May 10 is the Anniversary of the beginning of India’s First War of Independence. It began on 10 May 1857, as a mutiny of sepoys of the British East India Company's army.
The immediate event which angered the sepoys was about the ammunition for the new rifles they had to use. The cartridges that were used in the rifles had to be bitten open. The Muslims were angry because they thought that the paper cartridges had pig fat in them. This was because Muslims believe that pigs are unclean. Hindu soldiers were angry because they believed the cartridges had cow fat in them.
Rebellion broke out when a soldier called Mangal Pandey attacked a British sergeant and wounded an adjutant while his regiment was in Barrackpore. General Hearsey ordered another Indian soldier to arrest Mangal Pandey but he refused. Later the British arrested Mangal Pandey and the other Indian soldier. The British killed both by hanging them because what they had done was thought to be treachery. All other soldiers of that regiment lost their places in the army. On May 10th 1857, cavalry troops while doing parade at Meerut broke ranks. They freed the soldiers of the 3rd regiment, and they moved towards Delhi. Soon many Indians of north India joined these soldiers. They entered the Delhi Fort where Bahadur Shah II, the Mughal Emperor, lived, and asked him to become leader of the rebellion. He agreed. Very soon the revolt spread throughout north India. Important Indian leaders of royal families joined the rebellion, and started fighting the British at several places. They included: Ahmed Ullah, an advisor of the ex-King of Oudh; Nana Saheb, his nephew Rao Saheb, and his retainers, Tantia Tope and Azimullah Khan; the Rani of Jhansi; Kunwar Singh; the Rajput chief of Jagadishpur in Bihar; and Firuz Saha, a relative of the Mughal Emperor, Bahadur Shah.
The British forces reached Delhi, and they surrounded the city from 1st July 1857 until 31st August 1857. Eventually street-to-street fights broke out between the British troops and the Indians. Ultimately, they took control of Delhi. The last important battle was at Gwalior in June 1858 in which the Rani of Jhansi was killed; a few days later the British retook the fortress of Gwalior. With this, the British had practically suppressed the rebellion.
It is a pity that Hindi cinema more or less ignored such an important event of India’s historical fight for freedom from the British rulers, except for making a few movies that did not really bring out the spirit with which the First War of Independence was fought.
1857 ( 1946) was the fifth highest grossing Indian film of 1946. The film starred the singer-actor pair of Surendra and Suraiya, along with Wasti, Nigar, Munshi Khanjar, Madan Puri. 1857 was a historical fiction drama set against the backdrop of the Indian Rebellion of 1857 also known as the First War of Independence. .
Jhansi Ki Rani is (1953), historical film produced and directed by Sohrab Modi. It is credited as the first Technicolor film made in India and starred Modi's wife, Mehtab in the title role, with Modi in the important role of her mentor Rajguru (royal adviser). The film was dubbed in English as The Tiger and the Flame which released in 1956 with the same star cast. The cast besides Mehtab and Sohrab Modi included Mubarak, Ulhas, Sapru, Ram Singh, Baby Shikha, Marconi, and Shakila. Set in the 19th century against the backdrop of the Mutiny of 1857, the film is about the bravery of queen Lakshmibai, Rani of Jhansi, who took up arms and led her army against the British.
The Chess Players or Shatranj ke Khiladi (1977) by Indian filmmaker Satyajit Ray. The movie focuses on annexation of the kingdom of Oudh by the British prior to the Mutiny, and how the apathy of the royalty and their complete detachment from politics led to disastrous consequences. The film opens with a game of chess being played by two friends belonging to the nobility in Lucknow, who feel they have nothing to lose in the world, except that game. The movie is a satire on the times that were, the glitz and glamour of the Nawabs, and gives a glimpse into why things were the way they were.
Janoon (1979) is directed by another noted filmmaker Shyam Benegal. This film has the Sepoy Mutiny as a backdrop, but an important backdrop at that.... in looking at a marital relationship, an intercultural love story, and stories about power dynamics.
Mangal Pandey: The Rising (2005) is based on the life of Mangal Pandey, It is directed by Ketan Mehta. The film was declared 'Hit' even though it took a decent start at the Box Office but the collections dipped eventually. The film was premiered in the Marché du Film section of the 2005 Cannes Film Festival. Aamir Khan plays the lead role of Mangal Pandey, a daring soldier whose initiatives fueled the "The First War of Indian Independence" of 1857.