wiki:Roja

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Roja

1992 137’(114’) col/scope Tamil d/sc Mani Rathnam pc Kavithalaya Prod. p K. Balachander st/dial Sujata lyr Vairamuthu c Santosh Sivan m A.R. Rehman lp Aravind Swamy, Madhubala, Pankaj Kapoor, Janakaraj, Nasser

Unusually, Mani Rathnam’s Tamil hit also became a success in its Hindi dubbed version. A politically controversial film set mainly in Kashmir, it recalls the real-life incident of a Kashmiri terrorist kidnapping of an Indian Oil official in 1993. In a spectacular opening the Indian army captures the dreaded Kashmiri terrorist Wasim Khan. In return, militants abduct the film’s hero, the Tamilian cryptologist Rishi Kumar (Swamy). Roja (Madhubala) is Rishi Kumar’s Tamil-speaking wife, left alone and unable to communicate in a land where nobody speaks her language. Eventually, just as she manages to convince a minister to agree to an exchange of prisoners, Rishi Kumar is released while the terrorist leader Liaqat (Kapoor) is ‘humanised’. The lead couple’s marriage in the sylvan surroundings of the cryptologist’s native Tamilian village, evokes the rhetoric of Tamil nationalism, a contentious issue in the context of Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination by Sri Lankan Tamils and the DMK’s avowed past seperatism. Rathnam then displaces this nationalism by inflating it to the dimensions of Indian and, more specifically, uncritically Hindu chauvinism contrasted with the presentation of the Kashmiris as religion obsessed, bellicose and profoundly ‘unreasonable’. In one famous scene, the tiedup hero, offended by the Kashmiris’ burning of the Indian flag, crashes through a window and tries to extinguish the flames with his body to the tune of a Subramanya Bharati lyric. In Hyderabad, the film’s Telugu version sparked an outbreak of anti-Muslim slogans. Billed as a ‘patriotic love story’, India’s election commissioner T.N. Seshan took the most unusual step of officially endorsing the film. The music was also a hit, esp. the rap number Rukmini sung in Hindi version by Baba Sehgal. Tejaswini Niranjana analysed the film’s political address in her essay Integrating Whose Nation? (1994), which led to a major debate on the film in the Economic & Political Weekly.

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