The Indian subcontinent had been under the rule of British Empire as early as 1757 starting with the East India Company. After a long period of retaliation and struggle, we finally attained independence in the year 1947. And none of this would have been possible without the pain and sacrifices of many heroes who dedicated their lives for the freedom of our country. Seventy years since that day and we continue to hear about these renowned individuals and events that they led which helped win back the country from the hands of the intruder.
Cinema as we know is the best visual medium that can convey a million stories in a manner that best resonates with its audience. This visual art form brings to life those events that belong to the pre-independence era without which the history of our country would be incomplete.
Here is a list of handpicked movies that are touted to be the best representation of the Indian independence movement.
Gandhi – The first name that comes to mind when one talks about the fight for Indian Independence is none other than the Father of Our Nation, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.
Essaying the life of one of our greatest leaders, the movie titled Gandhi released in 1982 in India and was written by John Briley and produced and directed by Richard Attenborough. With Hollywood actor Ben Kingsley playing the lead role of Gandhi, the founder of India’s non-violent non cooperative movement against the British, the film traces his life as early as 1893 when he was thrown off a South African train for being in a whites-only compartment till his assassination in 1948. The film was nominated for Academy Awards in eleven categories, winning eight, including Best Picture and Best Director for Attenborough and Best Actor for Ben Kingsley.
Shaheed – Released in the year 1965, Shaheed is a hindi language movie that is based on the life of Bhagat Singh. A popular patriotic movie that is based on the Indian independence movement, the movie was produced by Kewal Kashyap and directed by S Ram Sharma and stars Manoj Kumar, Kamini Kaushal, Pran, Iftekhar, Nirupa Roy and Prem Chopra in lead roles.
The movie throws light on the life of young Bhagat Singh and his active role in freedom fighting movement led by Chandrashekar Azad. It takes the audience through Bhagat Singh’s journey in fighting the British till his last breath when he shouts “Long Live Revolution” just before he is executed. Shaheed won the award for Best Feature Film in Hindi in the 13th National Film Awards and also the Nargis Dutt Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration.
Veerapandiya Kattabomman : Released in the year 1959, this Tamil movie is said to be the first Tamil film in Technicolor. Popular Tamil movie icon Sivaji Ganesan plays the lead role
of Veerapandiya Kattabomman (Brave Warrior in English), the hero who fought the East India Co. the trading company that ruled India before 1857 when the British came in. The movie is based on the story of the 18th century South Indian chieftain of the same name, who rose in rebellion against the East India Company. The star cast also included, Gemini Ganesan, Padmini, S. Varalakshmi, and Ragini in the lead roles, with V. K. Ramasamy and Javar Seetharaman in pivotal supporting parts.
The film's premiere was held in London on 10 May 1959 and released in Tamil Nadu six days later. A huge success both commercially and critically, the film rose to a cult status in Tamil cinema. It was dubbed and released in Telugu as Veerapandiya Kattabrahmanna in 1959, and in Hindi as Amar Shaheed in 1960.
Kaalapani: This 1996 Malayalam language movie whose title means “Black Water” in English is a historical drama co-written and directed by Priyadarshan. Set in the pre-independence era of 1915, the film is about the lives of prisoners in British India who are brought to Kalapani, the Cellular Jail in Port Blair, Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The name
Kalapani is derived from the method of imprisonment in British India. The film stars Mohanlal, Prabhu Ganesan, Tabu, Amrish Puri, Nedumudi Venu, Sreenivasan, and several others. Considered one of the classics in Malayalam cinema, the movie was originally produced in Malayalam and later dubbed and released in Hindi as Saza-E-Kala Pani, Tamil as Siraichalai, and in Telugu as Kaala Pani. Amitabh Bachchan bought the Hindi dubbing rights, besides narrating the prologue for the Hindi version. Music composed by Ilaiyaraaja and cinematography by Santosh Sivan, Kaalapani introduced Dolby Stereo into Malayalam cinema. A budget of Rs 2.5 crore was allocated for the movie making it the costliest Malayalam film made until then.
Mangal Pandey – The Rising – Released in 2005, this biographical film is based on the life of Mangal Pandey, an Indian soldier known for heading the The First War of Indian
Independence or Sepoy Mutiny in 1857. Directed by Ketan Mehta and produced by Bobby Bedi, notable actor Amir Khan plays the lead role impeccably. The story begins in 1857, when a large part of India was under the control of the British East India Company. Mangal Pandey was a sepoy, an Indian soldier in the army of the East India Company. While fighting in the Anglo-Afghan Wars, he saves the life of his British commanding officer, Capt. William Gordon. The film throws light on the friendship that develops between Gordon and Pandey. Their trust and faith in each other is questioned when Sepoy Mutiny breaks out. The film also covers various rebellions that break out in retaliation to the years of subjugation and colonialism of the people. These rebellions mark the beginning of the Indian independence movement.
Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: The Forgotten Hero – As the title suggests this biographical war film, written and directed by Shyam Benegal depicts the
life of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, another prominent leader of the Indian Independence movement . The film’s cast included Sachin Khedekar, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Rajit Kapur, Arif Zakaria, and Divya Dutta. The movie showcases events in Netaji’s life in Nazi Germany (1941–1943) and in Japanese-occupied Asia (1943–1945) and the events leading to the formation of Azad Hind Fauj.
The music and background score for the movie was by A. R. Rahman. At the BFI London Film Festival, the movie was critically acclaimed and bagged the National Film Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration, and the National Film Award for Best Production Design for that year.
Chittagong: This Indian historical war drama film directed by Bedabrata Pain stars Manoj Bajpayee in the lead role and is based upon events that lead to the Uprising. Released in 2012, the music for the movie has been directed by famous trio Shankar Ehsaan Loy and sound by Resul Pookutty. released in the month of October and managed to become a front runner at the box office. The film also won the 60th National Film Award for the Best Debut Film of a Director.
The plot of the movie unfolds in the state of pre independence East Bengal (now Bangladesh) where a group of school children led by a schoolteacher Masterda Surya Sen devise a plan to revolt against the British Empire.
Many in the above list may not be been box office successes, but are definitely worth watching. These movies are sure to take you on a ride back in time into the heart of our freedom struggle and help you get a glimpse of our country’s glorious past.
How many of the above have you seen? Which one is your favourite?