Gold, Manto, Bharat, Kalank: How Bollywood is embracing lesser known stories from Independence era

Abhishek Srivastava

August 17, 2018 10:00:06 IST

Through Gold, Akshay Kumar, in the company of Vineet Kumar Singh, Amit Sadh and Kunal Kapoor, participates in a tale from the Independence era which most do not have a clue about. The saga of Indian hockey team’s quest for a gold medal at the 1948 London Olympics is an inspirational story. Director Reema Kagti has opted for a tale which was forgotten and hidden amidst the pile of more patronised stories of Independence.

Akshay Kumar in a still from Gold. Image via Twitter

Akshay Kumar in a still from Gold. Image via Twitter

India’s independence has many human stories as yet untold in Hindi cinema, ranging from jubilation to grief to shock to confusion to resigned acceptance of the price of freedom. Cinema, in fact, has not explored facets of history or historical fiction around the world’s greatest forced migration (Partition) and the unique Independence struggle (non-violent and unifying across a nation of differences) to a large extent.

Upcoming films like Manto, Kalank and Bharat are slated to tell stories beyond the safe route of patriotism and courageous stands against the colonial rule to explore stories of people, lives, and consequences that emerged from 1947. Nandita Das’ biopic on Saadat Hasan Manto deals with events that transpired in the life of the playwright which coincided with the attainment of independence and the trauma of the Partition. A major part of the film covers the tumultuous years of Manto’s life when he had to move to Lahore from Mumbai in the aftermath of the Partition.

Similarly, Kalank, the mega-starrer offering from Karan Johar’s banner, picks a tale around the freedom movement but does not focus on key events around the fight for freedom. Set in the late '40s with the Partition as its backdrop, the film boasts of some A-listers from the industry. The fact that these stars gave their consent to star in this film also speaks about their inclination towards meaty and unconventional stories. Kalank will delve into the realm of a British India before the Radcliffe line came into existence.

The fact that the Salman Khan and Ali Abbas Zafar combo, which has succeeded in delivering two blockbusters in the past, goes for this topic, indicates its large scale potential and importance. About their next offering Bharat, it is said that the film begins with the tragedy of the Partition and then goes on to cover landmark events from the Indian history to the present day, neatly weaved around the protagonist's life.

Millennials rarely read history. They do it only when they have to pass exams or score marks. A deep dive of what shaped the Indian identity does not come easily to them through textbooks. Films like these open up a less visited facet of Indian storytelling. Apart from being meaty, this could also be a hook to draw in an audience member, who has a huge international appetite, from OTT content to films. 

While speaking to audiences during the screening of Secret Superstar in China, Aamir Khan had hit the nail on its head. “We try to tell a story that relates to everyone, but actually we should think the opposite. If you tell a story about your neighbourhood, it might relate more to the audience because people like to see different cultures, stories and characters,” is what Aamir had quipped. His parameters fit perfectly in the narrative of stories that are being picked from the events that happened around 1947.

Updated Date: Aug 17, 2018 10:00 AM