Part of the enduring power of film is its ability to give viewers a history lesson along with a dose of song, dance, and famous faces. These seven historical films bring to life the stories of some of the most powerful heroes in our history, from Gandhi to Bhagat Singh, in the process making history interesting, colorful and fun once again.
Mahatma Gandhi’s contribution in shaping not just India, but the world’s history, has not gone unnoticed. In the 1980s, veteran filmmaker Richard Attenborough brought Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s story to life with Sir Ben Kingsley in the titular role. The film depicts the Mahatma’s role in the Indian Freedom struggle, and the difficulties his non-violent protests caused for the British Raj. This Oscar-winning film truly made Gandhi immortal onscreen, managing to capture the essence of Bapu.
Rang De Basanti (2006)
It’s rare that a film like Rang De Basanti is made. One of the finest films produced in the history of cinema, it is exemplary of modern filmmaking’s blending of history and action. RDB bridges the 80-year gap between the Independent India and the freedom movement fronted by Bhagat Singh, Chandrashekhar Azad, and others in the early 1920s. It brings about the revolution we’ve long needed — creating perfection and celebrating the values of brotherhood, patriotism and the power of youth. This one’s not about the actors — it’s about the message.
The Legend Of Bhagat Singh (2002)
Another film based on the life of Shahid Bhagat Singh, this is a National Award winning biopic. Directed by Rajkumar Santoshi with Ajay Devgn playing the titular role, this excellent film portrays the spirit and perspective of every freedom fighter who fought to bring us an independent India. ‘Meri dulhan aazadi hai!’
Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose: The Forgotten Hero (2005)
Little is known about some of the greatest leaders in history, who are merely consigned to a paragraph in high school textbooks. Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose: The Forgotten Hero is about one such eminent leader. Very little is known about the founder of the Azad Hind Fauz, one of the key elements that gained India its freedom. Shyam Benegal’s story of Subhash Chandra Bose is all about the last 5 years of his life, the formation of the All India Army, and their operative methods. While the film stays away from the mystery surrounding his death, it powerfully narrates a tale about one of India’s finest freedom fighters.
Another lesser known hero from our history is Sardar Vallabh Bhai Patel. Known as the Iron Man of India, his contributions to this country’s history are often forgotten. Thankfully, we have this film. Ace director Ketan Mehta’s 1993 film Sardar is all about Patel’s role in creating a young and independent India. To top it all, we have Paresh Rawal playing Sardar Patel himself.
Bajirao Mastani (2015)
Director Sanjay Leela Bhansali proved his genius with Bajirao Mastani. A film full of stellar performances that retold the life of one of the greatest Maratha Warriors, Peshwa Bajirao Balal Bhatt, it focused simultaneously on this Maratha leader’s prowess as a warrior and on his private love life. Through the love saga, the film beautifully portrays the warrior’s thoughts on the religious divide in the 16th century.
Jodhaa Akbar (2008)
Who wouldn’t want to watch Hrithik Roshan and Aishwarya Rai strike up a Bachchan romance in the Mughal Era? Another historic film with a focus on the love saga between the greatest Mughal Emperor and his Rajput queen, Jodhaa Akbar is an incredible watch. Apart from its visual elegance and breathtaking frames, the film shows the details of Mughal life. The gorgeous palaces, the relationship between the emperor and his family, the Hindu-Muslim discord, and a lot of politics make up a story that’s filmy but fabulous.
This article was originally published on The Culture Trip