25 February, 2021

I, The Nation

Austere, inward micro-patriotism: Mother India left a difficult legacy. We mostly need less abstract enemies.

I, The Nation

In the calendar of Indian nationalism, landmark dates have a habit of ending with 7. So, 1757 and the battle of Plassey serve as the symbolic beginning of colonial rule while a hundred years later, 1857 marks the last time that colonialism was violently challenged on any scale. Independence ought to have happened in 1957 but history, uninterested in round numbers, arranged for it to occur 10 years earlier in 1947. However, for the purposes of this essay, which is concerned with the many ways in which nationalism is 'done' in Bombay's cinema, 1957 is a milestone, because it was the year that Mehboob Khan made Mother India.

But the rash of patriotic films we have seen in the past decade, from Border (1998) to Namaste London (2007) with Sarfarosh, Lagaan, Gadar, Rang de Basanti, Mangal Pandey, Fanaa, Swades and Kargil LoC sandwiched in between, aren't the children of Mother India; their family trees lead to the patriotic films of the '60s, films that were made in a darker time than the '50s, in the...

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