Indian: Subhas Chandra Bose Has a Different Meaning for Americans

Not the easiest thing to see as “heroic” a figure who fought along side Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany!  Yes, I understand the “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” ideology, and that in many ways the evils of colonialism could be considered equal to the sins of Japan and the Nazis, or at least related.  But supporting Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany still doesn’t seem like something to necessarily be proud of?

I’m getting ahead of myself mentioning Chandra Bose, we aren’t nearly there yet.  Or am I?  Because that same attitude of “Manliness and violence will solve problems” seems to show up through out the film.  Not that this is necessarily bad, I do believe that sometimes violence and “manly” virtues are required in order to achieve social justice.  But I don’t believe they are the only things required.  Careful thought, discussion, mercy, and hope are also required.

This is a hard film to wrap my head around, because at certain points it does seem to be arguing that there is a place for talking and gentle persuasion.  And then at other points it doesn’t.  It sets up a clear binary between two heroes, representing two attitudes and personalities and periods in Indian history.  And for a long time it looks like we are going to end with a compromise between the two visions, which I would have liked.  The young man learning that there are some absolutes and right and wrong in life, that it is okay to stand up for something.  And the older man learning that there is value in forgiving human errors.

(Also hard to wrap my head around is the usual Shankar strange CGI song sequence)

But, no!  The lesson is to be completely uncompromising!  Which isn’t necessarily a message I can get behind?  I mean, there is value in moral absolutes, doing the right thing, all of that.  And there is value in extreme measures to fix impossible problems.  But there is also value in forgiveness, understanding, and faith that people can be better than they were in the past.

Or, to put it in the terms of this film, while I’m not 100% a Gandhian, I am even less of a Chandra Bose follower.  More like 40% Nehru, 30% Bhagat Singh, 20% Gandhi, 9.9999999999999999% “miscellaneous grass roots uncoordinated efforts that show the vast national faith in the movement”, and 0.0000000000000001% a Chandra Bose person.  And again, even setting aside my philosophical differences, as someone with a lot of family who fought in the War, it’s a pretty hard sell to make me go “Woo!  Guy who allied with Nazis and Imperial Japan!”

And really, there is something to that, my discomfort with Bose’s alliances.  If we are talking about moral absolutes, as this film is, then where do we fall on the collaborator scale?  I am willing to accept my responsibility for global labor practices and the Japanese internment camps and all sorts of other terrible things that are part of my identity as an American.  But I am also ready to accept that these are mistakes it is now my job to work towards resolving, that we are all culpable but we are also all capable of doing better.

If this movie is saying that the just punishment for collaboration with an evil system is death, then what does it say about our “hero” who collaborated with people involved in the Rape of Nanking?  Again, I myself can understand this point of view and, barely, make my peace with it.  But then I am someone who believes in the big picture and second chances and all of that stuff.  But our “hero” isn’t.  So, if I showed him a bunch of photos and documents and showed how his involvement with Bose and Bose’s involvement with Evil all are connected, would he then kill himself?

I know I am way over-thinking this whole thing, but it kind of feels like the filmmakers under-thought it, and then packaged it in an “overthought” kind of way.  They knew the message they wanted to give, and it’s a fine message, it’s the same message as Gabbar is Back and dozens of other movies.  Wrap it up in shockingly violence and some neat speeches, get the audience thinking and ready for action, this is all great.  But then the film keeps going, and enters into a bit of a philosophical realm, and it just invites me to start thinking to hard about the message and pulling on threads that shouldn’t be pulled!  Really, it’s too smart for it’s own good.

Okay, that’s enough big general stuff!  Let’s get into the nitty-gritty of the plot spoilers.








One of the ways that this film was smarter than was good for it was in the way the narrative unfolds.  The audience is kept in the dark about a lot of stuff, big and small, for a long time.  Instead we are thrown right into the middle of it, seeing the first murder, the investigation starting, and then a guy sitting in his “office” in a car, helping random people who come to him with their bureaucratic issues.  And the sexy young politician’s daughter Urmila Matondkar who flirts with him and makes him pick her up before she gives him papers he needs.  And the virtuous young animal activist who he helps on her rights crusades.

My first reaction to this guy was that this was our hero.  Not just because he was played by Kamal Haasan, or because he got the hero introduction, but because his skill set seemed optimal for helping with the problems we were seeing.  The corruption and backlog and all of that.  You need someone who really knows the system, knows where it is weak and vulnerable, and it would be fun to see the sparks between someone changing the system through radical murderous means, and someone changing the system through fast-talking and clever maneuvers.

But then we start going in an entirely different direction.  Turns out, Kamal Haasan was just doing all that stuff for other people to kill time.  His main focus was on getting a position for himself.  And once he achieves that, he quickly becomes as bad as anyone else.  Doesn’t even try to change the system, just enjoys it.

