One of the most unforgettable sequences in an Indian movie is the one in which the National flag is set on fire and the protagonist tries to douse it by rolling over it, almost setting himself ablaze in the process.
An amazing scene from the amazing movie, Roja.
Released in 1992, the film probably marked the zenith of Mani Ratnam's illustrious career as a filmmaker. The movie drew attention to the biggest problem our country has faced in recent years: terrorism in Kashmir.
The story is about a young cryptologist Rishi (Arvind Swamy, in undoubtedly the best role of his career), who visits Kashmir on a project with his new bride Roja (Madhu). Rishi is abducted by terrorists. And they demand the release of their notorious comrade Wasim Khan in return for Rishi.
The rest of the movie revolves around whether the Indian government will succumb to the demands of the terrorists or let an innocent Indian die.
The first half hour shows Rishi meeting Roja, how they fall in love and get married in rather unusual circumstances.
Once the action shifts to Kashmir, the pace and mood of the movie changes altogether.
The movie scores on so many different levels.
-Arvind Swamy's portrayal of a patriotic Indian. You don't have to be a politician or a fanatical leader shouting from the rooftops to be patriotic. He shows how every Indian can be strong and patriotic in his own way.
-Roja is a simple village girl caught in a web of circumstances way beyond her comprehension. She is shown as an incredibly strong woman who fights every inch to get her husband back. She doesn't understand the politics in Kashmir. She just wants her husband back.
-Pankaj Kapoor, as the head of the terrorist group that abducts Rishi, delivers a brilliant, understated performance.
-Nasser as the army officer is dynamite. He doesn't want to release terrorists to save civilians but has no answer when Roja confronts him and pleads for the life of her husband.
-The unforgettable flag scene.
-The scene where Rishi is continuously beaten by the terrorists but continues to shout, "Jai Hind!"
-The confrontation between Nasser and Madhu. Nasser asks if all the lives lost in capturing terrorists were less important than her husband's. Madhu retorts by asking him whether he would adopt the same attitude if a minister's son or daughter were abducted.
-The scene where Madhu meets Wasim Khan. She gutsily asks him to leave India if he doesn't like it here, but not to kill innocent people.
A R Rahman's awesome music score. This was his first movie and one of his best scores to date. The song, Bharat humko jaan se pyaara hai, which marks the ending of the movie, is also my favourite patriotic song.
Amidst this patriotism, Mani Ratnam delivers another subtle message: when Rishi is set free by the terrorist in the last scene he shows that no matter what the idealogy or nationality is, under the skin, we are all only human beings.
That elevates this movie to a different level altogether.
Are you Mad about Movies? Here's your chance to tell us how much!