Main nahin manta ki humara desh dunia ka sabse mahaan desh hai…lekin yeh zarur manta hun ki hum mein kaabliyat hai, taaqat hai, apne desh ko mahaan banaane ki.
17 years ago, in a pathbreaking Hindi film, protagonist Mohan Bhargava (played by Shah Rukh Khan) said these golden words. Today, his words still hold true for our country.
More importantly, this one dialogue serves as a reminder and an appeal about what patriotism and love for the nation should actually translate to.
Swades, directed by Ashutosh Gowariker, was the story of an NRI NASA project manager, who returns to his homeland for a visit. But, soon his short stay in the village forces him to look at his country closely and he decides to change things.
The critically acclaimed film gifted us a truly brilliant soundtrack and one of the finest performances by Shah Rukh Khan. However, one of the film’s greatest achievement is how it has managed to stay relevant, even 17 years after its release.
We are still afflicted by the same issues the film brilliant highlighted – especially in the scene where Mohan interacts with the panchayat and talks about what makes India great. Or actually, what stops it from becoming the greatest country in the world.
In his statement to the village elders, is an observation and a plea – to let go of those orthodox beliefs and traditional practices that stand not only in the way of development but also in the way of humanity.
Today, as society appears to head to a future where religious identity (and not actual actions) defines patriotism, Mohan Bhargava’s impassioned speech is extremely relevant.
Today, as the nation struggles against an economic meltdown and unemployment crisis, it is important to remember that a person’s caste or religion cannot a hold greater place than humanity.
Today, as our political leaders, and at times even the general population, is quick to indulge in blame game, it is important to look inwards and works on the faults that lie within us.
In today’s time, most ‘nationalist’ movies present a polarized view of patriotism that feels dramatic, rather than honest. But 17 years ago, a ‘patriotic’ film gifted us a protagonist who told us the simple truth–you can love your country and still not like the problems that plague it.
Art has always been the salient voice of change, the silent tool of influence, the subtle method of protest. Perhaps that’s what makes its impact last longer. Perhaps that’s why this ‘dialogue’ serves as a statement of purpose for us.
All images from Netflix, unless specified otherwise.