Bollywood's political palette in 2023: Unpacking patriotism, nationalism, and jingoism

Karishma Jangid
New Update
political movies in Bollywood 2023

As political movies continue to dominate the cinematic landscape, here's a look at the political films of 2023 and analyze the messages they convey.

As elections near and tensions rise, Bollywood is making more political movies. But what does 'political' really mean in this context? Turns out, these movies come in different flavors. Not all are about patriotism; most are about nationalism, and some even cross into jingoism. Let me break it down. In today's Bollywood, political movies fall into three main types: patriotic, nationalist, and jingoistic.

Patriotism is simple: it's loving your country. But in my view, love also means holding your country accountable. Many believe patriotism involves loving your country enough to question and improve it. Take Shah Rukh Khan's "Jawan," for example. Despite its violence and hero worship, it was patriotic. In a powerful monologue breaking the fourth wall, SRK encourages you to ask important questions and unite despite differences. Another patriotic film was Sudhir Mishra's "Afwaah." Despite receiving negative press and little box office success, it asked the right questions. It delved into controversial topics like religious bigotry, fake news, and love jihad. It didn't shy away from acknowledging our flaws but also offered hope for a better, more empathetic India. However, these movies are exceptions.

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Most political movies in India have a nationalist flavor. They believe in unwavering loyalty to the state and the state's superiority over others. For instance, in Pathaan,our favorite enemy of all time, the Pakistani government, was shown to be wicked to make India look glorious. Tiger 3 parroted the same trope- Pakistan needs saving from itself, and India is the savior. Mission Majnu went the same way. Even a film like Dunki, which focused on the issue of illegal immigrants using the risky Dunki route, blamed the West for drawing lines and issuing visas but forgot to ask why Indians migrated in the first place. Dunki had an SRK monologue too, but instead of raising questions, he praises the country even when he is running away from it. These movies consistently show unwavering loyalty and belittle others to make the state look better.

Lastly, a few movies go beyond nationalism. Films like Gadar 2, The Kerala Story, 72 Hoorain, Akelli, and others may seem patriotic at first glance. However, beneath the surface, there are often exaggerated claims, widespread Islamophobia, and jingoism. These movies can be aggressive, emphasizing othering by presenting stereotypes as reality. Even when tackling relevant topics, they might resort to boasting and making false claims in the name of creative freedom.

Perhaps this is something the audience should be mindful of every time they watch a political movie. Is it promoting patriotism, nationalism, or jingoism? Should we turn to books and research or rely on cinema for our education? Can cinema be considered a reliable source of education? Distinguishing between facts and fiction is crucial. Additionally, it's essential to be aware of the emotions these movies evoke. Do they foster unity or division? Political films are never straightforward; they are inherently complex, much like the subjects of history and politics themselves. When sitting down for such films, it might be wise to heed the caution displayed on the screen before the movie begins.

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Bollywood political movies