My local bank has this funky series of plaques along the side based on an editorial from the local paper from like 1954 called “Can We Wave the Flag Too Much?” This, my answer is going to be “No!”, at least if we are talking about the Indian flag. And so, a series of short posts suggesting some patriotic viewing choices on the ramp up to Independence Day. Also, some nice counter-programming to the Jab Harry Met Sejal bonanza.
The most important thing about this film is that it was RD Burman’s last soundtrack. Everything else comes after that. The songs are gorgeous, different from what he had done before, somehow both old-fashioned to fit the time period, and yet also in synch with the new sounds of the 90s films. Lovely! And they have to be lovely because the songs carry the weight of the romance, create this gorgeous effect of a beautiful magical love story that is taking place in the shadow of revolution. The title really says it all, 1942: A Love Story.
The second thing you have to know about this film is that Vidhu Vinod Chopra directed it. VVC can sometimes be a bit superficial in his treatment of issues (Mission Kashmir), and a bit overly dramatic in some scenes (birdbath in Parineeti, I am looking at you), but his films are always just slightly more put together than other films. Every shot is just so, the colors are just right, and there are super clever visuals. Like in this one, the freedom marchers who keep passing in the background of the love song.
And the third thing you need to know is that it is WAY OVER THE TOP!!! Which is my preference for Independence films. I want the British to be so awful and the freedom fighters to be so noble that we KNOW it is propaganda, not history. And this British guy is really really awful! Both as a person, and an actor. One of the most hilarious bad white guy actors ever, and there are a lot to choose from in Hindi film.
But ultimately, this movie works for me, partly because it is so way over the top. If they pulled their punches, if the freedom fighters were a little less noble or the British a little less evil, then I might get pulled out of the film. But we start with a small child trying to save the Indian flag (old school, with a spinning wheel) and being beaten by the evil soldiers, and we end with an evil man being killed when a flag pole is stabbed through him. It’s that kind of a movie.
And in between, we have our love story! Which maybe could have been improved if there was someone besides Anil Kapoor playing the hero? It feels so mean to say it, but he just isn’t the dashing handsome dreamboat I want. More like the cheerful nice guy I want….to have a conversation with and never kiss.
Although the character as a whole works, it’s just the dangerous loverboy part that doesn’t, which is only one little bit of the whole. This movie is such a nice little discussion of the various forces in pre-Independence India. Ranging from the dedicated intellectual freedom fighters, to the collaborating upper class, to the brainwashed Indian British army officers. Anil represents our younger generation of the upperclass, not yet consciousness raised, but getting there. And he is also a real person, I care about him and his mother and his relationship with his father and all of that.
I care about all of these people! Anil, Jackie Shroff, Pran, Anupam Kher, and Danny Denzongpa who somehow ends up being the heart of the film in a strange way. And Manisha Koirala, who is stunningly beautiful here. That’s what makes it one of my favorite Independence films. It’s not just about the political message, it’s about the characters, I actually care about them.
Oh, and the songs. Once again, props to RD.