi film ‘Sikander’ (1941) directed by Sohrab Modi whose release coincided with World War II when the quest for Swaraj or Quit India at its peak. The political atmosphere was tense in India as Mahatma Gandhi gave call to civil disobedience. This film managed to further arouse patriotic feelings and nationalistic sentiments. These films were extremely important as they not only inspired our countrymen to fight for freedom but also spoke against social ills plaguing India.

Should we talk about the portrayal of nationalism and patriotism after independence two prominent names immediately come to mind.  These names are those of lyricist ‘Kavi Pradeep’ and Actor, director, producer ‘Manoj Kumar’. Kavi Pradeep wrote some of the most poignant patriotic songs such as ‘Dekh Tere Sansar Ki Halat Kya Ho Gayi Bhagwaan, Kitna Badal Gaya Insaan’ (Look at your world, O God. How the man has changed!) from the film Nastik (1954) directed by I.S.Johar, ‘Aao Bachcho Tumhein Dikhayen Jhanki Hindustan Ki, Is Mitti Se Tilak Karo, Yeh Dharti Hai Balidan Ki’, ‘Hum Laye Hain Toofan Se Kishti Nikal Ke, Is Desh Ko Rakhna Mere Bachcho Sambhal Ke’ and ‘De Dee Humein Azadi’  from the film Jagriti (1954) directed by Satyen Bose.

As a person who was personally affected by the partition of India, Manoj Kumar directed some outstanding patriotic films such Upkar (1967), Purab aur Paschim (1970) Roti,Kapda Aur Makaan (1974) and Kranti (1981). It is also important to talk about two films directed by Chetan Anand such as Haqeeqat (1964) and Hindustan Ki Kasam (1973). They heightened feelings of patriotism by depicting the lives of ordinary soldiers who fought against China and Pakistan.

Post year 2000, one reason why there has been a massive surge in films based on nationalism and patriotism is related to India’s geopolitical situation vis-à-vis its neighboring countries China and Pakistan as experienced during Indo-China war, Indo-Pakistan conflicts. In many ways films like Swades (2004) directed by Ashutosh Gowarikar, Lakshya (2004) directed by Farhan Akhtar, Mangal Pandey: The Rising (2005) directed by Ketan Mehta,  Rang De Basanti (2006) directed by  Rakyesh Omprakash Mehra, Chak De! India (2007) directed by Shimit Amin, Raazi (2018) directed by Meghna Gulzar, Parmanu: The Story of Pokhran (2018) directed by Abhishek Sharma, Uri: The Surgical Strike (2019) directed by Aditya Dhar and Shershaah (2021) directed by Vishnuvardhan enthrall and inspire spectators all over the country.

To conclude, it can be said that in the past nationalistic and patriotic feelings were visible only during national festivals held annually on 26th January and 15th August. However, as the times have drastically changed and they have become a daily affair as it has been rightly said that it is ‘patriotism’ which brings to the fore ‘nationalism’.








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About Lalit Rao

RAO Lalit

Mr. Lalit Rao (member-FIPRESCI) writes for this website on a regular basis as a film critic publishing reviews on his profile

In February 2017, he participated as jury member during  9th Bangalore International Film Festival 2017.

In 2014, he attended 19th International Film Festival of Kerala 2014 as a member of film critics’ jury.

As a film critic, Mr.Lalit Rao has attended film festivals in India as well as France namely International Film Festival of India (IFFI), International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK), Festival International de Films de Femmes de Créteil, Paris : Cinéma du Réel-Festival International de films documentaires, Est-ce ainsi que les hommes vivent? Saint-Denis, Rencontres Internationales du Cinéma de Patrimoine, Vincennes & Festival International des Cinémas d'Asie, Vesoul. 


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