Freedom. Independence. 

These may sound like mere words, but they mean so much more. Imagine a place where you can’t even take a decision, without someone else’s permission. Imagine a place where you fear for your choice of practised religion. Imagine a place where segregation is based on caste, creed and colour.

Think hard. Are you seeing India ? 

Today, we remember those innumerable acts of sacrifice that made an entire nation stand on its feet and set itself free from the shackles. It’s amazing to see a frail man who otherwise would have thought twice to take up a fight against the noisy neighbour, sheds all his fear and stands tall against the oppressor. One wonders, from where this strength comes. And probably the answer remains in the very essence of humanity. When our back is against the wall, we fight back hard, in any way we can. In 1947, India got its freedom, as its citizens fought hard for it. Perhaps today’s India also needs to fight for freedom, once again. Not against The British but from the enemy within ourselves. Freedom against oppression, intolerance and that thing called religion.

On this day, The Cinemawala recommends ten films that showcase bravery of those who fought against all odds, to get their freedom, their independence. From the enemy outside. From the enemy within. 

Bhowani Junction (1956)

There have been many movies about the Indian freedom struggle but very few ones from the point of view of a person struggling with a dual identity, someone who’s born with both Indian and British parentage. Director George Cukor’s ‘Bhowani Junction’ is the story of an Anglo-Indian girl who sees the changing face of a soon-to-be liberated India and has a very torrid time with the fear of losing her identity. Based on the novel by John Masters, which incidentally, has an assassination attempt on Mahatma Gandhi as the backdrop, is the romantic tale of Victoria Jones who’s loved for her beauty and rejected for her colour. Starring Ava Gardener and Stewart Granger in the leading roles, ‘Bhowani Junction’ is a throwback to the prevalent colonialism and bigotry. 

Garam Hawa (1974)

Originally banned due to its content being an ‘Instigation to communal dissension’, director M S Sathyu’s ‘Garam Hawa’ is the humane tale of the trauma and pain caused due to the infamous partition of 1947. It’s the story of Salim Mirza (played by Balraj Sahni in his last appearance before death), the patriarch of the Mirza family, his son Sikandar and daughter Amina and their tryst with horrors of the partition. Salim Mirza, who doesn’t go to Pakistan after the separation, soon starts to feel the hardships of being a minority in a community, where his mere presence is considered contempt. Developed for the screen from an unpublished story by Ismat Chugtai by Kaifi Azmi and Shama Zaidi, it’s a must watch.

Dances With Wolves (1991)

It’s often said that history is always kind to the victorious. The American history paints rosy colours of the civil war but remains silent about the oppression of the natives. It’s a known fact that thousands of natives were butchered by the soldiers for their rights over the land. Kevin Costner starrer ‘Dances With Wolves’ is the movie which puts the American view of the natives on the forefront. An American soldier, unknowingly desolated at a post comes in contact with the Sioux natives. Hostile at first, soon they grow fond of each other and as they get to know each other well, they see a different perspective of the other men. A beautifully told story, it became one of the highest grossers of the year and received seven academy awards including best picture and best director, won by Mr Costner. 

Lagaan : Once Upon A Time In India (2001)

A game of cricket, that decides the fate of a bunch of villagers, against the mighty British. On paper, it must have sounded silly. Otherwise why many A-listers would’ve rejected the script of ‘Lagaan’, a film that went on to became one of the most loved Indian films of all time. Director Ashutosh Gowariker, after getting disappointed with multiple actors, found a believer in Aamir Khan, who had the utmost conviction in a script that amalgamated the two biggest craze of the subcontinental country – Cricket and Films. But it’s not just another film, which uses Cricket as a gimmick. For a motley group of believers, it became a game of life and death, where losing was just not an option. Against their oppressors of many years, the villagers of Champaran, stood firmly, withstanding every hardship. And as Capt Russell realised that catch he claimed to have taken, has actually pushed him outside the boundaries, along with the villagers, all of us jumped with joy. ‘Lagaan’ is that kind of a film !

