This is my list of best Hindi films portraying the struggle for a social cause in order of merit.
- Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyu Aata Hai (1980)
A plot is superbly woven without any element of melodrama to reveal the life of the Bombay Industrial workers and the mechanism or machinations that revolved around their day to day lives. In a most surgical manner the evolution of Naseruddinn Shah as Albert Pinto is portrayed into a crusader against the capitalist system. It explains the essence of a strike as a weapon or need to rebel against the capitalist system. Acting performance in top drawer by Naseruddin Shah. The movie with great subtlety portrays how the roots of class consciousness develop to extricate the working class from individualistic values.
The film captures the anger of a worker, in Mumbai exemplified by a young Christian car mechanic, Albert Pinto (Naseeruddin Shah ), who is under the illusion that if he works hard and emulates the rich, one day he can also be successful. He makes friendly relations with his customers, who are usually the rich of the city and who keep telling him that good workers do not go on strike, and that strikes are the handiwork of low-class elements. Pinto gets angry with the supposedly wrong attitudes of the workers who he assumes go on strike under any pretext. However, when Pinto’s father, who is a mill worker is abused by the low-class elements hired by the mill owners, he realizes that it is not the workers, but the capitalists who should be blamed for the plight of the workers. He also realizes the legitimacy of strikes. Towards the end of the movie, Pinto still remains an angry man; but now his anger is directed against the capitalists, not the striking worker
- Namak Haraam(1973)
The story focuses on two friends, Somu () and Vicky (To avenge the fact that Vicky is insulted by the union leader of his factory, Somu infiltrates the factory as a worker and later the trdae union as its leader. However, Somu is moved by the plight of the workers and is influenced by their ideals, which leads to a confrontation between the two friends.
The movie throws light on the working class resistance prevalent in the early 1970’s and turbulence and antagonism created A brilliant portray of the crystallization of relationship between two friends in background of labour disturbances. With subtle skill the director portrays how social struggle can infuse change into a man spiritually. The movie shows sympathy with the turmoil of the workers and delves into the psychological aspects of the rich and the poor. In the end Rajesh Khanna turns into a crusader for liberating workers, who initially only wore a mask of representing them. A masterly performance by Rajesh Khanna as Sonu in revealing the social factors that change a man and also by Amitabh Bachhan as Vicky when he pleads guilty on behalf of his father. This is very relevant as it reveals how opression can completely reveres the character of a person. Brilliant chemistry established between Vicky and Sonu. The character transformation in the film portrays synthesis of of the outer world with the inner one
The movie throws light on the working class resistance prevalent in the early 1970’s and turbulence and antagonism created in terms of shaping lives of persons.
- Satyakam (1969)
A movie with Gandhian overtones placing no accent on class struggle .However the character of Satpriya Acharya enacted by Dharmendra brilliantly portrays how the social order manifests corruption at the very root and thus breeds the tumours of injustice. A perfect model for a crusader wishing to wipe out injustice. Based in the period just on verge of India obtaining Independence. The movie delves on Satapriya’s struggle to confront injustice not only at workplace but also against the opression of a woman, like his wife Ranjana enacted by Sharmila Tagore. Ranjana is the victim of adultery and Satapriya wishes to save her. The heart of an audience melts when witnessing the intensity of Satpriya when challenging bills not passed for construction workers .He combats the spiritual idealist practice of his father who is a Sadhu .The death scene in hospital is amongst the most touching ever in Bollywood It is ironic that his wife does not accept a bribe to pay the hospital bills. .The dialogues are most articulately compiled scripting a true essay, with a super contrast to the path of friend Sanjeev Kumar.The theme is a testimonial that confronting injustice at ground reality is morally more spiritual than renunciation. It is heart touching how his father Ashok Kumar as Acharya pleads for forgiveness from his son in the final moments, for earlier rejecting his marriage to Ranjana.I have never seen a film with a hero not relenting or yielding to temptation , at every juncture as here. Dharmendra’s role was One of Indian film’s finest acting performances in championing justice.
Where this movie fails’ that it hardly portrays collective struggle in a workplace or Satpriya staying at his workplace instead of leaving, to overcome adversity. It does not touch on the grim social conditions that breed injustice.or the hero trying to confront it at the very roots.Ironically it was die hard capitalist Ayn Rand who praised this film.
This picture is not the most artistic but it hits social reality at the very core. It touches upon how caste oppression or rivalry is such an integral or inherent part of the Indian social fabric and how morally landlordism still prevails with the patronage of even the police. The antagonism between the Thakur and sons and the lower castes is most articulately projected. with Dharmendra paying the lead role as Ranjit.The teaming of Mithun Chakraborty as Javar and inspector Gopi Dada played By Kulbushan Kharbanda and played by with Ranjit to confront the Thakur symbolises the crusade against caste opression.In the conclusion Dharmendra as Ranjit Singh is martyred .but only after burning the Thakur’s financial records. Thus Ranjit challenges the very shackles of casteist feudalism by burning the deeds of the Thakur.
Smita Patil does total justice to character of the Thakur’s daughter Sumitra while Reena Roy as Ranjit Chaudhary’s sister and Anita Raaj as Tulsi play great supporting roles.
