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Airlift And Neerja: Non Occasional Patriotism Is The New Mantra For Box Office Hits


By Niharika Ghoshal

When the world sees tears in their minds

The heroic fable of Ranjit Katyal, a fictional character, thrust into a real event, i.e. the historic evacuation of 1,70,000 Indians from Kuwait or the story of Neerja Bhanot, a real person, involved in a real life attempted hijack, the audience is hunting for characters that inspire, stories that provide them with a valve to lift up their chests with some patriotic pride and give them bragging rights of ‘Being Indian’ and proudly promoting it. It lends tears in their minds to look at these heroes fetch what they dream of- ‘The Real Indian Hero’


A year back it was all the same, still

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Talvar, and movies like such reflected the ‘non-mainstream’ treatment of cinema and were films which showcase a real-life event or controversy, which automatically has a ready-made audience for them.

However, scripting a story based on real people or a real life incident is like walking on broken glass. You never know when you might get jabbed with a defamation suit or a copyright violation case. You got to play it safe, or a lawsuit awaits your doorstep!


Films that simply boost a real life, non-political hero are often a safe bet, especially if it’s in the sports arena. Films like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag and Mary Kom had it safe that way. The makers already had their protagonists Milkha Singh and Mary Kom by their side, so they needn’t worry about a lawsuit, right? Whereas spotting the case of The Dirty Picture (inspired by the life of Silk Smitha and dragged to court by her family) or Once Upon a Time in Mumbai (faced a legal tangle by Haji Mastan’s kids) both of which faced legal trouble for their ‘inspiration’.

The Patriotism Mantra


With diverse storylines, Bollywood has always been experimented with the theme of patriotism. There are, however, a few classics that stand out. Few Movies like, Rang de Basanti directed by Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, connected strongly with youth and redefined patriotism in the modern context. It starred Aamir Khan, Soha Ali Khan, Madhavan, Kunal Kapoor, Siddharth, Sharman Joshi, Atul Kulkarni and Alice Patten. In the garb of a thriller-drama, A Wednesday, starring Naseeruddin Shah and Anupam Kher was very much a film with patriotic flavour. Chak De! India explores religious bigotry, the legacy of partition, ethnic and regional prejudice, and sexism in contemporary India through field hockey. An old favourite, Mr. India starred Anil Kapoor, Sridevi, and Amrish Puri (as Mogambo) dealt with the issue of growing violence in India.

Phir bhi script hai Hindustani

The success of Mary Kom made director Umang Kumar decide to take up another real-life story as his next project, which is Sarbjit, the Indian convicted of being a spy and killed in a Pakistani prison. Will Sarbjit be another Neerja or Airlift? The line of films inspired by real life is a long winding one, populated with biopics on MS Dhoni (Sushant Singh Rajput), Azharuddin (Emraan Hashmi), Sanjay Dutt (Ranbir Kapoor) and Mahavir Phogat (Aamir Khan).

So prepare yourself to be surrounded by plenty of melodrama, heroism, the ‘spirit of the individual fighting against all odds’ mantra, injected with some dose of pop patriotism packaged with a label screaming ‘Based On a True Story’ on all these films and more in the coming months.


*Leading an uplifting patriotic Indian movement by the Indian Captain Cool*


*How an Indian didn’t just think about an Indian but also others* That was Neerja Bhanot.

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