Films For Peace!
21 September is International Day of Peace.
International Day of Peace, also unofficially known as World Peace Day, is observed annually on 21 September. It is dedicated to world peace and specifically the absence of war and violence. There has been no better medium than films for reminding us of pain, horror and destruction due to war. The best war movies rarely focus on the carnage or courage on the battlefield and instead the stories behind the front-lines of the families of the soldiers who have to undergo severe hardships and anxiety. Of the numerous anti-war films made in different countries and countless languages around the world, I have picked five of my most favorite films for posting on this platform:
Dr. Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani (V. Shantaram, 1946): The film recounts the real-life story of Dr. Dwarkanath Kotnis (Shantaram), a member of a medical team sent by India to fight alongside the Chinese during the Japanese invasion of China in the WWII. During his stay there, he meets and marries a Chinese girl, Ching Lan (Jayshree). Events take a terrible turn when Kotnis goes into the battlefield whilst developing a cure against an epidemic and dies treating the wounded. The film is remarkable for its absolute abandonment of any pretense at cinematic realism and its powerful nationalistic rhetoric. This is undercut with documentary footage of Pundit Nehru at a mass meeting. Shantaram gives one of his most powerful performances in the movie and Jayshree looks extremely charming as his Chinese wife.
Hum Dono (Vijay Anand, 1960): The film has a strong yet subtle anti-war message running through it, showing how the war can destroy the lives of innocent people. Written by Vijay Anand, Hum Dono features Dev Anand in the dual role of Captain Anand and Major Verma. They both become close friends at the war front. Verma goes missing and is presumed dead. Keeping a promise to his friend, Anand goes to Verma's home to inform the Major's ailing wife (Nanda) that her husband is missing in action. When Anand arrives, because of their striking resemblence, his family believes he is Verma, leading to a series of misunderstandings. The film has beautiful dialogues and brilliant songs composed by Jaidev and written by Sahir Ludhianvi. The song “Abhi Na Jao Chhod Kar Ke Dil Abhi Bhara Nahin” remains among the most beautiful songs of Bollywood.
Haqeeqat (Chetan Anand, 1964): India's first and the finest war film to date, Haqeeqat became a yardstick for subsequent Hindi films based on war. The film is a heroic portrayal of India's 1962 war with China over the disputed Ladakh border. Haqeeqat is the only film that depicts this war in all its reality. The director has brilliantly woven drama and history together on his cinematic canvas. The movie not only involves a sense of pride but also brings a tear to the dry eye as one goes through the termoils of soldiers as they fight with abandon to save their motherland. Kaifi Azmi pens some of his best lyrics for this movie. Madan Mohan is in his elements as he composes some of the gems of his legendary repertoir. The film is also boosted by an extremely well written screenplay that engrosses the viewer. Films like Haqeeqat are made but once in a life time.
Border (J. P. Dutta, 1997): Rarely has an Indian movie depicted the personal traumas that confront soldiers and their families. J. P. Dutta's Border resurrects the glory of Haqeeqat as an extraordinary film on the subject. Border is much more than a war movie. It explores the lives, conditions, problems and aspirations of the soldiers of the armed forces, and pits their bonds to their loved ones against their bonds to their soil. The movie unfolds like a timeless epic - an inspiring story revolving around the Longewala post in West Rajasthan during the war of 1971 between India and Pakistan. A small Indian battalion, merely fifty in numbers, withstands the enemy's attack to capture it - a force of two thousand men with their tanks and other ammunition. A very well-researched script, the film is gripping in its narration. One of the most significant aspects of the film is that it was shot on actual locations amidst the vast deserts of Bikaner. The film won Filmfare (1998) Awards for: Best Director, Best New Comer (Akshay Khanna), Best Lyricist (Javed Akhtar), Best Sound Recording (Vinod Potdar) and Best Action (Bhiku Verma, Tinu Verma).
Refugee (J.P.Dutta, 2000): The film is a poetic rendering of how God just created humans and love and how mankind erected walls and boundaries, thus creating blocks, communities and nations in a baritone – and sets the pace of the film. It is essentially a love story set against backdrop of post-Partition ethos. The song “Panchi Nadiya Pawan Ke Jhonke, Koi Sarhad Na Inhen Roke” is a true representation of the film, which when translated is something like – 'Borders dividing nations don't confine birds, rivers, breez. Borders are meant for mankind. By virtue of being human beings that is all what we have got'. One aspect of the film that springs a surprise is the ease with which the debuntantes Abhishek and Kareena have performed. It does not look from anywhere that the two are acting for the first time.
“On this International Day of Peace let us pledge to teach our children the value of tolerance and mutual respect. … “
- UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon