Considering the political scenario in modern-day India, it would be prudish to assume that politics does not play a role in Bollywood filmmaking.
Content based on the politics of a country, whether it is as a scathing satire or an accurate depiction of the prevailing situations, has always been an aspect of filmmaking which content creators have tinkered with. Sometimes, the formulaic representations have tanked the box office, while others have hit it out of the proverbial park.
Let’s take a look at 13 Bollywood films from the last decade, with politics as their main theme:
Gulaal (13 March 2009)
Released in 2009, Gulaal had Anurag Kashyap don his director’s hat and attracted the likes of Piyush Mishra and Jesse Randhawa for the roles. The film talks about the injustices prevalent in society and the evils that one has to commit when pursuing power. Rajasthan’s student politics, mixed with a dose of secessionist politics was portrayed along with a great script and better screenplay.
Firaaq (20 March 2009):
Firaaq is the directorial debut of actress Nandita Das. The film is said to be based on “a thousand true stories”.
The political thriller is an anthology film which revolves around the aftermath caused immediately one month after the 2002 Gujarat riot.
The film features Naseeruddin Shah, Deepti Naval, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Inaamulhaq, Paresh Rawal, Sanjay Suri, Raghubir Yadav, Shahana Goswami, Amruta Subhash, and Tisca Chopra.
Firaaq won three awards at the Asian Festival of First Films in Singapore in December 2008, the Special Prize at the International Thessaloniki Film Festival, and an award at the Kara Film Festival in Pakistan. It won two National Film Awards at 56th National Film Awards.
Rann (29 January 2010)
Ram Gopal Verma partnered with Amitabh Bachchan once again for this political drama based on the life of a corrupt politician, and his dealings with a broadcasting business. The film also stars Riteish Deshmukh and Paresh Rawal in supporting roles. It was premiered in the absolutely prestigious Toronto International Film Festival and opened to rave reviews. The movie showcases morality based on honesty.
Rajneeti (4 June 2010)
A political thriller directed by Prakash Jha, it tells the story of a man whose politician father is shot dead. Due to this, he has to cancel his plans to move to the United States of America, and join politics. In turn, he learns how to live the life of a politician, including the inherent deceit and corruption.
Peepli Live (13 August 2010)
This satirical movie, produced by Aamir Khan, tackles the problem of farmer suicides in India. It also acts as a double barrel and attacks the incessant roundabout tactics of the media. The government is also criticized for trying to bribe the people involved in the issue and for playing vote-bank politics. The film is definitely a must watch and is an eye-opener for a large number of farmers in dire situations.
Rakht Charitra [22 October 2010 (Part I) 3 December 2010 (Part II)]:
One of the first films in Indian cinema to release in two parts within a span of a couple of months. This Ram Gopal Varma is a biographical political action thriller based on the life of politician Paritala Ravindra.
The films cast includes Vivek Oberoi, Suriya, Sudeep, Shatrughan Sinha, Abhimanyu Singh, Kota Srinivasa Rao, Sushant Singh, Radhika Apte and Priyamani.
Aarakshan (12 August 2011):
Amitabh Bachchan starrer Aarakshan is a 2011 film directed by Prakash Jha. The socio-political drama revolves around the much debated and controversial caste-based reservation sytems in India. The film also stars Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone, Prateik Babbar and Manoj Bajpayee. released to a mixed review, the film did an average business at the box office.
Shanghai (8 June 2012):
Maverick filmmaker Dibakar Banerjee’s Shanghai is a political thriller. The film was co written, and co produced by Dibakar, besides directing it. Starring Abhay Deol, Emraan Hashmi, Kalki Koechlin, Prosenjit Chatterjee, Shanghai was based on the Greek novel “Z” by Vassilis Vassilikos. The film created quite a flutter because of the controversial ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ song, but on 6 June 2012, the high court refused stay on the release of the film. The film critical acclaim from all corners, and did a decent business at the box office.
Chakravyuh (24 October 2012):
Prakash Jha is known for his hard-hitting socio-political films. Jha’s 2012 political drama Chakravyuh aims to be a social commentary on the issue of Naxalites. The film cast includes Arjun Rampal, Abhay Deol, Esha Gupta, Manoj Bajpayee and Anjali Patil.
Despite the positive reviews from critics, the film didn’t fare as well as was expected and failed to recover its budget.
Satyagraha (30 August 2013)
Satyagraha is directed by Prakash Jha and features some big names of Bollywood such as Amitabh Bachchan, Amrita Rao, Kareena Kapoor, Arjun Rampal, Ajay Devgn, and Manoj Bajpayee. The film exhibits the life of a man and his son, who decide to give back to the society that they are grateful for. They form their own party in order to drive out corruption and live a better life.
Buddha in a Traffic Jam (13 May 2016):
Vivek Agnihotri’s Buddha in a Traffic Jam is a socio-political drama which was completed in 2014 but was officially released two years later on 12th may 2016. The film deals with Naxalism, campus politics, moral policing, capitalism, and a revolution incited by a college professor. The ensemble cast features names such as Arunoday Singh, Anupam Kher, Pallavi Joshi, Mahie Gill and Anchal Dwivedi.
Sarkar (Trilogy) (2005-2017)
Sarkar is the brainchild of Ram Gopal Verma, taking inspiration from the classic that is The Godfather. It features an ensemble cast of Amitabh Bachchan, Katrina Kaif, Tanisha Mukherjee, Anupam Kher, Kay Kay Menon and Supriya Pathak. The film was a hit at the box office and premiered at the New York Asian Film Festival. It has also been a part of the archive of the American Academy of Motion Pictures.
Indu Sarkar (28 July 2017):
Madhur Bhandarkar known for his hard-hitting socially relevant films, directed the period political thriller titled Indu Sarkar. This 2017 film was co-written and co-produced by Madhur. Indu Sarkar is set in the period during the emergency in India between 1975 to 1977. Starring Kirti Kulhari, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Anupam Kher, Tota Roy Chowdhury, and Supriya Vinod. The film received backlash from the Indian National Congress as it was said to be based on Indira Gandhi’s regime, but the director denied any such claims and refused to acknowledge that his film is a biopic on the Indian Prime Minister