Nationalist Undercurrents in Mythological and Historical Films

By: Manoj Sharma  

Mythological and Historical were important genres in Hindi cinema during the colonial period. The undercurrents in Mythological and Historical films would be analyzed to understand the hidden meanings they wanted to project on the screen. Dada Saheb Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra (1913) was the harbinger of the genre of Mythological films and such films inspired awe and reverence among the audience. Phalke also believed in the nationalistic doctrine of Swadeshi. That was the period of the Swadeshi Movement and he explained his ideas about cinema to his friends and to the leaders of the Swadeshi Movement. The familiarity with the mythological tales, religious devotion towards deities and saints and faith in divinity for performing miracles to provide solutions to problems in life - all contributed to the popularity of this genre. The popular legends of deities provided an oblique affirmation of the national sentiments against the threatened domination of an alien culture. Mythological films exhibited the ideals and values needed for social regeneration and emphasized humanist and reformist ideas that played an important role in spreading the ideals of freedom struggle, for instance, Bhakt Vidur (1921). The popularity of Mythological films also had an unexpected impact. Women were allowed to go to cinema screenings in groups to see the Mythological films and also saw news ‘topical’ where women leaders like Annie Besant, Sarojini Naidu sought the participation of women in the freedom movement. Historical films like Pukar (1939) and Sikandar (1941) also reflected the ideals of the national movement.

Hindi, Cinema, Historical
The Arts in Social, Political, and Community Life
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Manoj Sharma

Assistant Professor, History, University of Delhi, India