The youth is the hope of our future.
-Jose Rizal

In a country with the world’s largest youth population, whose voice undoubtedly, matters a lot. In the past few years, there has been a huge rise in the involvement of students in politics. Time and again through our cinema we have been seeing how the youth, stood together to raise their voice against social injustices and made a huge impact on policies affecting them. Issues such as safety of women, reservation, academic freedom, etc were touched upon to such an extent that these issues transformed from taboo topics to coffee table discussions.  On the other hand, we have also witnessed incidents of rioting where the students have taken the law into their own hands and disrupted daily affairs over a clash of political ideologies. It is therefore important to analyze the role of student politics as depicted in our cinema. Cinema has taught our future leaders,  the first step to understanding how a democracy works and look after the welfare of students or promote political ideologies?

Remember that Firangi who was crowned as Bahubali in Omkara because he was head of student politics. Students have always been used as pawns in the game of political chess by mastermind politicians from the start of democracies.Movies based around student political drama usually leaves me baffled ,awed and overflowing with angst. The oldest recollection I have is, of this closing scene of Garam Hawa(1973), where the issue is just barely skirted- Farukh Sheikh decides to join the student protest against joblessness- it is a positive portrayal of student politics, and leaves us walking away from this intense movie with a tiny glimmer of hope. Unfortunately, most Bollywood movies about student politics have a tragic end.

There are of course movies that attempt to saddle both the commercial and the art house, like Shiva (1989), which made such a strong impact on moviegoers that it was made in multiple languages, and even remade by its director in 2006 (albeit to disastrous results). Shiva is violent, underscoring the criminal and political underbelly of Indian universities, and works, despite the lead, Nagarjuna looking old enough to be a professor. Many movies like Mere Apne have said it in the 70s and since then there have been other movies, upto ‘Aarakshan’ and ‘The reluctant fundamentalist’.


Rannjhnaa : Politics, Power and Revenge

Zoya gets into JNU (Jawaharlal Nehru University), and through her, we get introduced to the idealistic and political backdrop of the place and film. She discovers a long-lost strength as she confronts and then falls for the student leader played by Abhay Deol. Clearly this film shows the contribution of student politics to main stream politics. Blood spattered across the face of politics as they use students as puppets to obtain power. Yet, there is no denying that Raanjhanaa is a brave film to explore the crevices of young minds that straddle together many worlds social, intellectual, political and personal. It is easy to lose your mind in the complex politics and modern relationships. 

Rang de Bansati : Be Brave, make a change

Rang De Basanti came when patriotism was passé. There were 4-5 Bhagat Singh films that didn’t connect with the audience. Then there was Aamir Khan’s disastrous Mangal Pandey. The film adopted a unique format to tell the story of a freedom that we all have taken for granted.

The film unfolds through the eyes of a young British documentary maker Sue (Alice Patten) who comes to India to shoot a documentary on the Indian freedom struggle. The story of Rang De Basanti is told in two time zones. In the past , Aamir Khan cast as Chandrashekar Azad, Tamil star Siddharth as Bhagat Singh, Atul Kulkarni as Ramprasad Bismil, Kunal Kapoor as Ashfaqullah Khan and Sharman Joshi as Rajguru. The same actors were also seen in contemporary times grappling with the grammar of socio-political corruption. The film became a historical film in every aspect.

The film’s controversial ending, where the protagonists gun down corrupt politicians, has been perceived as fascist.Director Rakeysh says, “Every story has to follow its own course. When heroes in a mythology enter the caves to fight the demons , they’ve to perish. Mani Ratnam’s Yuva didn’t work for me after the heroes went into the parliament. What jolted the audience is, they love my heroes and they don’t want them to die. Too bad. You love and lose the best people in your lives. It isn’t a heroic but a poetic ending. But they become heroes because they die. What I’m trying to say is, we got independence from the goras. But we got enslaved by our own. Now we’re killing each other. You’re from Bihar. You know what I mean. There can be no neat solution to the problems we face. Rang De Basanti is a conversation with the masses.”

Indeed it went on to become conservation with the masses especially the youth. To me, Rang De Basanti channelized the youth towards making a better world. I can vouch that because of movies like these, suddenly there was a steep-rise in the youth wanting to join Politics and Journalism. This was a revolution in itself. The film gave a new flame to the Public Outrage Modes. Governments collapsed, new forces rose to life, Indian Youth definitely became more responsible to our nation, post Rang De Basanti.


Gulaal – The colors of student politics 

The free media serve as a mirror in which the public can see itself sans mascara and styling gel. From us you learn the state of your nation, and especially its management by the people you elected to give your children a better future. Sometimes the image you see in that mirror is not a pleasant one. But while you may grumble in the privacy of your armchair, the journalists who hold the mirror up to you do so publicly and at great risk to themselves. “Gulaal” is one of those films, that may not be very pleasing or convenient, but nevertheless it is a film that deserves to be watched and discussed later, because it holds up a mirror to a reality not many of us might be willing to face.