What is confusing is that he isn’t a “bad” person.  He helps his saintly Manisha Koirala girlfriend to defend her animals.  We later learn that Urmila was only flirting with him because he was a “safe” guy, who could be trusted to always be a gentlemen.  All of these things tended to make me think he would be redeemable, he would end up on the side of the angels, as it were.

(Also has a catchy love song with Manisha)

And yet, he doesn’t!  He very much doesn’t!  But before I get there, I have to check in with our other hero, Kamal Haasan 2.  We see this implacable old man, using his magical pressure point fighting skills, to incapacitate and then stab a series of corrupt bureaucrats.  The police slowly close in on him, through the unique fighting technique he uses which was only taught to freedom fighters back in the day.  They send someone in disguise to his remote farm house, where his wife promptly gives a whole long flashback story about their youth (if you are ever in an Indian movie, NEVER ask an open-ended question about somebody’s past!  It will just turn into an incredibly detailed reminiscence complete with song sequences.  Or I guess, maybe ALWAYS ask an open-ended question about their past?  Song  sequences can be fun)

I have many many issues with this flashback.  Again, if it were obviously supposed to be ridiculous, I could get behind it.  But it uses the same black and white film and low-key acting style and all that stuff as movies like Shaheed, which makes me think I am supposed to be taking it seriously.  And, when taken seriously, it does not hold up.

Our hero meets his future wife when she refuses to salute the British flag, so the British army guy is going to kill her?  Until Kamal suddenly appears and shoots him instead?  Now, first of all, I don’t believe the British were that capricious.  That cruel, certainly, absolutely, colonialism is a dehumanizing force.  But I’m not buying the “I will randomly shoot this woman in the town square after 3 seconds of conversation” kind of evil.

(See the torches coming through their love song?  SO CLEVER!  So much better, for me, than this blunt evilness)

And, if this is evil, to shoot her for not saluting the flag, than wouldn’t it also be evil for him to be shot for arguing with her for shooting the flag?  I have no moral issues with this scene if it is pitched as “British guy is obsessed with Nationalism, and therefore tries to kill her.  Kamal Haasan shoots British guy in simple defense.”  But since it’s followed by Kamal ripping down the British flag and putting up the Indian one while crowds cheer, it feels more like “British guy is obsessed with Nationalism:Kamal Haasan is obsessed with Nationalism.  Kamal just happened to shoot first.”

I have this problem TIMES A THOUSAND in a later scene.  Our heroine is leading a march.  The bad British guys learn a woman is leading it and therefore arrest all the women.  And then they take them to a field and make them strip.  In terms of historical whatever, sure, I can actually believe this, that at some point a rogue group of British officers arrested women and forced them to strip.  That’s not my problem.

I have a HUGE problem with the filming of the scene!  It doesn’t feel like we are being made to sympathize with the victims, to feel like we are there, being stripped and terrified.  Instead, it feels like we are bust observing them.  The camera is careful to still frame the bodies in a pleasing manner.  There are minimal close ups on their faces.  At best, we are put in the position of a (male) audience at a later date being told of this atrocity in order to rile us up.  At worst, we are in the position of the British soldiers, committing an atrocity by enjoying their bodies while they are terrified.

For comparison, I kept being reminded of an almost identical scene in Atom Egoyan’s Ararat about the Armenia massacre.  Again, the army rounded up women and made them strip.  But in that scene, there was a combination of obscured vision and close ups.  The camera was placed behind a broken wall, so we never got the classical elegant view of the female bodies, just a broken up and disconnected glimpse of a back wrenching away from a beating, or an arm trying to twist out of reach.  And while the bodies were partially obscured, the faces kept coming towards us in turn as the women moved in a circle, so the viewer was always away of the torment they were feeling.

Image result for ararat film(Great movie, really interesting use of memory and film and history, in a way that kind of reminds me of Rang De Basanti)

Oh, and at the end of the Ararat scene, all the women are raped and killed.  Which is a much, I don’t want to say “better”, but less stupid ending?  In this movie, all the women are stripped, so they all run and jump off a cliff.  How horrible (we are supposed to say)!  The British didn’t understand Indian female virtue, and therefore thoughtlessly made them strip which obviously would lead to suicide!

But instead I find myself saying “How horrible!  These women are so brainwashed by society, they think it is better to kill themselves than try to survive their loss of ‘honor’!”  And, I think, we are also supposed to, like, be proud that they killed themselves?  To be impressed at the nobility and chastity of women who would die rather than let themselves be seen naked?  This is a terrible lesson!  What about all the rape victims and abuse victims and all the others in the world today?  They should just kill themselves and let society honor their corpse in a way it would never honor them if they had continued to live?  Blech!

Moving on (with great difficulty), to the rest of the plot.  It doesn’t get any easier for me to handle.  Kamal 2 decides he wants to fight for real, so he rides off to join Subhash Chandra Bose.  There’s like a 30 second shot of him fighting in WWII, throwing grenades at my Grandpa, and then he is in jail.  Jail-jail-jail, and finally released to return home in glorious celebration to his faithful wife.


