Bollywood voices India’s concerns: What an independent India means to me 

What has the political freedom of India come to mean to the actors, singers and directors of Bollywood? Eminent film personalities share their opinions

Subhash K Jha

Various cultural and artistic movements contributed significantly to the Freedom Movement of India. They were more effective in spreading social and political awareness. Every creative mind has his own idea of freedom and values freedom tremendously. What has the political freedom of India come to mean to the actors, singers and directors of Bollywood?
What is their vision of freedom and aspiration for free India? Eminent film personalities share their opinions.

Shabana Azmi (actor)

Freedom means everything to me. But I am deeply cognizant of the fact that with freedom must come responsibility. It’s not only about rights but also about duties, about upholding the values enshrined in our Constitution and embracing inclusion and diversity. I salute all those leaders and common people who paved the way so that we can walk freely. Threat of violence is a tool for pushing women away from enjoying the freedoms that are rightfully theirs. We need to revisit notions of masculinity and question why it is about exercising power and rippling muscles. Why is energy not invested in compassion, respect and equality? At the end of the day, all sections of society have to do some introspection and take responsibility for how, at our end, we can help transform a mindset that is misogynist.

Lata Mangeshkar (one of the most revered singers of Bollywood)

In 70 years, India has come a long way. Communication is now just a click away. Ironically, we were a much closer-knit people when communication was far more difficult. There was a time when we would spend hours trying to reach a loved one on a trunk-call. Today, a Whatsapp message is difficult because we don’t have time. Azaadi ek soch hai jisse hum Bhaaratiya sahi terah se samajh nahin paye (Independence is a state of mind that we Indians have not understood correctly). Independence is not only about what we eat or wear, or the right to freedom of expression. Freedom of expression is not the freedom to abuse those who do not agree with you. It is also about being liberated from prejudices and intolerance. Hamare desh mein abhi maanavtavaad bahot kam ho gayi hai (Humanism is on the wane in India). To me, freedom is the right to be who I am and what I am without hurting the same rights of others. Vande Mataram.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui (actor)

Freedom is the freedom from prejudices. Freedom from judging people by the colour of the skin or their religious beliefs. Freedom is not only about any individual’s rights. The right to everyone’s freedom is equally important. If you are conscious of your freedom, then you must value the freedom of others. Aapko agar apni azaadi pyari hai toh doosre logon ko bhi woh haq honi chahiye (If you love your freedom then others too should have this right). As an actor, I’ve exercised my freedom of expression to the fullest. I am never shackled by the fear of playing a character which may damage my image because I don’t believe in an image. So yes, my freedom of expression as an actor is not negotiable.

Farhan Akhtar (actor, director)

To me, freedom is the freedom to use my voice to influence mindsets and prejudices. It’s really not enough anymore to say one is here only to entertain and not reform society. That’s just an escapist attitude. The celebrity status comes with a responsibility. However, I really wouldn’t want to comment on what others do or should do. I can only speak for myself. To me, it is very important to be a socially responsible citizen while working in my various other capacities as actor, filmmaker and singer. It’s very important to try to be the best human being that one can be. That doesn’t mean you try to be or do things that you are not. Everyone makes mistakes. I am quite certain I’ve made my share of mistakes. But the important thing is to try and do the right thing. To remember that the public’s eyes are on us all the time. So, try to be on your best behaviour as much as possible. One may not always succeed. But there is much to be said in favour of a sincere attempt to do the right thing.

Manoj Muntashir (lyricist, script writer)

Even if there are chains of challenges wrapped up around our feet, we must not stop dancing. To me, that’s true independence. We shouldn’t confuse independence with freedom, they are vastly different things. We are constitutionally free, but there can’t be absolute independence till we depend on anyone and anything for our basic human rights. I’ll only celebrate independence wholeheartedly, when no child in my country would die anymore for the lack of oxygen. Jai hind.

Rajkummar Rao (actor)

Independence Day is a reminder of how our forefathers fought and sacrificed their present for our future. Let’s make the most of this precious freedom and take our country forward.

‘Threat of violence is a tool for pushing women away from enjoying the freedoms that are rightfully theirs. We need to revisit notions of masculinity and question why it is about exercising power and rippling muscles. Why is energy not invested in compassion, respect and equality?’

Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra (director, producer)

To me, freedom is a place where the mind is without fear. We need to grow out of patriotic jingoism and to stop looking at the other nation as the enemy. I never understood why the country had to be divided on the basis of demography. Tomorrow, we might have a separate Gorkhaland or a Jatland because a lot of our people operate on a tribal mentality. I feel it is time to build a highway among countries. Europe has fought so many wars. They have seen World War 1, 2 and the Holocaust. But now, Europe stands as one nation with a single visa and currency. They’ve understood the value of peace, cultural exchange and working together. I would never do a film that doesn’t express my thoughts, ideas and ideology. It is important for me to take my own conscience very seriously while making films. I get emotionally very attached to the projects I do.

To me, Rang De Basanti, Delhi 6 and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag are part of a trilogy. They are very personal expressions. Rang De Basanti addressed the issue of corruption and the participation of the youth. It wasn’t a new thought, but a true one. And true thoughts are eternal. Delhi 6 encapsulates a childhood in Delhi. In the film, I saw everything from a child’s viewpoint. There is nothing like formula. There are just good and bad films. How wonderful to have films on so many sports heroes! The human angle must be explored. To me, the point of connectivity with Bhaag Milkha Bhaag was Milkhaji’s lost childhood.

Whenever I see films about World War 2 made by the Western filmmakers, I wonder why we don’t make the same kind of films on the Partition. In spirit, I find the Partition and the Holocaust to be similar. The biggest sufferers in these bloodbaths were children. Somewhere, Milkhaji’s story and its theme of suffering during the Partition connected with the entire global community. That’s why Carl Lewis reached out to Milkhaji after seeing BMB. There are persecuted minorities and ethnic communities all over the world.

Pritish Nandy (Film producer, writer, activist)

Freedom. The freedom to be myself in a world that is constantly trying to make me a cipher, a number, an Aadhaar card.

Feroz Abbas Khan (Theatre and film director, writer)

It means pride and reflection. A civilisation unshackled to realise its possibilities and meet its destiny. A reminder of all those for whom survival and dignity is a constant negotiation.

Manoj Tiwari (Actor turned politician)

For me, Independence Day is an occasion when we Indians feel a deep sense of patriotism in our minds, bodies and thoughts. It is an important day because it fills all Indians with thoughts of one-ness. For me, freedom is the freedom to use my position as an actor and politician to educate, inform and improve the lives of the underprivileged, the way Akshay Kumar is doing through his films.

Kalki Koechlin (Theatre, film actor)

To me, Independence Day means Shri Aurobindo’s birthday.

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