It tackles complex issues like regionalism, college politics and money power in a very matter-of-fact way, he makes the point far better than if we had been subjected to long  winded speeches and diatribes. Even the songs in the film make compelling points.“Gulaal” is a film that will speak to you about hitherto untouched issues. India is a country of a million mutinies, so many of them hidden from us as we go about our daily lives.

Haasil – Its not about who has most power, its about who will use it to make a this world a better place

The film is a realistic portrayal of Student Politics in UP which to a certain extent explains the absence of educated young people in the Political arena.Caste politics is quite evident from the scenes in which Ran Vijay Singh(Irrfaan khan) is a Thakur and Badri shankar Pandey(Ashutosh Rana) is a Pandit.

Tigmanshu Dhulia does a commendable job in depicting how politics has seeped into college universities. Also, the problems associated for boys and girls to interact in an orthodox society are deftly executed. Tigamanshu has given the story a very realistic touch. Every aspect of the political functioning and the rivalry is looked into, in detail. The conservative norms, the helplessness of the students and the prevalent jungle raaj has all been described aptly. However, in his effort to give an insight into the political scenario that is gripping the students’ life, the director goes a bit too far, considering the love angle is overshadowed by the power-maniac politicians. This movie stands alone among all the movies made on the college politics. This movie captures every bit of truth behind the dirty politics played in Universities and how it affects an innocent student. Most of the scenes in the movie look natural and so real that you can relate yourself with one of the characters. You will suddenly say ‘Oh! I know a person like this in my class/college’.

Yuva – Its youth you have the power to change 

Ajay Devgan is Michael Mukherjee, an intellectual, who turns down a chance to go abroad and achieve his PhD under Nobel laureate Weinberg and dreams of cleaning up a corrupt system. He is very active in student politics as well as the society. While Michael wants to use student power to change the festering fortunes of Indian politics and change it for better, he fights against every social injustice that crosses his path. The easiest thing in the world is to sneer at someone who attempts to be unconventional through conventional routes. In that sense, Mani Ratnam and Michael Mukherjee, his protagonist in his latest film, share the same predicament. Like Ajay Devgan’s fascinating character who wants to bring about a change in the social order, Ratnam’s cinema signifies tremendous leaps in the way we perceive popular entertainment in this country. A riveting blend of social message and entertainment is what sets “Yuva” apart. Like Ratnam’s first Hindi film “Dil Se”, “Yuva” is an extremely restless film about young characters who are on the lookout for a relevance to their existence.


 Dil Dosti Etc. – The Crimes of the College Jungle

It is said that College makes a ‘Man’ out of you. If anyone has lived the college life in urban India, he/she knows what it means. Those early days of ragging, those days of befriending the dude of the college, the days when you would first witness what gang wars are in college, professors with weird idiosyncrasies, those moments you walked into the gates leaving behind who you are at home, the first crush, the innocent flirting, the long waiting, the first kiss, the betrayal, college politics, loss and victory. If you have experienced all or most of the above, then you will not deny that college is where your character is shaped. For those who disagree or do not relate to this, may not be interested in Dil, Dosti Etc. It’s a gem of a movie that presents a disturbing myopic look into the current youth culture of India. Brutally captivating, the film, “Dil Dosti Etc” does not leave any stone unturned in its frank portrayal of friendship, overt sexuality, and power. Shreyas Talpade (Sanjay) brings forth a gruff yet sensitive portrayal of a middle class man who will do anything to win the school elections.

Dil Dosti etc is a great movie for shows all the emotions of a young generation, i.e. friendship, love, betrayal, among many other things, the biggest chunk being college politics. Does sticking by values instilled in you and standing by principles mean anything? The choice is yours. This movie does not preach, it just bares the fact which, sadly cannot be ignored. 

Every year, hundreds of Bollywood movies feature university students. More often than not, the lead pair meet in university (often referred to as”college”) and dance and sing in pleasant oblivion- which is all good, sanitary and sweet. But once in a while, movies that explore the psyche of university-going adults come out, and are far more despondent and violent in their approach, usually incorporating ragging (breaking in/initiation of new students to the college via public humiliation and even physical pain). One favorite that comes to mind is Holi (1984), an early Aamir Khan starer that explores the psyche of young adults who just want a day off on Holi- their simple demand spirals gradually out of control until the day ends with one suicide and imprisonment for the others left behind. This one was perhaps less about university politics and more about the power struggle in universities.A student involved in politics might not necessary become a political leader, but would at least become an aware citizen who would be able to spread the awareness around him/her. The purpose of education is to create socially aware and sensitive citizens – something that cannot be achieved if the students do not have any first-hand knowledge of politics.

Yohaann Bhaargava
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Yohaann Bhaargava

Head - Business Development at SCRIPTORS
Movie Buff. Yohaann is a film critic with Jagran Prakashan Limited. He has been associated with Print and TV media as a branding professional. Presently he is a screenwriter trying to bring in some good scripts up for Bollywood. At Scriptors he works as a writer and handles business development.
Yohaann Bhaargava
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