Political events in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu — where two respective regional parties, the Shiv Sena and the AIADMK, are fighting for survival — are all over the headlines and prime-time news.
The nation’s mood is decidedly political. And to accompany it, we released eight films with politics as a theme on the Netflix platform.
By chance, two movies on the list are Thackeray and thalaivi about the two leaders of Shiv Sena and AIADMK.
Without much ado, let’s dive into our list.
Prakash Jha, the director of Raajneeti, is no stranger to political films or controversies. Jha’s first movies gangaajal (2003) and apaharan (2005) also generated some controversies. There was confusion about Raajneeti as the character played by protagonist Katerina Kaif was allegedly based in whole or in part on Congress Party chief Sonia Gandhi and Rashtriya Janata Dal chief Rabri Devi. But the director brushed off all the criticism, saying the film was based on his interpretation of the Indian epic Mahabharatha.
The film sheds an interesting light on the shady backroom maneuvers of the political elite.
This Tamil film starring Vijay is not to be confused with Ram Gopal Verma’s Hindi film series of the same name with Amitabh Bachchan.
The Tamil movie was about an NRI businessman, who couldn’t vote in an election here, in a fit of resentment, starts a political party and runs for election here. Sarkar sparked a row for allegedly inciting political passions in the state, and the fact that the film’s main political character was named Komalavalli also led to protests. Komalavalli, for the record, has already been accused of being the original name of J Jayalalithaa, the former chief minister of Tamil Nadu.
This about the life and tumultuous times of J Jayalalithaa, the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. A picturesque politician, his life was mired in controversy and exaggerated events, and she was the constant focus of the gossip sections of the newspapers. His dramatic life and times readily lend themselves to film adaptation. But showing it, warts and all, in the political climate of Tamil Nadu, is impossible. In this case, the film turned out to be lukewarm. Still, Kangana Ranaut did a decent job as the arsonist Jayalalithaa. But the scene-stealer was Arvind Swami as MG Ramachandran, Jayalalithaa’s former chief minister and mentor.
Rang De Basanti (2006)
The film, with its focus on student idealism and dark politics, has a special following. It captured the helpless angst of the country’s youth against the country’s established and venal political elite. The story follows a British film student traveling to India to document the story of five freedom fighters from the Indian revolutionary movement. She befriends and casts five young men in the film, which inspires them to fight the corruption of their own government. AR Rahman’s fervent music increased the film’s cult status.
This low-key production was a remarkable satire on grassroots politics in a country where caste and religion dominate. The vote of a single man, who by a whim of fate is renamed Nelson Mandela, decides who will be the president of a village panchayat that is divided into two casteist blocs. The handling of the situation is peculiar without being forced. So the mood is organic. One of the movies that got a parody even when it was just holding a mirror to reality.
Malayalam cinema has made some remarkable and hard-hitting political films. In a state, which has a lot of politically conscious people, these films were bound to be made. 1 it’s about a chief minister who wants to take over political interests that work against the people and the state. Some of these venal forces are also of their own party. The Chief Minister’s character was loosely based on Kerala’s Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. The film was accused of being a shill for him.
This is a fun movie straight out of Hindi heart states like UP, Bihar, Rajasthan and MP. But that would have gotten the film into trouble, and so the filmmakers set this political story in the fictional state of Harit Pradesh. It concerns a chief minister, who is sent to prison for a scandal, who appoints his wife as interim chief minister in his absence. But the seemingly docile woman, like the acting chief minister, becomes her own person and wants to prevent her husband’s release. Interwoven into this story is the message for the need for school education.
Madras Café (2013)
The complex and complicated ‘Tamil problem’ in Sri Lanka is the backdrop for this film. He found a huge backlash from political parties in Tamil Nadu, as they felt that Tamil rebels in Sri Lanka were poorly portrayed in the film.
The film was set in the late 1980s and early 1990s, during the time of Indian intervention in the Sri Lankan civil war and the assassination of Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The film deals with an Indian Army special officer who is appointed by the R&AW intelligence agency to head covert operations in Jaffna shortly after the Indian peacekeeping force is forced to withdraw. Cinemas in Tamil Nadu chose not to show the film.
This is a biopic about the man who founded Shiv Sena, Bal Thackeray. He was a polarizing figure, and his party is never far from a political battle or two. Making a film about a person and a party like that was always difficult. For, it is impossible to show the whole truth in the political climate that exists in India. In any case, the film received criticism for the way it presented the southern Indians. But the problem is that Shiv Sena and Thackeray owe their rise to the fact that they are decidedly anti-Madrasis (the erroneous but broad term for Southern Indians).