How do the films address and represent indian national identity?

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1st Jan 1970 Film Studies Reference this

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It's a fairly well-known fact that the Indian film industry is the most active in the world, producing more number of movies each year than any other (including Hollywood). Few of those films, however, reach the international market. Occasionally, however, a worthwhile picture causes enough people to take notice that it becomes a favourite on the international film festival circuit. The movie Roja (1992) and Bombay (1995) directed by Mani Rathnam crossed the National boundaries. Roja (1992) and Bombay (1995), which deals Kashmir terrorism and the riots in Bombay after the demolition of the Babri Masjid in Ayodhya by Hindu fundamentalists.

Roja (1992), a patriotic love story against the backdrop of Kashmir terrorism, was dubbed from Tamil language and released in Hindi and other languages became a huge success all over the nation. The movie depicts a serious theme of ‘National Integration' after the war between India and Pakistan on a territorial dispute in Kashmir borders. The local militants group of Islamist in Pakistan who seek to claim Kashmir initiated the war. The movie created an awareness of growing terrorism in Kashmir borders. Mani Rathnam was critically acclaimed for the theme chosen (National Integration) after its release. Roja revolves around one Man's love for his motherland and a wife's unfailing love for her husband. Rishi Kumar (Aravind swamy) is the lead (character) in the movie. Mani Rathnam films focus not much on individual characters but on complex plots and events of history. Roja won the national award for the best film and is regularly screened on Indian state television following Independence Day promoting “National integration”.

It was a turning point in Indian cinema to portray a different genre with delicate music. The story line is about how a girl, who never crossed her village boundaries managed to bring her husband back from the terrorists trap in Kashmir. The message conveyed through the movie is wanted “peace” between the borders of India and Pakistan. Mani Ratnam always in his movie addresses the historical events of the nation that created any social difficulty.

I will be analysing Roja, how it address the Indian national identity with key factors glorified in the movie. The movie was shot at different locations, southern and northern parts in India but the thrilling part was at Kashmir mountains where the terrorists set up their plot. The characters in the movie are well presented. The hero (Rishi) in negating his given religious identity in the first instance he embraces the terrorists leader saying hum ‘‘koi nahi hain” (we are none) but then he claims a name saying “hum sirf Indian hain” (we are Indians). It is also a kind of melodrama with a message of “National Integration” in it. (Ravi S.Vasudevan, 1996).

The music of the film added success through emphasizing different Indian culture and the music was drawn on folklore, example in a song, gang of ladies singing and dancing with traditional Indian village costume depicting the National Identity. Much of Roja is set in Kashmir, which was formerly used as the major location for romance in Hindi movies, drawing on its association of earthly paradise, but which features rarely now because of political unrest and terrorism. One of the most memorable scene from the film is when the hero, Rishi, is taunted by his captors, Kashmiri separatists, who burn the Indian flag, where Rishi throws himself on it and catches fire, to the words of a song by the nationalist Tamil poet Subramania Bharathi “India is dearer to me than life” evoked the patriotism to intense. Music of the film represents the culture identities of different locations.

The camera movements were glorifying especially in the chase scene where the hero Rishi (Aravind Swamy) tries to flee from the place where he was abducted by the terrorists. Cinematography of the film has been a major credit in representing the Indian National Identity through picturising the different geographical entity. It was watching thriller putting ourselves in the situation. Roja was well received by the audience in spite of some critical findings as it signifies peaceful relations between the two countries. The film turned to be huge success even catching the attention of international audience tapping into the growing fear of terrorist's attacks across the world.

Mani Rathnam second film Bombay (1995), has a central narrative of an inter communal marriage between a South Indian male and a Muslim girl in India, marked it as the most anxiously awaited film to be released. The board of censor and public response to the film were controversial after its release. The movie was dubbed from Tamil (south Indian) language to other different languages to spread the message of “unity” among the Indian religions across the nation. Bombay (1995) is a film based on communal riots, provoked by the demolition of the Babri Masjid (Mosque) by Hindu fundamentalist in December 1992.