And then, happy happy times, they start a farm, they have two children (a boy and a girl), the family is joyful, all that.  Until the kids grow up and the son, Kamal 1, wants his sister to forge something, because he is trying to get a government job.  Kamal 2 finds out and is furious and they have an argument that made me think we were going to end with a compromise.  Kamal 1 argues that he has a good engineering degree, and is qualified for this job, and would be even more qualified if his father had used his “Freedom Fighter” perks.  And that there is no way to get the job without paying a bribe, so why not pay it?

Kamal 2 argues that even using the “Freedom Fighter” perks would be wrong, since there are more deserving and needful Freedom Fighter families who need them.  And if Kamal 1 just waits his turn, eventually he will get the job he wants.

See, Kamal 1 is wrong for wanting to pay a bribe.  But Kamal 2 is wrong when he thinks that simply not paying the bribe will solve all the problems.  Is this why the liberalization of the economy is so exciting?  Because you finally aren’t stuck between bribing someone and getting a good job, or not bribing them and giving up on a good job?  There are more jobs available, jobs that aren’t controlled by bribes?

Also, I feel like Kamal 1 isn’t fully presenting his argument.  Because the side he is ignoring is that his parents are the ones who chose this life for him which has lead to this impossible choice.  They are farmers, but apparently they wanted him to be an engineer, thus the education and so on.  And now here he is, an engineer, and there are no jobs.  Not saying it’s entirely his parents’ fault, but also not saying it isn’t.  If they expected him to stroll out of college with a degree and immediately get a job, than they need to change their expectations and help him come up with a new plan.  That’s the argument I would make if I were Kamal 1 (and the argument that a lot of my friends have made to their parents, who sent them to college for advanced degrees and are no disappointed when they take whatever minimum wage job is available because the economy sucks).

And Kamal 1 does find a different way!  He runs away from home, goes to the city, starts that “fixer” business on the street, and makes a living for himself.  Again, we are heading to a really interesting movie, where the son with his “fixer” lifestyle, and the Dad with his uncompromising eye for an eye attitude end up working together and finding a better solution.  What a great movie!  (that we don’t get)

Even Kamal 2’s main motivation for vigilantism is something he could use to bond with Kamal 1, the death of their daughter/sister.  She was burned in a kitchen fire, and the doctor refused to treat her until he was paid a bribe.  Instead of paying, Kamal 2 ran to report him to the police, he also requested a bribe before acting.  Finally, the daughter was wheeled out of the hospital and left to die alone in the rain.  Kamal 1 returned home for the funeral and blamed his father’s ethics for his sister’s death, and then left again, never to return.

(See how happy the family is!  And how both Kamals can come together in loving the sister/daughter!)

This really is an interesting moral quandary!  Is there any situation in which it is okay to give a bribe?  Even if it might save a life?  Oh wait, it’s not an interesting moral quandary, it is BLATANTLY OBVIOUS!!!!  PAY THE BRIBE!!!!  It’s not like you are paying for her to get preferential treatment, you are paying for her to get any treatment at all.  No harm can come from this, except that the evil doctor gets a little money.  But then all you have to do is report him to the police tomorrow, and get your money back.  I am completely behind Kamal 1 here.

Really, I am completely behind Kamal 1 most of the film.  He uses funky paths and back ways to do it, but he does manage to force the government to work for the people.  He is right that his father needs to bend a little and acknowledge the world as it is, not keep living in his dream world.  And he beats up animal abusers for Manisha.  And, when his parents are on the run and bump into him, he immediately helps them and hides his mother away and tries to convince his father to stop.

And then suddenly his character goes waaaaaaaaaaaaaaay in a different direction!  In just like the last 40 minutes!  I can’t tell if they wrote the characters and then decided to change the ending, or if they had the ending in mind all along but through re-writes and onset changes, the character became different than original imagined.  But either way, big break between Kamal 1 in the first 2/3rds and last 1/3rd!

He gets his government job, and takes a bribe for giving a license to a driver.  And then the driver causes an accident and a bus full of school children die.  Hey!  This is why my former Governor is in jail!  Not a bus full of school children, but a van full of a family with 6 kids.  There was an accident caused by an unsecured load on the back of a truck, turns out the truck driver paid a bribe to get his license, they followed that trial all the way up to the top of the Secretary of State (which is the office that controls licenses in my state), and finally to the former Secretary of State, now Governor.  He’s a nice man (the former Governor), also ended the death penalty in our state.

