The spirit of the Indian soldier has found reel expression through the years and the representation of the soldier has seen dramatic changes. From the intensely patriotic and passionate soldier of the ’60s to the real and human side of his life in recent years, Indian cinema has thrived on the examples set forth by our dedicated armymen.
Sons of the soil
The first major Indian movie based on the army was 1964’s Haqeeqat. Directed by Chetan Anand, it brought the strife of the Indian soldier at a remote outpost in Ladakh at a time when India was struggling to manage its border with China. At a time of political strife, the film was a depiction of utmost selflessness that the armed forces represent and became an iconic film in Indian cinema. Anand followed the trail of thought in Hindustan Ki Kasam in 1973, the first Indian cinema on the subject after the Indo-Pak war jolted the nation in 1971. With a fantastic all-star cast including Balraj Sahni, Raj Kumar, Vijay Anand and Amrish Puri, HKK established war films as a genre in the Indian film industry.
Sharmila Tagore established a woman’s phenomenal contribution to the armed forces in Aradhana (1969), Saat Hindustani reflected the strong bonds of soldiers while the evergreen Dev Anand decided to make his directorial debut in 1970 with Prem Pujari where he plays an officer. In the forthcoming years, films like Silsila and Aakraman kept the passion of the soldiers alive on the silver screen. Near the turn of the century, the threats faced by the nation changed along with the topics that the films revolved around. Films like Prahaar took a deeper look at a soldier’s psyche and left the conventional plots behind. Well, not completely. It was only with Border and LOC that Indian cinema took a giant leap towards a more wholesome representation of the armed forces.
Through the past six decades, the social and political transformations within and beyond the country and how they affect our armed forces have reflected well through cinema. While the earlier films on war and armed forces drew heavily from family drama as well as the war genre, as time went by, filmmakers became more pointed in their approach to the subject of war and soldier’s life. Movies like Lakshya not only looked at current geo-political challenges that the armed forces faces at all times but also reflected on the social impact on young minds through armed forces training.
While Indian cinema continues to glorify a career in the armed forces as it does in Lakshya as well as in Rang De Basanti, filmmakers have not shied away from shedding more light into the kind of problems one counters. From the surreal portrayal of the Indian soldier, we have moved towards a more realistic depiction of them. Their human needs and emotions are taken into account, their fears and the moral fibre to overcome them have been recorded well in recent times.
Over the years, evergreen songs like Saare jahan se achcha, Vande mataram and Kadam kadam badhae ja have been modified according to the musical trends but it was the song Sandesey aatey hain that united the nation and became the voice of the Indian armed personnel to the country and remains so to many. The song Aye watan tere liye from Karma, Nanha munna rahi hun from Son of India and Kar chale hum fida from Haqeeqat bring vivid images of the Indian Army marching to honour their duty. The emotions of the soldier at the battlefront, separated from his family and loved ones in the line of sight of a hostile enemy, have been brilliantly captured through this song. Among other tracks that epitomise the emotion include Suno gaur se, Kandhe se milte hain kandhe and Aye watan tere liye.