The flaws are that it does not project knitting of collective rebellion but projects individual heroism.
- Ganga Jamuna(1961)
In artistic sense a masterpiece but not placed at the top because it is a dacoit story. Rarely has an actor don as much justice to the character as Dilip Kumar as Ganga here. The social reality of rural India is touched at the deepest depth with scenes portraying the tyranny of landlords .Ganga before turning into dacoit is turned into a rebel confronting tumours of injustice. The movie shows what social circumstances make it imperative for a villager to turn into a dacoit .Even as a dacoit more than evil, it is Ganga’s crusade against injustice that is portrayed ore.Ganga succumbs to the bullets of his very own brother who is a policeman.
- Legend of Bhagat Singh (2002)
This movie does great justice to the true character of the martyrs doing justice to the social reality of the times and the goals.I salute this movie for revealing Mahatma Gandhi’s betrayal of Shaheed Bhagat Singh ,showing how he took no step to commute the sentence but hypocritically pretended to.Ajay Devgan does great justice to the character of Bhagat Singh and the dialogues and scene dissection are of the highest quality. It ressurected Bhgat Singh in the days when colonialism has emerged in a new form and the saffron flag is fluttering it’s poison at a crescendo.
- Rang De Basanti (2006)
A fiction story but resurrects the spirit of Shaheed Bhagat Singh in a most creative or inventive manner. Most progressively it reflects the yearning for youth for a just social order and how Bhagat Singh still lives in their hearts. It makes us understand that Bhagat Singh is as relevant as ever today .The movie incorporates the fate of an airforce pilot Ajay Singh Rathod in an aircrash.The youth team protest the false projection to pilot error. A peaceful protest is organised at India gate memorial. The youth group assassinates corrupt defence officer Shastri who is responsible for the death of the pilot The plot is brilliantly entangled, keeping the audiences always on the edge of their seats. A masterpiece in understanding the very idioms of current youth in reviving Bhagat Singh in light of present circumstances. establishing a perfect link between past and present, with evil prevailing at a higher magnitude than even the colonial days.
- Purab aur Paschim(1970)
Manoj Kumar enacting role of Bharat brilliantly scripts the social reality of India and class divide .Son of a freedom fighter Manoj Kumar as youth goes to England as a student where he at first hand encounters the decadent, pro-imperialist Western culture and utter apathy of Indians to social conditions of their origin. With great persuasion Bharat transforms or reforms characters to become socially conscious .reminiscent of infusing a new spirit into them. Brilliant casting of Saira Banu as a westernised girl Preeti and hippie Rajendra Nath.Delves into how inner transformation takes place in accordance to environment, with Preeti being a classic example when coming to India.
- Naya Daur (1957)
This film projects the callous nature of modernization which uprooted the very essence of democratic culture. It’s theme was based on how unscrupulously the machine agree treated the village community. The victory of Dilip Kumar enacting role of Shankar in race with Kundan enacted by Jeevan at the conclusion symbolized the ability of a man to resurrect from any depths of despair or govern his own life. Romance is most effectively introduced and a plot most calculatingly formulated .Above all the inner change within a human being as a result of social circumstances is brought to the fore ,like that of Ajit.A brilliant chemistry portrayed between Shankar and Rajni enacted by Vijayanthimala as well as overall synthesis of plot.
Still I am critical that such a film failed to highlight the class oppression or divide and virtually echoed the Gandhian ideal.
- Naya Zamana (1971)
Most effectively Dharmendra portrays the character of a crusader to build a new social order and the movie superbly integrates his character into a plot projecting the conflicting values of society. A perfect contrast is made between the nature of Dharmendra and Pran .
Anoop (Dharmendra) is a struggling writer. One day he meets with wealthy and beautiful Seema (Hema Malini) and both fall in love. When Seema’s brother Rajan Choudhury (Pran) finds out, he is angered and forbids Seema to see Anoop again. On the other hand Anoop’s sister, Rekha (Aruna Irani), and Rajan’s brother-in-law Mahesh (Mehmood) have also fallen in love with each other. This angers Rajan even more and he turns Mahesh out of his house. Rajan finds out that Anoop has authored a book called “Naya Zamana”, and decides to publish it and sell it under his name. Anoop and Seema find out when the book hits the stalls and is a big hit. Rajan is unapologetic. Rajan then tries to evict the poor people living in small tenements with Anoop and his mother (Lalita Pawar), but Anoop and Seema intervene, and as a result Rajan orders the tenements to be burnt secretly by his henchman Sitaram (Jankidas). Anoop is blamed for the destruction and arrested by the police. Seema’s dad, Sachin Choudhury (Ashok Kumar) forbids Seema to see Anoop anymore as well as stay away from the poor people’s lives. Seema will now to chose between her lover and her father.
Harsh Thakor is a freelance journalist. Toured India, particularly Punjab .Written on Mass movements ,,Massline,Maoism on blogs like Democracy and Class Struggle and frontierweekly .An avid cricket lover too who has posted writings on blogs like Pakpassion Indian Cricket Fans and Sulekha.com.