Image result for governor george ryan(Also married his high school sweetheart.  Which is neither here nor there, I just think it’s nice)

I tell that story kind of on purpose, because it related back to what I was saying about their needing to be mercy and hope along with justice, as I see it.  Governor Ryan sold licenses and was in charge of a super corrupt Secretary of State’s office.  But he also ran the state well.  I mean, there was a certain “well, this doesn’t hurt anything” level of corruption.  But past a certain point, there was a common sense understanding that nothing would function unless we all worked together and did our jobs.  From what I can see, from very very far away, that is the point Indian corruption has passed.  At least, that is what this film is arguing, that civil servants went over the line from “I do my job, and I get bribes as a nice perk” to “My job is to get bribes”.

And here’s Governor Ryan, who took bribes and supervised this whole elaborate system of corruption.  And also had a seemingly sincere moral awakening and put a moratorium on the death penalty in our state as evidence mounted as to the HUGE number of innocent men we had killed.  People aren’t just one thing, and you can’t give up on them because of one (or several) mistakes.

Which is what this film is arguing.  Kamal 1, all along, has been a little more flexible than Kamal 2.  But not actually “bad”.  And then he takes a bribe to give a license, children die, and suddenly he is willing to do whatever it takes to escape punishment?  There is no remorse, no concern with making sure nothing like this happens again?  He just turns totally horrible all at once?  I don’t believe it.  As an audience member, this is where the film completely loses me.  This is not the same character I have been watching, something has gone wrong.

Oh, and then Kamal 2 kills his own son.  I see the point here, it is supposed to be the ultimate sacrifice, Kamal 2 being willing to give up his own beloved family if it was corrupt (he has a great line about how he loved his son so much, he even shaved his mustache so it wouldn’t scratch him).  But, I don’t buy it.

I can’t really put my finger on why the ending doesn’t work for me.  A combination of things I guess.  For one, like I said, I don’t buy the whole last bit of character development for Kamal 1, it doesn’t fit with anything we saw before.  For another, I have a hard time saying that anyone is completely irredeemable and better to just kill them.  And finally, it feels like the killing was supposed to be more about us relating to the killer than feeling sorry for the victim.  Only, we had spent equal amounts of time with both characters by this point, so I didn’t feel fully able to pick a side.

It’s that last most of all, I think.  If the point of the movie was to make the audience feel uneasy and as their their loyalties were divided, than mission accomplished!  If the point was to make us feel all “rah rah, we must save India even if it be by blood!”, than mission NOT accomplished.

(This movie, on the other hand, I pretty much completely bought that message)

31 thoughts on “Indian: Subhas Chandra Bose Has a Different Meaning for Americans

  1. Sorry, I’m going to post a comment without having read your review, or even having seen the film in question. Just your opening two lines put me off from going any further, but I felt it incumbent on me to say: It is completely incorrect to say that Subhas Chandra Bose (that’s the name he’s known by) “fought for Japan and Nazi Germany.” He never fought “for” anyone besides India. He *allied* with Germany and Japan to get support for the Indian National Army, but that’s it. As for being unable to see someone like that as “heroic”, well, that’s the purpose of seeing films from another country and culture, isn’t it, to get one’s views challenged? What is the conventional or accepted view so often isn’t what it’s made out to be.

    In any case, given the length of the review, and the few references to other films that I caught on the way as I scrolled down, it seems as if you have put a lot of thought into it, so maybe your views did get realigned somewhat? I guess I’ll finish reading your review some time or other. Right now, as I said, your opening made me too PO’ed.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You’re right, of course, that it is good to have your views challenged. But this is just about the one case where Indian history and American history come into direct conflict. Not just American history, my personal history. As I mention later in the review, I have dozens of relatives, including both grandfathers, who fought in WWII. So, for instance, the little flashback of Kamal in WWII throwing a grenade made me suddenly picture Grandpa having a grenade thrown at him.

      But I also spend a lot of time in the full review struggling with the general concepts of moral absolutes and when violence is ever justified, which is a theme that recurs throughout the film, not just in the brief WWII flashback. But, I think, the same greater violence versus non-violence philosophy that I struggle with in terms of Subhas Chandra Bose, is related to the general merciless attitude of the film.


  2. if u are on a shankar film spree,dont miss Annyan..his best film and also you will introduced to among the finest actor from india


  3. Why Kamal’s films are so indulgent and horrendous all the time? People keep on hailing him, but for me, he is a “self absorbed, self pitying, self obsessed” personality. His competitor Rajinikanth looks absolutely ugly compared to him, and has a really bad voice. But, somehow, I can happily tolerate him. Because, he is not as lunatic as this “gifted technician” is.


    • I think I may agree with you? It’s hard for me to say, because I have still only seen a handful of Kamal’s films, and I liked Nayagan. But the others did feel a little indulgent, his hero was made to be so perfect that the other characters kind of faded away, and the story felt like it bended itself to make Kamal look great, instead of just progressing naturally,


      • I think most of the movies that you saw are the ones that he either wrote or directed. I haven’t seen many Kamal Haasan movies but I’ve heard that he tends to be indulgent when he writes his own stories.

