Independence Day: 5 ways in which films depict millennial patriotism

Patriotic films connect with the millennials in a different way than they did until the 1990s. Filmmakers are resorting to a more subtle approach and connecting more at a human level while depicting patriotism on screen.

Suparna Thombare

In the new millennium, the language of patriotism and ways of feeling and expressing love for our country has changed. So has the depiction of patriotism in mainstream cinema. No longer is it about gaining freedom from the British, or being in the armed forces, or even being merely jingoistic. It is more about connecting with the inner love for the country, fighting the system that corrupts the nation and cheering for our sports idols. 

Reconnecting with the country: Swades

While in the '90s diaspora films like Pardes and Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge were about mitti ki khushboo and bhartiya sanskar, Swades (2004) explored the reasons behind brain drain and saw its protagonist reconnect with the values of the nation and fully understanding realities like poverty and the drawbacks of hiding behind culture. The film discourages blind patriotism.  

Sports patriotism: Chak De! India to Mary Kom

The patriotism we feel when cheering for our sports team is unparalleled. On screen, several sports dramas channelled this basic emotion to tell their story. A wave that began with Shah Rukh Khan in Chak De! India (2007), extended to movies like Farhan Akhtar in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013), Irrfan Khan in Paan Singh Tomar (2012), Priyanka Chopra in Mary Kom (2014) and soon to release MS Dhoni: An Untold Story starring Sushant Singh Rajput — films that showed the struggles that a sportsperson goes through to bring pride to their country. 
We all stand up for the national anthem in the theatre before a movie begins, and director Omung Kumar used the same trick as he made the audience stand up for the anthem after Mary Kom's victory. Bhaag Mikha Bhaag showed Milkha Singh’s journey and determination to wear the country’s jersey. 

Vigilantes: Rang De Basanti to Madaari

Rakeysh OmPrakash Mehra juxtaposed the fight for freedom by Bhagat Singh to the vigilante justice by ordinary citizens in 2006’s Rang De Basanti quite beautifully — presenting it as a modern revolution. While India rises as one of the fastest growing economies in the world and one of the youngest nations with the world's highest working population, the struggle is more against the system and its flaws, including delay of justice and corruption. 

Films like Ugly, A Wednesday, Jai Ho, Gabbar Is Back, No One Killed Jessica, Gangaajal and Madaari have gone on to explore an ordinary citizen’s struggle with the system and the route of vigilante justice to restore India's pride.

Terrorism and war: Neerja to Airlift

One thing that unites the country is the fight against terrorism and other external forces. Recently released Neerja saluted Pan Am Airlines purser Neerja Bhanot for fighting bravely against terrorists and saving several lives with her fearlessness. At the end of the film, Neerja’s mother gives a heart-wrenching speech which touches you as a human being and as a fellow countryman. Another film that worked at the human level first and then at a patriotic level was Airlift. The film followed the courageous acts and pursuit of a businessman to get his countrymen back and safe in India. Baby (2015) depicted the sacrifices made by undercover agent to serve the country by elminating terrorist elements. And it's done in a matter-of-fact and subtle manner. 

Indo-Pak in new light: Filmistan to Bajrangi Bhaijaan

There was a time where Pak bashing was equated with patriotism on screen. Even though a lot of citizens still struggle with that, filmmakers have taken important steps to show Indo-Pak relations in a new light. From Filmistan and Kya Dilli Kya Lahore to Bajrangi Bhaijaan — several films have added the common man perspective to the political battle between the two countries. While ‘90s movies like Gadar resorted to jingoistic and anti-Pak dialogues, films like Mission Kashmir and Lamhaa explored the complexities while still portraying love for the nation.