Five not-so-real-life British Raj Movies

Recently we celebrated the 68th anniversary of Indian independence and commemorated all those who strived for it. It’s not only an occasion like this which spurs a sense of patriotism in us, but many other things. Amongst which, Bollywood movies have had their fair share.
            In spite of all their weaknesses, (Hindi) movies to a certain extent make us not forget the struggle that people had to put up for a free India. Freedom fighters like Mahatma Gandhi, Bhagat Singh, Sardar Patel are known to a lot of people through movies.
                        Apart from Biographical Epics, there have been a number of movies around (partly) fictional stories. These feature films too are pretty awesome. In this piece we’ll take a look at some of the most memorable ones. These moving pictures mostly portray a common Indian man rising and manning up to the British, even when the odds are against him. Based on random anecdote or pure fiction, or even loosely related to true incidents, following flicks remind us of forgotten heroes whom we might not have even heard of.


ghar uska pachchim hai, yahan na rukne paaye

 Amir Khan might have done some (supposedly) good work, but this certainly tops them all. As an epic drama film, Lagaan is as much a patriotic film as it is a sports one. It teaches us two things, first of course that if needed any commoner can go toe to toe with a British Saab, and secondly we can take down any overpowered cricket team if we have THE fire in us. Bhuvan’s bravado shows the spark which might have always been there. Included in Empire’s 100 greatest world cinema films and Time magazine’s 25 best sports movies of all time, Lagaan surely deserves all the credit it has got.


Kranti...... ahaaaaaaa. Kranti...... ahaaaaaaa
Well, when we talk about nationalist movies, there is one name that can never go amiss, Mr. Manoj-Bharat-Kumar. After rightfully earning the nickname, Manoj Kumar in 1981 co-wrote, directed, produced and acted in the epic film, Kranti (which literally means revolution). Movie’s epic-ness (sic) can be just be imagined by the huge ensemble cast consisting of Hema Malini, Shatrughn Sinha, Shashi Kapoor and Dilip Kumar who made his comeback after 5 years.
Although being overtly patriotic, this film is awesome in its own right. It depicts the classic example of a king trusting the British for some purpose and repaid in kind by thievery and backstab. To top things off, the songs in the movie are awesome too.

Shatranj ke Khiladi

bhaad mein jaaye dunia, hum bajayein harmunia
It’s very rare that Babu Satyajit Ray would direct a Hindi movie, it’s even rarer that it would be adapted from a story by Munshi Premchand. Well it happened just once and what transpired was some epic storytelling with lot of food for thought, also known as Shatranj Ke Khiladi which was set around the time of British annexation of erstwhile Awadh. This film shows us what a sleazy big-time douche-bags the Monarchs (Nawabs, played very well by Sanjeev Kumar and Saeed Jaffrey) at that time were. It also depicts the helplessness of a king no longer in control who loses control to the British, and mindset of noblemen who were more interested in petty obsessions than real-life issues.


hum sabhi mein hai, thoda junoon
Translated as Obsession, Junoon belongs to a more serious cinema, than above mentioned films. Once again revolving around the rebellion of 1857, this critically acclaimed award winning film was produced by Shashi Kapoor and directed by Shyam Benegal. The movie focuses on the multiple things, first the inner conflict of Indian rich folk, torn between their subdued patriotism and good relations with the British. It also underlies the Indian tradition of ‘Atithi Devo bhav’. But most importantly it shows that even the most irresponsible people can come to senses if time so beckons. Because of its powerhouse star-cast, this film is ever so awesome.

Massey Sahib

sala main to saahab ban gaya
What would an Indian secretary to an English bureaucrat pre-independence would have thought of himself, especially if he happens to be a Christian? Massey Sahib is a brilliant take on that question, revolving around the life and lies of someone (Raghubir Yadav) who thinks too highly of himself. This is not a movie overflowing with the emotion of Indian nationalism, but it beautifully showcases how seeds of corruption are sown in a clerk who’s just willing to impress his superior and where that takes him. Raghubir Yadav’s portrayal of Francis Massey won him the ‘Silver Peacock for Best Actor’, also an interesting fact: this was the debut movie of Arundhati Roy.

PS : This is a highly personal list. But I strongly recommend that you watch all the above films if you haven't done so already. The content is kept short and precise on purpose so that you find more things on your own when you delve into them.


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