This Independence Day, watch films that ask if all citizens have an equal amount of freedom

‘Masaan’, ‘Hamid’, ‘Aligarh’, ‘Article 15’ and ‘Axone’ reveal that the idea of parity is maybe still far from being a reality

Cinema is not just about entertainment but conversations about unspoken taboos, prejudices and invisible and visible faultiness. This Independence Day, watch these films that remind us that freedom is an equal right but is still a distant dream for many.

1. Article 15: The rape of a young child in the national capital  just a few days before Independence Day raises some disconcerting questions about caste parity and basic humanity. Similar questions were raised by the Anubhav Sinha directorial Article 15. The film was produced by Sinha himself and starred Ayushman Khurana, Nassar, Manoj Pahwa, Kumud Mishra, Isha Talwar, Sayani Gupta and Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub. The film reconstructs a brutal case of sexual violence and peels off layers of caste prejudices and oppression in the rural heartlands of India, to get to the truth. At the heart of the conflict is the idea that even though all citizens are supposedly equal in the country, some are more equal than the others. The film is one of the bravest attempts in recent times to call out atrocities we seem to have taken for granted.  

2. Hamid: Aijaz Khan’s poignant love letter to humanity evokes both tears and smiles as it tells the story of a young boy missing his absent father, comforting his grieving mother and reaching out to divinity to intervene. This is a film that even without making an obvious statement, reminds us of the tragedy of Kashmir’s missing fathers and countless families in mourning, without any closure. And yet, the overwhelming message that the film communicates is one of hope. It  conveys that the pure warmth of human bonds beyond all artificial barriers can heal hearts and uplift wounded spirits. The film stars Rasika Dugal,Vikas Kumar and Talha Arshad Reshi and is an adaptation of the play ‘Phone No. 786’ by Mohd. Amin Bhat. The simple premise of a seven-year-old Hamid (Talha Arshad Reshi in a National Award winning performance) trying to dial the number, 786 to reach out to God, will somehow never lose its bitter-sweet pathos or its ability to move us. ‘Hamid’ was produced by Yoodlee Films.

3. Masaan: Directed by one of the few Dalit voices in the industry Neeraj Ghaywan, ‘Masaan’ is a heart-breaking narrative of two ill- fated love stories. Moral policing and caste divides impinge on the right to love in a small town where life and death, privilege and deprivation, curiosity and suppression co-exist. The real story is however about young Indians trapped between the past and the present and whose freedom to make life choices is always open to scrutiny and castigation. The film starred Vicky Kaushal, Richa Chadha, Shweta Tripathi, Sanjay Mishra and Pankaj Tripathi. It was produced by Drishyam Films, Phantom Films, Macassar Productions, Sikhya Entertainment and Kanchan Chandnani.

4. Axone: When athletes from the North-East win Olympic medals, they are hailed as Indians but do these fleeting moments of celebration negate the racism our fellow citizens from the same regions face often? Nicholas Kharkongor’s film ‘Axone’ is not a bitter film but gently asks us to acknowledge and respect the humanity of North-Eastern co-citizens when they share our spaces and want to live in harmony with us while honouring their own traditions and culture. Produced by Yoodlee Films, the film captures what happens when two young girls set out to cook a special dish for their best friend’s wedding. The smell from the cooking and the reaction it evokes from the neighbours very subtly hints at the daily discrimination so many people face only because they look different and have food habits and cultural norms that differ from ours. The film stars Sayani Gupta, Dolly Ahluwalia, Lin Laishram and Adil Hussain and is produced by Yoodlee.

5. Aligarh: This 2015 Indian biographical drama film directed by Hansal Mehta tells the story of a cruel, bigoted and oppressive society that can go to any lengths to shame and torture individuals who don’t fit in their ideas of morality. Starring Manoj Bajpayee and Rajkummar Rao in lead roles, the  film is  based on the real life story of a  64-year-old Professor Siras (played by Manoj Bajpayee), who was suspended for being gay,  was socially ostracized and subjected to unspeakable  physical and psychological torture. The film is a reminder that  it is more dangerous to express love than  hate  in our milieu. The film was produced by Sunil Lulla, Shailesh R Singh and Sandip Singh. 


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