Mani Rathnam the director of Bombay has revolutionized the Indian Film Industry with technically strong films that are beautifully visualised conveying some kind of social message in it. It was the first film to portray the Muslim victims of the Bombay riots sympathetically. He sees his work as plea for peace between Hindu and Muslim. Instead, however it brought a permanently brewing conflict back to boil. He consulted Hindu majorities and Muslim minorities in this research. I believe that Mani Rathnam is concerned very much about the social issues happening across the country, that he gave a movie Bombay and a message in it. Indian audience come to theatre looking for some entertainment, so the movie is portrayed with social representations relied on melodrama and music. Religious conflict has addressed the national identity in film Bombay.

The film Bombay begins as a romantic drama depicting the growing love between a Hindu man (Aravind swamy) and a Muslim woman (Manisha koirala). Bombay was an inspiration on the history of events that happened in December 1992. The Hindu fundamentalists around India, who demanded the building of a temple at Rama's (Indian god) birthday place in Ayodhya, on a site then occupied by the a mosque was demolished, which initiated the (Bombay riots).(Dwyer Rachel,2006).

I will analyse the production, reception, theme and the national identity that the movie exemplify. The characters of the film are given great importance specifically, shekhar (Arvind swamy) a student studying journalism in Bombay and shaila banu(Manisha koirala) a Muslim schoolgirl in the village. Eventually, they both fall in love. The marriage proposal was denied by both the parents because of religious conflict. Shekhar with shaila elope to Bombay, where they start a new life away from their parents. Although Bombay and Roja solicit quite different sentiments, both arise from a similar subjectivity that of a hero presented with the characteristics notations of professional identity, cosmopolitan, ideological humanism, rationalism, and marginalization of religion.

Although the film was about Bombay, it was shot in constructed sets at Madras. The art director Thotta Tharani constructed small town sets of Bombay in limited production value that looked like Bombay. Inspired by the documentation and re-creation of the Vietnam war, Rajiv Menon the cinematographer took for his models of ‘Apocalypse Now'( 1979 ) and the ‘Killing Fields' (1984 ) to convey a heightened sense of reality in Bombay that was horrifying yet to be ‘stunning and beautiful' (Lalitha Gopalan, 2005, p.21).

The music by A.R Rahman was extraordinarily moving and the back ground score was emotionally evoking the sense of patriotism. The songs were beautifully picturised across South India and they portray different culture. Especially the song ‘Kannalanae/with my eyes' depicts the Indian tradition of celebrating a marriage ceremony. Most of the Bollywood cinemas contain elements of music, comedy and melodrama, as the tradition and culture in India posses it.

The film was set to be released in 1994 but a series of events involving the Board of Censors in Bombay and Madras, sensitivity to reminding Muslim of the campaign against them appears to underlie the censor board's deletion of the following visuals of the Babri Masjid and its demolition. The protests from two communal groups and the instructions from police delayed the film release until April 1995. Political and religious entity portrays the identity of the nation state.

Bombay did not receive a warm welcome from the audience; instead several forms of protest were raised. The Muslim community started sending letters to editors of newspaper and many theatres were ransacked. Director Rathnam has shown great courage in making this picture (bombs were thrown at his house after its release), showing the aversion towards the subject. Later the movie was a great success in spite of chaos happening all over the country. The movie crossed the National boundaries and gained some international recognition. Bombay brings out the climax scene very well showing a human chain symbolically denoting the end of riots and reunites that still remains memorable. The film thereby sets out a symbolic representation of a common enough past, present and future logic. The film is an appeal for unity and peace in Hindu and Muslim within the nation.

Roja and Bombay are the films which engaged with contemporary issues about Indian nation state. There is a suggestion here that the film's vision of bringing to an end of antagonism nevertheless entails the reproduction of difference. The film projects a transcendent secular modernity and national identity square with its production. These films offered a universal identification to Indian cinema. Broadly speaking Nation can defined in seven ways in Indian subcontinent. They are Ancient civilization entity, composite culture, political entity, religious entity, geographical territorial entity and unity of Nation. Roja and Bombay is composed of all these entities represent the National Identity.

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