        One movie of his that I like is Swathi Mutyam directed by K. Viswanath. This was one of his few Telugu movies and he plays an autistic man in the movie.


  4. I am regular reader of your posts. Normally I doesnt comment on any of your post but in this post you were so out of touch with actual history that I had to say something.

    #”Supporting Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany still doesn’t seem like something to necessarily be proud of”
    I agree nazis and Japanese were evil, but western history is written by the victors of world war. There are many incidents which are convieniently ignored. For eg “The Hero” Winston Curchil food from India and diverted it to his troops causing man made bengal famine ( following which Approximately 3 million people died due to famine. Subhas Chandra Bose, who was then fighting on the side of the Axis forces, offered to send rice from Myanmar, but the British censors did not even allow his offer to be reported.

    Churchill was totally remorseless in diverting food to the British troops and Greek civilians. To him, “the starvation of anyhow underfed Bengalis (was) less serious than sturdy Greeks”

    When asked to release food stocks for India, Churchill responded with a telegram asking why Gandhi hadn’t died yet.

    For more read

    #”Now, first of all, I don’t believe the British were that capricious. That cruel, certainly, absolutely, colonialism is a dehumanizing force. But I’m not buying the “I will randomly shoot this woman in the town square after 3 seconds of conversation” kind of evil.”

    # And finally Subash Chandra Bose was fighting allied to Japanese but there is also other side of coin where the Indian Army was the largest all-volunteer force in history.
    We fought on side of Allies rising to over 2.5 million men in size.These forces included tank, artillery and airborne forces. Indian soldiers earned 30 Victoria Crosses during the Second World War.
    I doubt that contribution is ever mentioned


    • Thank you for commenting! I am sorry you disagree with me, but I am pleased to have you comment for the first time.

      I got my undergraduate degree in history, not Indian history so it isn’t my area, but taking any form of history teaches you that no one is ever completely wrong or completely right, and that was certainly true in WWII. In America, for instance, people volunteered for the army and grew their own food and saved gas and did wonderful things. But people also tried to buy their way out of the draft, and there was a thriving black market in everything, and of course we imprisoned over 100,000 of our own citizens, one of the most shameful events in American history. And that’s not even mentioning the many hate crimes and violence perpetuated against other citizens, ironically most often Chinese or German refugees who were fleeing the war only to be mistaken for the Japanese and Nazi Germans they were running away from.

      I did learn about the colonial forces in the British Army, actually as part of a couple classes I took on African history. From the side of the African colonies (and I assume it was a similar feeling in India), there was a mixture of pride in their military accomplishments, and discomfort with serving the Nation which was abusing them at home. And, as you indicate, Britain isn’t always that eager to mention the accomplishments of the colonial soldiers either. So it ends up being a little ignored by both countries, the former colony and England. I’m struck by how few Indian films there are about WWII. I know there are still some (Hum Dono, for instance), but compared to the number of movies America and England are still making about the war, it is striking.

      I was thinking about Jallianwala Bagh when I mentioned that the British were that cruel and dehumanized. I just don’t think they were that capricious. Beat a man or woman to death once they were on custody, sure. Take them into the woods and shoot them, absolutely. Have a brigade massacre an entire gathering of people, obviously yes. It’s just the very specific situation of shooting a woman in the middle of the day in a town square with no build up. If it had been an escalating argument, followed by an arrest, and then a beating death while in custody, that I could believe easily. This was just way too showy, it felt more like something that had to happen for the plot of the movie than something that arose naturally.

      I am aware that India has a different relationship to the parties in WWII than America does, but as an American, this is just about the one area where I truly cannot be open-minded. I can be open-minded to average Japanese and German citizens (that’s why I tried to specify Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan) who were forced or brainwashed into working towards something they didn’t fully understand. But the leaders, who knew what was happening and chose to support it, I can’t get past them. And I have a very hard time accepting a heroic view of anyone fighting against the Allies, even if there are complicated reasons behind it, because ultimately that person is trying to kill my grandfathers and great-uncles and cousins and basically everyone over 70 that I met in my childhood.

      I’m not saying I am right or wrong about this, I’m just saying that Subash Chandra Bose’s story is one that does not have the same meaning to an American that it does to an Indian audience, and there is no logical argument that will be able to get me past this mental block.


    • Agree to everything Nandu Aditya above said, my views are similar. I just wanted to add.

      If in case Subash Chandra Bose stopped to consider, if its the right thing to be allied with the team that raped Nanking, or help out (by being submissive) the team that “Wiped out Native Peoples of the New World”, “Raped and then Enslaved the Dark Continent” and “Colonized his motherland”, he probably decided Imperial Japan was the lesser evil. In speculative hindsight the team he joined probably would have been more crude (had they won) than the allies, but he did not have the benefit of Hindsight and this probably seemed like the only thing to do.

