Indian cinema played a crucial role in the freedom struggle. Many patriotic films, in Hindi and the regional languages, upheld it. A few film producers were even involved in the campaign. India’s staunch patriots as Bal Gangadhar Tilak, Lala Lajpat Rai, Vallabhai Patel, Jawaharlal Nehru, Sarojini Naidu, S. Satyamurti and Rabindranath Tagore, opining that the cinema was useful for emancipation and political awakening, strongly supported it.
Some pre-Independence champions in the cinema industry :
Dwarkadas Naraindas Sampat – maker of the first political (silent) film, Bhakt Vidur (1921) ;
J B.H. Wadia, most politically involved film maker of Hindi cinema, who had become an INC volunteer since 1930 – made such films, centred on democracy, as Diler Daku (1931), Toofan Mail (1932), Lal-e-Yemen and Dilruba Daku (1933), Kala Gulab (1934) and Ekta (1942) ; he filmed the historic celebrations of India’s freedom as officially organised on the midnight of 14-15 August 1947 ;
R. Jyotiprasad Aggarwal – the pioneer of Assamese films, who was a political activist and freedom fighter, is renowned for his Jyotimati (1934) ;
Debaki Kumar Bose, a revolutionary turned film producer, who played the lead role in his political films ; he made Inquilab (Revolution) in 1935 ;
V. Shantaram (1901-1993) – who, in Marathi and Hindi cinema for over 60 years, though never in active politics, made attractive films on socio-economic issues [like Amar Jyoti (1936) and Shejari/Padosi (1941)], and on communal harmony ; he was famous for pioneering in India a colour film, Sairandhri (1933) ;
K. Subramanyam (1904-1971), Tamil film pioneer, whose contribution to liberation had no match in Indian cinema, crusaded against orthodoxy, as in his Balayogini (1936) and Bhakta Cheta (1940), while his Sevadasan (1938), on the status of women, and Tyaga Bhoomi (1939), with an easily indentifiable political flavour, in which the actor Sivan portrayed Sambhu Sastri as Tamil Nadu’s Gandhi, were even more radical.
Between 1936 and 1942, K. Subrahmanyam made some of the most socially significant Tamil films. His celebrated film ‘Thyagaboomi’ (1939) was important in several ways. It was banned by the British Government for propagating nationalist sentiment and promoting the Indian National Congress.
Sohrab Modi’s ‘Sikandar’ on Alexander’s invasion of India evoked passionate nationalist sentiments. Prabhat’s devotional, biographical film on the saint, ‘Eknath’ propagated the Gandhian ideals of abolishing ‘untouchables’.