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In India, nationalism has been represented on the screen in different ways.

By Prakhar Patidar

After the invention of the video camera, it didn't take much time for the film industry to boom. Initially envisioned as personal commodities to make home videos, the invention soon became the catalyst of a new form of entertainment; films.


Films since the early days of their inception have appealed to the masses. Their popularity only soared till the invention of television which again changed the way we entertain ourselves but even after this diversification, films remain to be the main form of entertainment today.

It was only natural for a thing with such mass popularity to find affinity with another that brings people together like nothing else; nationalism. The world events of the 1900s, be it wars or revolutions, called for excessive reliance on the ideology of belonging to one nation. As the initial excitement of a moving image waned and paved the way for narrative cinema, nationalism found its way into the cohort of themes these narratives were penned around.

We see several examples of it all over the world. From the fascist right-wing propaganda films made by the Nazi party to that made by freedom revolutionaries in India, nationalism has been represented on the screen in different ways. As deemed suited by the maker, the medium of film has been used to evoke a sense of nationhood. The common nationalist tropes in such films have been the flag, identification of an 'other' usually believed to be a threat to the country, depiction of the oppression and threat posed by the other, and the country's struggle to break free.

Our relationship with nationalism has changed, as it does with time. The contextual reality of the country determines what shape the cinematic tropes will take. In the films made during the freedom struggle, we saw the British Raj as the direct enemy written in narratives that highlighted the oppressed state of Indians and called for an independent state. In the years our relationship with Pakistan got too turbulent, culminating in wars, we saw narratives that celebrated our brave army, a theme Indian cinema goes back to from time to time. India's tryst with terrorism has also emerged as a popular theme.

And though sometimes hyper-nationalistic, these films leave you with something that feels heavy in your chest, more than pride, it is the feeling of belonging to a country, or identifying with one's nationality. It happens even more so in sports dramas that know too well how to tell the stories of rising above struggles to bring one's country glory.


keywords: Nationalism, cinema, Films, Narrative cinema.


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