      Remember most Indians followed only what Gandhi prescribed, which was route of Independence via non violence, and this method at that time had never succeeded at the scale required and had no chance of succeeding until the people like Bose started fighting and causing trouble for the Colonial masters to think this was not worth the trouble.

      Final note: My grand dad was in the British Indian Army side in Eastern India front against Japan & Bose’s Army (INA), during second world war.


      • Thanks for the comments! As I think I mention in the post, for me personal, I don’t think Gandhi’s methods were necessarily the best route either. But I find I have an easier time with Bhagat Singh than with Subhas Chandra Bose. Maybe because Bhagat’s violence was more guerrilla warfare within the country instead of outside of it? I’m honestly not sure, but I know I have no problems with Bhagat’s choices, and somehow I do with Subhas Chandra Bose.

        On Fri, Dec 2, 2016 at 10:27 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



        • We are where we are because all of them playing a part in it, Bhagat singh’s methods alone might have not by itself got us here. Similarly Imperial Japan & Nazi Germany was only exaggerating the methods started by allies. Eugenics implementation was started in Virginia, only taken to its logical (extremely wrong) conclusion in Nazi Germany, Colonialism was started by the Europe, Japan was late in the game and decided to one up the Europeans. Remember Japan was made to open up by the US (Commodore Mathew Perry) in mid 1800’s and then they realized what they need to do, if they need to escape the fate of the rest of the Asian countries.

          Infact, if these nations did not take these evil ideas to the extreme, those evil ideas would have existed to this day, slowly enriching one at the benefit of the other. So in one way these things are inevitable and nobody is 100% a Hero or a Villain, ofcourse the winning side gets the rights to write the summary, so the Heroism of the winning team shows greater percentages.

          Coming back to the movie, so a regional player like Bose should not be bogged down by the crimes of Imperial Japan. And Kamal was using the respect people have for Bose to build that character.

          And moving to present day India, which is currently under the stress of Demonetization, a move to Cash Less digitized society that is being attempted is probably the boldest move attempted by anyone to reduce bribery and corruption in India (though removing Tax avoidance and Counterfeiting are the real aim of the govt).


          • –> Posted comment before completing the paragraph , here it is.

            And moving to present day India, which is currently under the stress of Demonetization, a move to Cash Less digitized society that is being attempted is probably the boldest move attempted by anyone to reduce bribery and corruption in India (though removing Tax avoidance and Counterfeiting are the real aim of the govt). That removal of bribery was the point of the movie.

            I loved the move, especially the older Kamal character.


          • Thank you so much for that thoughtful discussion! Your point about the connection between colonialism and the evils of WWII was something my professor in my graduate seminar on Orientalism talked about, only you said it much more clearly than she did.

            On Fri, Dec 2, 2016 at 12:38 PM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



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  6. The doctor would not treat Kasturi after her fire accident until Kamal 2 paid bribe. He wouldn’t even see her and she was left outside in rain. As if that wouldn’t completely buy our sympathies already, they just had to take it that one step further and make it so that her body was not only decaying, she was also unclothed! Oh, what a shame!! Just, why!!!? Oh wait, probably like many of her mother’s old friends she too deserved to die because of the dishonour, not because of her father’s uncompromising rigidity.

    Have you seen Enthiran/ Robot? Shankar directed it too. I featured Rajinikanth as both hero and villain and had a similar problematic sequence as the one that reminded you of Ararat. (Sorry to fans, but he is not a man of novel ideas.) I won’t get into details, but that was the only scene of that movie that I had seen while it was airing on TV and decided that this movie is not worth my time.


    • Uch! I hadn’t noticed that she was unclothed and therefore immodest in that scene.

      Shankar is such a mixed bag! I’ve only seen a few of his movies, but I really liked the strength of the grandmother character in Jeans, and Genelia’s character in Boys. And then he has this movie where it is all about woman as just bodies above all.


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  9. After reading this, Margaret, I can say at the time of writing this you had a large bias towards axis powers and completely clouded by your grand father’s trauma.
    I should always remind you that America dropped terrible bombs on Japan that changed the world into something else. USA is as criminal as the others. They thrower grenades at your Grandpa’s because your Grandpa’s did the same to their grandpa.

    Many points about Bose I wanted to make are already made by other comments, except perhaps two points. 1. When Indian soldiers were fighting none of their wars they were often imprisoned by axis powers. Bose offered to go against British and cut their economic strengths if the allied captives were set free and under his command be allowed to attack British. India supported British dyeing WW1 only to be broken on false promises it made. So a LOT of people in India didn’t like India fighting WW2 on behalf of anybody. They revolted, they broke laws and they defied curfews and lot of things. Martial law imposes serious punishments as shown in the movie. After Bose whole army revolted and thus British left. A lot of information regarding Bose is classified and us probably never going to be released because according to an agreement, Boss is to be tried for war crimes against the crown during WW2 and India is to return him if they even found him. So, truth isn’t going to come out any time soon.
    ( Before Bose was a military leader he was a politician (for 12 years), a Congress chair person elected twice. The more you will know him the more you will like him. He was the one who named Gandhi as ‘Mahatma’. He was a close friend of Nehru.)

