By Samir Shukla
Director Kabir khan, (Bajrangi Bhaijaan, Ek Tha Tiger) has deftly woven true historical events into a five-part limited series called The Forgotten Army - Azaadi Ke Liye, starring Sunny Kaushal and Sharvari alongside Rohit Choudhary, Karanvir Malhotra, M. K. Raina, R. Badree, TJ Bhanu, and Shruti Seth.
The Indian National Army (INA) was organized out of England's defeat in Singapore at the hands of the Japanese army during WWII. The legendary and controversial leader Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose forged this army for his ultimate goal, India's independence. In the battle at Singapore, after the British soldiers retreated, the remaining thousands of Indian soldiers serving under the British were inspired by Bose to join the Indian National Army. The Japanese army had captured the Indians along with the British soldiers. The Japanese, seeking victory over the British, made an alliance with Bose and the INA was created. Bose's alliances with Imperial Japan and Nazi Germany are a controversial aspect of his legacy, but he is revered in India for his defiant patriotism and fight for independence, which for him was to be achieved by any means.
This true story is brought to life in the film with stirring visual effects and battles, along with showcasing the dedication as well as doubts of the soldiers. The INA fights and marches all the way to India's border near Burma (Myanmar) where it is finally subdued by the British and eventual Japanese retreat. The INA was also unique in that it had the first ever women infantry regiment. The fighters of INA fought against impossible odds but never forgot their chant “Challo Dilli" (Let's go to Delhi), to free their country from British colonialism.
Khan's gripping series tells this tale of INA's travails fighting with their last patriotic breaths against the British army and their struggle to free India. Most of the survivors of this army and their stories have gotten lost to history; The Forgotten Army is an apt title that retells their story. The series also showcases the love story between two soldiers - the protagonists Sodhi (Kaushal) and Maya (Sharvari), tapping into poignant questions about identity, the idea of a motherland and the human costs of fighting for freedom and independence. Some of the INA fighters were Indians living in Singapore and had never been to India, but were inspired by Bose to join the patriotic fight.
Khan said of the film, “Being the first script I've ever written, The Forgotten Army – Azaadi Ke Liye is a project I am very passionate about. The journey of these soldiers of the INA is a story that needs to be told and it has taken several years of extensive research to gather fragmented memories of these incredibly brave men and women who fought so selflessly for India's independence. This project has been a labor of love – from custom creating hundreds of bicycles from the 1940s, to recreating the Singapore of that era, to finding just the right cast to give life to these characters, our only effort has been to truly represent the journey of these fiercely brave men and women to whom we owe our freedom."
I don't quite get why this needed to be a series of short episodes. It would have made a fine two and a half hour movie. Veteran composer Pritam composed the music for the film along with the title song “Azaadi Ke Liye."
The Forgotten Army - Azaadi Ke Liye is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.
Glorious Incremental Evolution
By Samir Shukla
Evolution is such a magically slow and incremental thing. Human lifetimes are too short to notice this magic. In order to alleviate this unfathomable unknown, we have created mystical gods and goddesses, prophets, swamis and messiahs, and myriad creation myths.
We live in an age where incremental evolution, or slow changes made by or imposed upon humans in social, political, and historical realms, seem like anathema. Everyone has an opinion or solution that will solve problems instantly. Everyone wants everything instantly. Put a “Stop Racism" bumper sticker on your car and presto racism is gone. Build a wall on the border and illegal migration will go away.
The reality is that social change is very slow, it is generational. Revolutions generally burn out in wisps of choking smoke. There's no pixie dust to wipe out racism, inequality, sexism…poof a pinch of the magic stuff and it's gone. It doesn't work that way. It takes a community of humans and change agents making sacrifices to infuse justice into the systems. It is slow, but effective.
Youngsters looking for revolution are a feisty bunch. But real change occurs slowly, incrementally. Human behavior doesn't swing on a dime. Deeply held beliefs, perceptions, and prejudices are not easily changed. But they can be softened a bit via soft power and subtle persuasion. Not by telling them to do something, but by showing them something positive. Creating options and choices are the way to sway others. Don't try to change someone, engage someone. Engagement creates a positivity swap, if you will, which even in small doses pulls people forward.
Revolution lies in the wings of a butterfly, not in the fires of torches or metals of bullets. Everyone complains about the divisiveness that is plaguing the country and the world. We must step back and assess what has worked, what needs to be reworked, and work on needed changes. That's always been the way forward.
The rapid march of technology will render vast amounts of current jobs and occupations unnecessary. Automation will reign. Artificial Intelligence will reign. We will need fewer humans to run the planet precisely when the human population keeps expanding. It will mean realigning our aspirations, needs and economic systems. What matters is what we do to ameliorate the inevitable forces and work out solutions.
Remove an essential brick from a rickety wall and the whole thing tumbles down. Learn how to make bricks and you build foundations.
Season of Reason
By Samir Shukla
A Solution to Political Pollution
It's a lovely number, this incoming fresh year. 2020. This number gives a sense of perfect vision, calm and order. Of course contemporary politics are not exactly ordered or calm. They are disjointed, emotionally charged, physically draining and full of twists and turns. There is a concept, a word, where we can approach some sort of orderly calmness. That concept, a simple tool to tap into in times of conflict and dissonance, is called reason. The quiet voices of reason can douse the fires of political partisanship and tribalism, and help get things done. Of course, by reason I mean in the sense where logic and facts matter. Well, that's common sense, you may say. What I mean is the ability to put aside biases in heated moments and put your adult hat on.
It requires concerted effort.
In the madness of this presidential election year, the strong middle, the backbone of America has to come to the rescue. Join the reasoned masses and help put the fake news, fake memes, and fake righteousness and bravado of liars and noisemakers back into their holes.
The loudmouths on the right and the left are in the minority. They are like the proverbial barking dogs that lack real bite and can be subdued, but only when the reasoned folks insert truthfulness into chaos.
It's funny how we are becoming more tribal, but at times, especially during sporting events and music concerts, we untangle our usual tribalism and weave a different tone. Sports fans high-fiving each other every time their team scores, everyone dancing and singing along to a popular song during concerts, these folks maybe politically opposite, but in that moment, after a slam dunk, or a soaring guitar solo, the tribes intermingle. They become one. This is the real human community, instilled with a natural sense of camaraderie. A shared joy. This similar convergence happens in moments of national tragedy. A shared pain.
Political ideologies vanish when peoples merge in celebration. They may again become bitter partisans as soon as they walk out, but in that moment of communal gathering, differences melt away. This is worth replicating in daily lives.
Fellow travelers on the ship called reason take a deep breath and welcome the fresh year. There will be maddeningly distorted political ads everywhere as we inch toward Election Day, incessant robocalls, and social media fisticuffs galore. The adults in the room will have to sprinkle the cooling drops of truth and facts to keep those partisan fires from getting out of control, which can consume individuals, destroy long term friendships and unhinge families. It is just politics folks; we still share our joys and our pains.
Let's create invisible parties of logicians, Reasoncrats or Reasonpublicans, if you will, and yes, we still have our personal ideologies, but we can be the moderation sorely needed for the sake of our neighborhoods, towns, and country.