Article Hindi

When Hindi cinema celebrated the Quit India movement


Like all the other chapters of Indian Independence, the Quit India movement (for which freedom fighters took a pledge on 8 August 1942) too has been a part of Hindi cinema. We look at Shaheed (1948) and 1942: A Love Story (1994), both set in the same time period.

Anita Paikat

The official and mass call for Britishers to leave India came precisely on this day, 75 years ago. Mahatma Gandhi raised the slogan 'Do or Die' in his famous 'Quit India' speech in then Bombay. The ensuing mass arrests of Congress leaders added fuel to the patriotic fire, bringing lakhs of men, women and children on the streets protesting against the British tyranny. This was also the time when the younger generations began doubting the non-violent ways spearheaded by Gandhi. Instead, they looked up to Subhash Chandra Bose, and his ideology of defiant patriotism. Unlike Gandhi, Bose believed in rewarding a slap on the cheek, with a slap on the cheek.

The Quit India movement was successfully quashed by the British who refused an immediate exit.

Like all the other chapters of Indian Independence, the Quit India movement, too, has been a part of the Hindi cinema. The most prominent mention comes in the first blockbuster of Indian cinema, Kismet (1943).

Apart from the bold themes of introducing an unmarried pregnant woman, an anti-hero and a double role, the film also hosted the famous 'Dur Hato Ai Duniya Walo' song — a bold call to the foreigners to leave India for the Indians. Penned by Kavi Pradeep, the song behooved the Indians to take up arms against the invaders.

One would wonder how the song was passed under the very nose of the British censors.

Well, Kavi Pradeep called a bluff that the Raj could never catch. He included names of the two countries leading the Axis powers in the World War II, Germany and Japan, thus legitimising the song in the eyes of the colonizers. While he dedicated one line, which goes, 'Tum Na Kisike Aage Jhunkna, German Ho Ya Japani', denegrating the opposing parties in the WWII, the entire song was really against any and all foreign powers in India, obviously, including the British. Further, the song, interestingly, didn't have any link to the plot of the film. The sole cry for Independence came from a film that revolved around a pick-pocket and conman.

A year after India's Independence, Filmistan Limited produced Shaheed (1948), starring Dilip Kumar and Kamini Kaushal in the lead roles. Based on the Indian independence struggle, the plot picks pace from the Quit India movement. Ram (Dilip Kumar) believes in the slogan of 'Do or Die', he wants an overthrow of the British empire in India, even if it comes at the cost of murder and matyrdom. While the film looks back at the freedom struggle, it also presents the debate of non-violence versus violence.  

Another film that entertains the Quit India movement is the Vidhu Vinod Chopra's 1942: A Love Story (1994). While the film proved to be a turning point in Manisha Koirala's career, it was also the first Indian film to use Dolby Stereo. The film won nine Filmfare awards including Best Music Director, Best Lyricist, Best Female Playback Singer, Best Male Playback Singer, among others.

As the title suggests, the plot has an intermingling of the freedom movement and a love story. Naren Singh (Anil Kapoor), a carefree and soft hearted son of a landlord falls in love with the daughter of freedom fighter Raghuvir Pathak (Anupam Kher). Naren finds love in the beautiful Rajeshwari (Manisha Koirala) and is devoid of any patriotic fervour. Their love story, however, is obstructed by the ongoing freedom struggle. Here again, the freedom fighters have been shown to choose the violent path instead of Gandhi's way of non-violence. The plan is to kill General Douglas on his visit to the Kasauni village. The plot is busted and everything flips with adverse effects. Many honest and pious men are murdered by the tyrannical Britishers and their Indian officers. Naren, too, joins the brigade of freedom fighters, ending in an over dramatic overthrow of the British post in the village.