    -i don’t think they were shooting her while she refused to salute, they were beating her.
    – cloth burning was part of Swadeshi movement where imported Manchester cloth was burned at public places and the British cloth selling shops were picketed. So furious military officers resorted to attack the Indian cloth by stripping them of the time who participated in such demos. Google for Swadeshi movement
    – kamal 1 is essentially a non Gandhian while his wife is a Gandhian. That’s in the movie.
    -freedom struggle is poorly detailed in this movie. You need to understand history to understand it.
    – You might be thinking colonialism wasn’t that bad compared to Holocaust or WW2. But, slave trade and American natives’ genocide is. Those two are the greatest crimes against God And humanity ever done. Colonialism is as bad as those. Bengal famine is the best example.
    – I just don’t buy your point behind honour deaths and women killing themselves. Do you know how many women were raped and unwanted pregnancies ensued and a lot happened during many wars ? They value their honour over their life. It is common and in today’s society of casual sex the honour and value for virginity is lost in obscurity. I suggest you watch a movie named Cannibal Holocaust. It made me question my very humanity.
    Finally coming to the theme of the movie and it’s meaning. I think I will write it in next post


    • The theme is this : –
      Freedom is a hard earned one. It takes sacrifice, courage, bloodshed and a LOT to bring out freedom from tyranny and oppression. To bring out liberty and democracy.
      Freedom guarantees you equality, liberty. When those very ideals of freedom are at stake then it becomes essential to gain back the freedom from a whole new kind of oppression and Tyranny (corruption). So when kamal 2 feels that he fought all those years for freedom only to be oppressed and treated unequal, where he had to pay to buy his freedom, where he needs to bribe to let his voice speak, he revolts. He thinks that such a state of world is plagued and hence it should be cleansed with bloodshed, and sacrifice (more symbolical for inspiration than actual). What’s the difference between British india and independemt India if both of them ask bribes to get things done.

      Because freedom can’t be bought. Freedom sold is never freedom gained. Like slavery, it continues in various other forms until it can be completely uprooted. That requires other means of fighting than simply buying it. I think I don’t need to me thin about Abraham Lincoln and his pastor friend who tried to buy slaves and set them free.

      This movie speaks a little deeper into our conscience of what it means to have freedom, and what exactly is freedom.


    • As always, thank you for your detailed comments!

      In America, WWII is ever present and is a large part of our experience. So there are some “prejudices” against the Axis here that are more a matter of the enormous amount of reporting and evidence available to us. The Japanese soldiers were the same as the American soldiers, absolutely. But Japan as an Empire, and Nazi Germany, really cannot compare in any way to what was happening in America at that time (although it can compare with our treatment of the Native Americans and slavery). We dropped the bomb and we interned our Japanese citizens, and that was terrible. But Imperial Japan had a “comfort woman” policy, was invading territories for years and massacring citizens, was generally just really really bad. And, of course, Nazi Germany had the holocaust.

      Yes, the British and other European countries did things equally bad as colonial powers. But Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany were just this massive concentration of badness all at once. It’s very hard for an American to get past that. And this film didn’t really do a good job of easing me into that mindset. I found Rangoon better (in this one tiny aspect) just because it let us more fully experience what would make someone join up with Bose. Rather than this film which just dumped me into that thinking without any backstory.

      For your final point, it’s this thinking which bothers me. A loss of virginity should not mean death. Does not mean death. Nor does rape or an unwanted pregnancy. A woman is more than just her reproductive organs. She has a mind and a soul and a heart, and that should not be thrown out just because of something that happened to her against her will. Would you say that today’s rape victims should all kill themselves? And that if they do not, they are not “honorable”? Or, that it wasn’t “really” rape, because otherwise they would have killed themselves? Because these are arguments that occur constantly, all over the world. And often it is only after a suicide that people will, reluctantly, agree that she must have been telling the truth and wish they had believed her.

      One in every three women alive on earth has been sexually assaulted (not me, in case you are wondering). When you say something like this in the real world and one of them overhears, or when they read it online, one more person is telling them that they should be dead right now, that they are forever damaged and it would be better for them to die. And that’s my problem with this film. We do not need the “lesson” that a woman’s honor resides in her body and we should all aspire to being noble enough to die before dishonor. This is a lesson that, believe me, women already know. Indian, American, or from anywhere else.

