On 23rd March 1931, three bodies of young revolutionaries were smuggled out of prison in midnight. The bodies were secretly cremated to avoid public outrage. The British were clearly aware that handing down the bodies of these 3 revolutionaries to the families will definitely agitate the Indian masses. The dead patriots were not any ordinary people. They were the bold young patriots who shook the British Empire through their revolutionary actions. The patriots were Rajguru, Sukhdev and Sardar Bhagat Singh. Among the three, Bhagat Singh’s name became synonymous with patriotism, sacrifice, courage and dare devilry. What was such fear in minds of British that they had to cremate the body of this brave heart in dark of night? The opening scene of the 2002 biopic – The legend of Bhagat Singh starts with the brutal cremation of these young revolutionaries. The movie then goes in flashback where Bhagat Singh’s father Kishen Singh remembers every event that transformed his son into a brave revolutionary.
I still feel patriotic goosebumps whenever I see this patriotic biopic which gives a stiff competition to Richard Attenborough’s biopic on Mahatma Gandhi. From collecting blood soaked earth from Jallianwala Baugh, killing British officer Saunders to hurling bombs at legislative assembly and undergoing hunger strike in jail, the patriotic journey of Bhagat Singh has really been a path of rocks. The titular role of Bhagat Singh is played by Ajay Devgan who fully justifies the role with his realistic, convincing performance which makes him stand apart from the crowd. Though Ajay Devgan didn’t resemble Bhagat Singh completely, it was his power house performance that gave teeth to his words.
In 2002, there were five movies on Bhagat Singh lined up for release in June. Out of five movies, only three movies were released in that period. Extensively researched and superbly directed by ace director Raj Kumar Santoshi, The Legend of Bhagat Singh throws a light on various untold facts which were not answered in earlier biopics on Bhagat Singh. His decision of becoming atheist, his opposition to Gandhian views and his far sightedness on situation of India post-independence are the major highlights of this movie. Though he could have preferred to live a comfortable life by running a dairy farm, he selected the hard life of patriotism. The climax scene will break you into tears when the jailor comes to take Bhagat Singh to gallows and Bhagat Singh replies by telling – ‘aaj ek krantikari doosre krantikari se mil raha hai’. These lines were actually spoken by Bhagat Singh in reference to Lenin’s book which he was reading in his final hours before getting executed.
What really appealed was the convincing performance of actor Sushant Singh as Sukhdev. Sadly, history never gave Sukhdev the recognition and due which he really deserved. If Sukhdev hadn’t insisted Bhagat Singh to throw bomb in legislative assembly to protest against the public safety bill, then Bhagat Singh wouldn’t have got the recognition and political spotlight. It is very sad to know that today Sukhdev’s family is managing day to day living by selling lotteries. The courtroom scenes, jail torture and debate of Bhagat Singh against the barbaric British government make you applause with pride. The movie not only showcases on Bhagat Singh’s struggle but also highlights the sacrifice of Jatin Das, Rajguru and Chandrashekhar Azad. Though it is very difficult to showcase every single detail of Bhagat Singh’s life in a 2 hour movie, Rajkumar Santoshi has nearly succeeded to highlight all the facts that were related to Bhagat Singh. The popularity of Bhagat Singh was so high that even British women visited jail to get a glimpse of this brave patriot. His hunger strike in jail and growing popularity in a short span overshadowed Gandhi.
A.R.Rahman’s music infuses more patriotism in the song – Mera rang de Basanti chola which was sung by Bhagat Singh while marching to the gallows. I feel that this biopic on Bhagat Singh is as brilliant as Mel Gibson’s movie – Braveheart which was based on Scottish patriot William Wallace. Whatever we read in history textbooks about Bhagat Singh is not even 1 % of the actual facts mentioned in the biographies based on his life. On 23rd March 1931 Bhagat Singh smilingly stepped on to the gallows. That day a patriot died and a legend was born. Bhagat Singh’s photo in a hat is as popular as the picture of Che Guevera of Cuba. Even though biopics on patriots of being made, the harsh truth is that we have really forgotten the sacrifice of this brave hero whose teachings are just limited to books, stage plays and movies.
Through this article, I have to revive the memories of Bhagat Singh and his great comrades who were fighting a war they were not going to win.
References – Without Fear: The life and trial of Bhagat Singh by Kuldip Nayar is a highly recommended book on the untold facts of Bhagat Singh’s life.