India’s freedom struggle has given us many great stories of inspiration, emancipation and patriotism over the years. Bollywood has been influenced, time and again, by tales of influential revolutionaries and the trio of Bhagat Singh, Sukhdev and Rajguru have encouraged many a filmmaker to depict their amazing legend of sacrifice on the silver screen. The three brave men were executed by the British empire on March 23, 1931. We pay tribute to our martyrs by looking back at the films made in their honour in Hindi cinema.
‘Shaheed-e-Azad Bhagat Singh’ is the first film based on Bhagat Singh’s life. The movie was directed by Jagdish Gautama and had Prem Abeed, Jairaj, Smriti Biswas and Ashita Mazumdar in lead roles. The film also boasted of the classic patriotic song ‘Sarfaroshi Ki Tamanna Ab Hamaare Dil Mein Hai’ in Mohammed Rafi’s mellifluous voice.
Almost a decade later, Shammi Kapoor appeared in and as ‘Shaheed Bhagat Singh’. The film was directed by KN Bansal and besides Shammi Kapoor, the movie starred Shakeela, Premnath and Achla Sachdev in prominent roles.
Manoj Kumar built his reputation as ‘Bharat Kumar’ with the immensely popular ‘Shaheed’. At the 13th National Awards, the film won awards for Best Feature Film in Hindi, Nargis Dutt Award for Best Feature Film on National Integration and Best Story. ‘Shaheed’ had the entire nation humming to its patriotic compositions like ‘Aye watan aye watan humko teri kasam’, ‘Sarfaroshi ki tamanna’, ‘O mera rang de basanti chola’ and ‘Pagadi sambhaal jattaa’ with the voices of Mukesh, Mohammed Rafi, Lata Mangeshkar and Manna De gracing the vocals.
The year 2002 saw the resurgence of Bhagat Singh stories on celluloid, with as many as three films releasing in the same year. ‘Shaheed-e-Azam’ was one of the three films released in 2002 based on Bhagat Singh’s life and Sonu Sood played the role of Singh.
The Deol brothers – Sunny and Bobby, starred in this retake on Bhagat Singh’s life. It released with Ajay Devgn’s ‘The Legend of Bhagat Singh’, and both the films failed at the box-office, but received tremendous critical appreciation. The film also featured Amrita Singh, Rahul Dev, Divya Dutta and Aishwarya Rai in a special appearance.
Rajkumar Santoshi directed Ajay Devgn as Bhagat Singh and focused on how Singh came to develop his independent views against the British Raj and the development of his ideologies, right from witnessing the death of Lala Lajpat Rai to the reopening of the Saunders’ murder case. The film went on to win two National Awards, including the Best Feature Film in Hindi and Best Actor for Ajay Devgn.
Aamir Khan continued his trend of delivering critically acclaimed blockbusters with Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s ‘Rang De Basanti’ which released on Republic Day in the year 2006. The film took a different approach towards the legend of Bhagat Singh and made it relatable for the modern youth. Siddharth, Soha Ali Khan, Kunal Kapoor, R. Madhavan, Sharman Joshi, Atul Kulkarni and British actress Alice Patten added to a strong ensemble cast and A.R. Rahman’s music topped the charts.