Amistad (1997)

Slavery has been the single biggest oppression of the mankind. To treat a fellow human as a slave is not only a crime, but is morally regressive and defeats the basic purpose of life – to live and let live. The America of the 19th century was still trying to come to terms with the anti-slavery sentiments across the country, when one fine morning, a ship anchored on the east coast shoreline, led by men of African descendent, who had overpowered the original masters of the ship. The matter over the ownership of the men came to the court. After much deliberation about law and its interpretation, in an unprecedented move, these men were allowed to let go free by the supreme court. ‘Amistad’ tells the horrific story of slavery through the eyes of Steven Spielberg and moves the audience with admirable performances.

Swades (2004)

Mohan Bhargav, when he came to India to visit his nanny Kaveri Amma, his sole aim was to take her back with him to the United States of America, for what he believed was his way of repaying the woman, who took care of him, as a kid. What he didn’t know, that his visit to his homeland, will perpetually change the way of looking at his country. As he spends more time, he discovers what ails his country and soon he starts to realise the fact that to bring in the change, he has to change within himself. Directed by Ashutosh Gowariker and starring Shah Rukh Khan, in what can be termed as his career best appearances, ‘Swades’ champions the fact that to make a difference, it’s the roots where things begin.

Born on the fourth of July (1989)

The war with Vietnam remains a moot point of discussion, the sole Achilles heel, in the history of the United States. So when a seemingly disillusioned crippled war veteran hobbles back home after the war, he finds a totally changed world. And with this changed world, his views also radically swing from bad to worse. A young Tom Cruise gave a performance of a lifetime that established him firmly as one of the leading actors of that time. Directed by Oliver Stone, ‘Born On The Fourth Of July’ is an American account of the Vietnam war, from a war veteran’s point of view, which shifts from being a patriot to be a cynic. Based on the eponymous novel written by Ron Kovic, a veteran himself, this is a gut wrenching story of what war can cause to a man’s life.

Lakshya (2004)

Lakhsya means aim or target. To put it in a better way, it signifies the goal that a man ultimately seeks for. Karan Shergill, an aimless young man, lives his life, in a lavish way, thanks to the riches of his father. On a fluke, he clears the entrance examination and gets into the military academy. His clueless demeanour along with the hardships of the army training, forces him to run away from the academy. This becomes a pivotal moment of his life, as all his loved ones, including his girl friend Romi distance themselves away from this unfocussed, purposeless version of his. A disheartened Karan rejoins the academy and through a punishing and gruelling stint, becomes an army officer. A major backdrop of the film is based on the 1999 Kargil War. Karan rises through this war, scales every hurdle in front of him, to reach to his true goal, his Lakshya! Directed by Farhan Akhtar and starring Hrithik Roshan in one of his most underrated roles, ‘Lakshya’ is a cult classic.

The Help (2011)

Sometimes we do not need to cross borders or seas to experience how denial of civil rights impacts people. If we look around, at our own backyard, we might some of those lurking around. ‘The Help’ is the story of African-American women appointed as maids in the common households and their inhuman treatment by the white ladies. Witty, funny and thoughtful is how this movie is known. Very subtly, it describes the hardship the African-American working class goes through. Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer are terrific in their parts along with Bryan Dallas Howard, Jessica Chastain and Emma Stone  playing  major roles in this movie.

Prahaar (1991)

Sometimes, the oppression comes from within, from around us. Sometimes, the tyrants do come from the inside. And when the homegrown oppressors torture the meek and the innocents, there arises the need to make an assault on them. ‘Prahaar’ is the story of Peter D’Souza, a young man from Mumbai joins the army, under the eccentric Major Pratap Chauhan. Struggling at first, Peter soon turns out to be an excellent cadet, under the tutelage of Major Chauhan. An accident during a military operation renders Peter paraplegic and later honourably discharged from duty. Later when Major Chauhan comes to visit Peter in his native place, he discovers that he has been murdered by a gang of goons, over extortion of money. Fighting with the state’s enemies his whole life, Major Chauhan now gets to confront the ugly face of his country, the enemies from the inside. ‘Prahaar’ is a performance-driven, passionate work of art from Nana Patekar who wrote, directed and played the role of Major Chauhan.

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