#WhatIndiaThinksToday: Rise of right wing in cinema, has the direction of Indian cinema changed?

In India, this debate is going on fast whether Bollywood has taken a right-wing direction like politics. “Right-wing” is a broad philosophical position in the world scene that can include many fields such as economics, politics, religion and law. However, in the case of India, the perception of the right has largely focused on nationalism, patriotism and religion. There has been a rapid increase in the number of films especially based on patriotism since 2016, which is also being seen to be associated with the rise of the Bharatiya Janata Party as a political force after 2014. However, this does not mean that patriotic, nationalist films were not being made earlier or were not successful at the box office, but the number of films made after 2016 and their commercial success certainly points to a trend. Which was not present to this extent before.

Movies made after 2016 with box office collections (domestic net figures in Indian Rupees) on patriotic and/or right-wing themes.

Movies released in theaters-

Film year of release box office

In the year 2016, the film ‘Airlift’ did a business of 128 crores.

The film ‘Neerja’, which came in the year 2016, did a business of 75.6 crores.

In the year 2016 itself, the film ‘Dangal’ did a business of 387 crores.

The film ‘Toilet – Ek Prem Katha’, which came in the year 2017, did a business of 134 crores.

The film ‘Raazi’, which came in the year 2018, did a business of 123 crores.

The film ‘Parmanu’, which came in the year 2018, did a business of 65.8 crores.

In the year 2018 itself, the film ‘Gold’ did a business of 105 crores.

In the year 2019, the film ‘Uri’ did a business of 245 crores.

In the year 2019, the film ‘Manikarnika’ did a business of 92 crores.

In the year 2019, the film ‘Kesari’ did a business of 154 crores.

In the year 2019, the film ‘Bharat’ did a business of 211 crores.

The film ‘Mission Mangal’, which came in the year 2019 itself, did a business of 202.9 crores.

The film ‘Tanhaji’, which came in the year 2020, did a business of 279.5 crores

The film ’83’, which came in the year 2021, did a business of 109 crores

The film ‘Kashmir Files’, which came in the year 2022, did a business of 252 crores

Movies released on OTT-

In the year 2020, the film ‘Gunjan Saxena: The Kargil Girl’ came on the OTT platform Netflix.

In the year 2021, the film ‘Sher Shah’ came on OTT platform Amazon Prime Video.

In the year 2021 itself, the film ‘Sardar Udham’ came on the OTT platform Amazon Prime Video.

(Box office figures are taken from www.bollywoodhungama.com and are approximate)

The above films are different and serve the right wing or patriotic story to the audience in their own way. For example, ‘Toilet Ek Prem Katha’ may not traditionally be a patriotic film but it aligns with right-wing ideology as it promotes the central government’s Swachh Bharat mission in its own way. ‘Raazi’, on the other hand, is different from other war-related patriotic films as the heroine moves to Pakistan after marrying into a Pakistani army family, while in reality she is a spy working for India in the backdrop of the 1971 war. Some of the films listed above re-present historical and true stories in front of the audience, which is happening for the first time in Hindi films.

Censor Board chairman and Hindi cinema’s well-known writer and lyricist Prasoon Joshi told Dainik Bhaskar in August 2021 why patriotic films have been so successful in recent times. It is true that people in India are liking films that promote patriotism. This is because India’s growing confidence is our biggest treasure today. The people of India have faith in their abilities, their talents and their thought process. They are telling the rest of the world that the future is going to be ours. Patriotic films are promoting this confidence and this is the reason why they are getting more viewers. It can be said that this image of a new India is being presented to the rest of the world and now it has become a favorite subject. The films that are projecting this image are films that people want to see.”

Many patriotic films made in six years have got huge commercial success but it is not that such films were not being made earlier. Producer and film business expert Girish Johar believes that patriotism is an evergreen genre in commercial cinema and has been able to garner audiences at the box office since the time of Manoj Kumar. During a discussion with the author, Johar said, “Patriotic films have always done well in India.” The Indian public gives full respect to these films. We want to see those great moments again on the big screen. This is the reason why the public embraces these films so well.”

It is worth mentioning that apart from Manoj Kumar’s films or ‘Mother India’, if we look at the status of the films released in recent times, then ‘Gadar: Ek Prem Katha’ is one of the biggest blockbuster movies ever in Indian cinema. Which was released in 2001. In such a situation, we see that the genre of films based on patriotism did not stop completely. It can be argued that not only were the films on patriotism that were commercially successful but also saw a continuation.

Patriotism in the face of fanatical nationalism or communism

Some of the films in the list above are based on events and characters that were glorified on the silver screen. Certainly, through Hindi cinema, he was given more importance than before. These include the film ‘Kesari’ which is based on the battle of Saragarhi fought in the 1890s or the film ‘Sardar Udham’ which takes the story of Udham Singh deeply to the audience. Earlier, ‘Udham Singh’ as ​​a freedom fighter has found very little place in the earlier films except for two important moments in the Jallianwala Bagh massacre and the murder of Michael O’Dwyer (although a Punjabi film was made). Is). Along with this, Airlift, Neerja, Dangal, Atomic, Mission Mangal, Shershah and 83 films are based on events after 1980.

Akshay Kumar, the lead actor in the recently released film ‘Samrat Prithviraj’, created a big controversy with his remarks before the release of the film when he said that only two-three lines were written about Prithviraj Chauhan in our history textbooks. Whereas the Mughal invaders have been described in detail.

Senior journalist and writer Kaveri Bamzai believes that it is a good thing that films are being made about the history and culture of India, but the truth and perspective of the film should not be lost. Bamzai said, “It is true that these stories have not been shown earlier but considering the nationalist sentiments in the making of these films and the audience watching them, we should see whether the things being shown in these films are factual. are categorically correct. We should not lose facts during the course of the story.” This comment was made in the context of ‘Emperor Prithviraj’.

We can best define patriotism as love for one’s country, but in cinema it often takes the form of fanatical nationalism or communism. Kabir Khan, one of India’s leading filmmakers, has made films in both political and patriotic genres with films such as New York, Ek Tha Tiger, Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Phantom, The Forgotten Army (web-series) and the recently released ’83’. have created. Talking to Men’s World magazine in January, he said how our films are serving poisonous nationalism in the name of patriotism. Khan said, over the years the meaning of patriotism has changed, today we are more aggressive. In fact what we are seeing today is nationalism instead of patriotism. I think in nationalism you need a counterpoint or an opponent. Today we are seeing the turning of patriotism into poisonous nationalism even in films.

Now what next?

If we look at the films of the last six years, we see that there are more films being made in the patriotic genre or films based on Indian era men and historical figures, from which it can be said with certainty that Hindi cinema is largely right wing. shifted towards. Whatever producers are making such films or releasing on OTT platforms, their success at the box office testifies that these films are being liked.

The post-pandemic time has presented a big challenge. After the theaters reopened with full capacity in November 2021, the films have not received full support from the box office. But the way the films based on the patriotic genre have made a splash for many generations till now. It is expected that if patriotic films are made well, they will be liked by the Indian audience.

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