      I know from your comments that you are a thinking sensitive person and do not want to be the final nail that forces a teenage girl to drink poison. And that you do not really believe that a girl who sleeps with her high school boyfriend should kill herself. But it is this casual acceptance that a woman’s “Honor” resides in her body, not her mind, that starts this kind of thinking, so I am overreacting to you a little bit, so that you can see the short steps from what you are saying to daily tragedies. I’ll put it another way. If a man were to lose his hand, would you tell him that he should die because he had lost his honor? Or would that only be the case if he broke his word, told a lie, acted cowardly? A woman’s honor can equally exist outside of her body, within her soul, something that cannot be touched by physical actions. And the “lie” that it is only honorable if a woman keeps her body sacrosanct, and failure to do so (even against her will) should result in death, is something that all women fight against every day.

      On Fri, Jun 2, 2017 at 11:43 AM, dontcallitbollywood wrote:



      • It is your lack of connection with director and his theme, tinted by your prejudice, that made you completely different and negative towards the movie. I understand that and I shall let it pass.

        In today’s world of feminism, there is more to woman than her body. But in the past their primary duty was to look after and care for family right from ancient times to 20th century. When you have such a history at hand, depending on culture, you have various ideals to strive for. One of them is your chastity and purity. Because based on how much you live up to your ideals decides how much you are respected. Women thought those ideals are worth dying for. If you don’t have any ideals no one is to blame but one who does is held in high regard . Indian culture is filled with examples like that everywhere. Men die of honour too, like women. It is no big deal. They don’t consider diverting from ideals is an option or a choice. They don’t consider sex as “just another thing” in life. It is the only thing for them. It is what made them socially acceptable and ‘Honorable’. Of course today’s society is nothing like that.
        Suicide is a momentary outburst of emotion that prompts you to end your life. I don’t think that’s the only reason they might commit suicide neither is that only women or raped women commit suicide. Many men and a whole bunch of other people do, for ” perfectly valid reasons”. The most important question to ask here is why is it an option for a women in the particular case of rape? It’s none of her mistake. Not all consider rape as loss of Honor, and some want to make a statement -like in the movie, while some just place their other ideals above their life.
        The question whether the man would be considered ‘raped’ too and worth dying for , for the loss of a hand ? His ideals are something else. He does consider it ‘just another thing in body’ . Sadly his ideals are much more staunch and gruesome than a woman. Most men die fighting wars. None of those wars are his, he is never had a y enmity between any of them. He is not to blame for what is being done to him : amputation and massacre. Yet a few people who show their back in the field (or have shown cowardice) are ‘not considered socially acceptible’ because it was no mistake of his and he found no point in fighting the war. They are ridiculed and bullied to a point they just drift away or kill themselves. Hope you are seeing the parallels here.

        Most people mistake feminity with a lot of things that it really isn’t. Feminity is not fighting for equality in the sense that they should be granted everything men were granted. It is that they should be treated equally with men, without discrimination, in whatever they are doing. Sadly most people forget this essential fact (that feminity is embracing what is feminine and not downplaying it) and go for something else : freedom to have sex, freedom to do all those things that were not ‘idealistic’ for centuries. It’s like they are trying to take revenge on the society. Society itself has a fabric that assigned them differential roles. There is difference between interpreting it and adapting it to situations, and turning it upside down. What started as a movement from ‘working in kitchen or carrying babies’ is not way less valued than ‘working in mines or digging in the fields’, went to ‘we will use our body like we want to. If society questions, screw the society and change it forever’. It changes the equation to a point where there is no meaning at all. I have already encountered a number of men who are not at all interested in marriage because “I don’t want a women running away with my wealth because she can. Children is her problem and I pay for my sex whenever I want in a number of ways”. I have no idea where this society is heading but I strongly feel that women should consider themselves as a prize, than just a give away, because biology of sex is hugely hung in favour of women.

        In the post if you are against suicide of anyone, be it for honour of women or ridicule of men, I am with you. Kamal tries to blow a tank in the movie with human bomb because he felt it was worth dying for. However if you are against women having ideals, I am afraid I have to disagree with you.
        Of course all the things above are personal, perspective, and premise of a ‘not so long ago’ society.

        Additional note : thank God you didn’t think I want a girl to kill herself for sleeping over. Rape is not the only way a woman can loose her honour, it is one of the ways. It is all dependent on society and her perception of it. Men, women live out the tragedy and fight against it. Honor, once again I emphasize, depends on your ideals. Since ideals have changed, society has changed. That doesn’t mean those ideals were bad, but that they were no longer relevant to present scenario of everyday life. Hope you stop looking at the past in the lens of present. Past is past and it was right at the time, what might be right thing now. This probably be cant be applied to back then.
        You need to understand that to some people life isn’t about beautiful things that are worth living for. Rather, it is the value of their death (like time, place, ideal etc.), Because life is a lot less certain than death and they want to make it count.


  10. Re POV on Axis powers and Allied powers: I agree with many Indian reader’s comments on this post. History is written by victors as it suits their agenda. If we are still ruled by the British, all our heroes would have been branded as villains and the Indian history would have been completely different.

    What I am trying to say is that Margaret’s technical analysis is good to read but when it comes to cultural references, it is a bit bitter on occasions.


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