Independence Day 2022: How RRR, Gorkha mark the return of strong patriotism | Bollywood

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It now feels like a glitch in The Matrix, or the Blip Thanos caused in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that caused the regular lineup to be changed for five years. Because for a while, the best and most popular patriotic films made in India were all about subtlety. These low-key films — think Raazi or Gunjan Saxena — didn’t have a lot of chest-pounding or over-the-top monologues, but they still worked. And they also struck a chord with the public. I’ve been guilty of using that word too often, but it was a refreshing change after years of loud patriotic movies with lots of Baazi dialogue. But alas, after a brief hiatus, it looks like we’re back to regular programming. Read also : Kangana Ranaut praises Shershaah, calls her ‘glorious tribute’ to Captain Vikram Batra

The 2018 release of Raazi can be seen as a starting point for this trend, at least the latest iteration of it. Alia Bhatt’s star Meghna Gulzar was an unusual film in many ways. It was about a spy but it was a young girl in her twenties, not a shrewd soldier. There were Pakistani army personnel, but they were portrayed as friendly human characters and not just punching bags for jingoism. As actor Ashwath Bhatt, who played Major Mehboob Syed (the older brother of Vicky Kaushal’s character), says, “It didn’t matter that this character was Pakistani. He was simply a soldier and a family man. It was a very nuanced and human portrayal of someone who was basically the enemy.

Alia Bhatt and Vicky Kaushal in Raazi, a rare Hindi film which had a sensitive portrayal of Pakistani army personnel.

It didn’t start with Raazi, of course. There had also been subtle patriotic films earlier. But they had been few and far between. And more often than not, they were compensated by other more successful and louder deshbhakti sagas. So each Sarfarosh had a boundary and each Swades had a Gadar. But later, there had been a marked increase in more sedate and sober dramas about love your country. Even the war movies, which have largely been big and loud in Bollywood, had a rare understated gem in Shershaah. Add to that other recent dramas like Sardar Udham, Anek, and Mulk, and a pattern begins to emerge.

But the public’s hunger for drama in the pandemic has changed the game yet again. Just as Indian cinema was learning to tell character-driven stories and plots about the emotion called patriotism, Covid-19 has changed that. The emergence of OTT means people are now willing to return to the cinema only when it’s worth it. Simply put, they want to be entertained and get what they pay for. The slice-of-life movies they can stream on their laptops. In a theater, they want to experience old-fashioned cinema. And that means RRR does 1200 crore, and Bollywood is taking its cue. This is what the public wants now.

The larger-than-life formula has apparently worked outside the patriotic genre as well, as Vikram’s hits Pushpa: The Rise and KGF: Chapter 2 prove. Ajay Devgn, who made an appearance on RRR, explained why it worked so good. “The ordinary man always connects more with a character who has similar and humble origins like him, but he behaves in a larger than life way. It creates a strong bond with the audience,” he said. said in an interview with Etimes.

SS Rajamouli’s RRR had the Evil Settler archetype as the villain (Ray Stevenson as Governor Buxton).

Bollywood tried this year to get the adrenaline pumping in patriotic films with Samrat Prithviraj, Rashtra Kavach Om and Attack. But none of those movies worked. This can easily be attributed to their quality. But keep in mind that the best opening of any Hindi film during the pandemic was by a larger than life patriotic film – Rohit Shetty’s Sooryavanshi. The good news (or bad news depending on where you look at it) is that more are on the way. Akshay Kumar will make another attempt with the war drama Gorkha, his female counterpart in this genre Kangana Ranaut has Tejas up his sleeve, and Sidharth Malhotra is also going the super-soldier route with Yodha. The lesson for all is that no formula can work without quality.

OTT, of course, still gives hope. People have an appetite for the more subtle, nuanced, and personal stories about loving your country. So stories like Shershaah would likely continue to find a platform there. But when it comes to theatrical releases, given the slump in the Hindi film industry, filmmakers would struggle to find backers for such stories there. Until the landscape changes again, prepare for larger-than-life deshbhakti sagas that aim to entertain more than connect.


  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Abhimanyu Mathur is an entertainment reporter at the Hindustan Times. He writes about film, TV and OTT, producing interviews, reviews and good old-fashioned features.
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