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Bollywood as National(ist) Cinema: Violence, Patriotism and the National-Popular in
Rang de Basanti
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Dr Neelam Srivastava
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This article explores the relationship between violence, patriotism and the national-popular within the medium of film, by examining the Indian film-maker Rakeysh Mehra's recent Bollywood hit, Rang de Basanti (2006). This film forms part of a body of work that represents violence as integral to the emergence of an Indian national identity. It restages Indian nationalist history not in the customary pacifist Gandhian vein, but in the mode of martyrdom and armed struggle. It represents a more 'masculine' version of the nationalist narrative for its contemporary audiences by retelling the story of the Punjabi revolutionary Bhagat Singh as an Indian hero and as an example for today's generation. This article argues that its recuperation of a violent anti-colonial history is integral to the middle-class ethos of the film, presenting the viewers with a bourgeois nationalism of immediate and timely appeal, coupled with an accessible (and politically acceptable) social activism.
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