India’s independence struggle is filled with many stories from all over the country. We have covered a few of them from Odisha in this blog and plan to write a few more articles. However this post is not about any of them but more of a general thing. The premise is that popular entertainment is not actual history.
Movies are made to entertain and most of them only have a cursory link to facts. Such is the case of the Telugu movie released on October 2nd this year: Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy. Starring Telugu superstar Chiranjeevi, this movie purports to cover the first revolt against British rule in India. However as we have covered earlier, Jayi Rajguru of Khorda first led the Paikas against the British back in 1804 and then the Paika Rebellion occurred in 1817.
The Indian Government has already recognized the Paika Rebellion as the First War of Independence in India. The revolt of Narasimha Reddy happened long after that in 1846. So any claim of it being the first revolt against the British is of course just a marketing strategy for the film.
From its conception, this come-back vehicle of Chiranjeevi has been mired in controversies. There have been calls for compensation by the descendants of Uyyalawada Narasimha Reddy from the very beginning. There are about 100 people who can trace their ancestry and they have claimed that no permission was taken from them to make the movie. Producer Ram Charan claimed that he was not sure who to compensate as the lines of succession are not clear.
Then there are historians who trash the storyline of the movie itself. They say that Reddy was not motivated by any nationalistic sentiments but was trying to get the British to pay his monthly pensions that he inherited from his grandfather. The filmmakers have reconciled this by saying the movie is not biographical but only inspired by the life of the man.
Finally, another controversy rose close to the release in September. A political group in Odisha stated that they would not allow the movie to be released in the state due to the claim of the first revolt raised in the movie. We do not know what came of it but there were many statements made by prominent politicians decrying the claim.
There is no doubt the movie is a best seller. On the 13th day of release the earnings of the box office stood at ₹17 crore ($2.5 million). With a star studded cast of Chiranjeevi, Amitabh Bachchan and Tamannah, it is a very good entertainment flick. But sadly it is not an accurate portrayal of the historical event.
We as a people have very little interest in history, with most of us getting our facts from the internet. This is mostly due to the way history is taught in schools all over India, However that is not an excuse to peddle falsities to young students. There needs to be some actual historical biographies made, not just popcorn flicks only interested in making money.
We need the Truth. It is not enough to find it but to spread it far and wide. There is no need to build mythologies out of historical personalities. Their lives are big enough stories to have affected us so much down the line. Let the truth shine through and enlighten us.
In conclusion, watch and enjoy the movie but take it with a grain of salt.
We’ll cover other stories involved in the independence struggle in the coming posts. Thank you for reading.