In this season of politics, 8 political movies to watch on Netflix

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The political events in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu — where two respective regional parties, the Shiv Sena and the AIADMK, are in  a fight for survival — are all over newspaper headlines and prime time news shows.

The mood of the nation is decidedly political. And to go with it, we have pulled out eight movies with politics as its theme on the Netflix platform.

As it happened, two movies in the list are Thackeray and Thalaivi about the two leaders of Shiv Sena and AIADMK.

Without much ado, we will plunge into our list.

Raajneeti (2010)

Prakash Jha, the director of Raajneeti, is no stranger to political movies or controversies. Jha’s earlier films Gangaajal (2003) and Apaharan (2005) had also kicked up some controversies. There was kerfuffle over Raajneeti as the character played by the lead Katerina Kaif was alleged to be fully or partially based on Congress Party’s chief Sonia Gandhi and Rashtriya Janata Dal’s chief Rabri Devi. But the director brushed off all the criticism saying that the film was based on his interpretation of Indian epic Mahabharatha.

The film threw some interesting light on the shady backroom manoeuvres of the political elite.

Sarkar (2018)

This Tamil movie, starring Vijay, should not be confused with the Hindi film series of the same name from Ram Gopal Verma, featuring Amitabh Bachchan.

The Tamil flick was about an NRI businessman, who could not vote in an election here, in a fit of pique starts a political party and runs for the election here. Sarkar kicked up a row for allegedly inciting political passions in the State, and the fact that the main woman politician character in the film was named Komalavalli also lead to protests. Komalavalli, for the record, was once alleged to be the original name of J Jayalalithaa, the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.

Thalaivi (2021)

This on the tumultuous life and times of J Jayalalithaa, the former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu. A colourful politician, her life was mired in controversies and over-the-top events, and she was the constant focus of the gossip sections of newspapers. Her dramatic life and times readily lend themselves to film adaptation. But to show her, warts and all, in the political climate of Tamil Nadu, is impossible. In the event, the film turned out to be tepid. Still Kangana Ranaut did a decent job as the firebrand Jayalalithaa. But the scene stealer was Arvind Swami as MG Ramachandran, the former Chief Minister and mentor of Jayalalithaa.

Rang De Basanti (2006)

The film, with its focus on students idealism and murky politics, has a special following. It captured the helpless angst of the country’s youngsters against the established and venal political elite of the country. The story follows a British film student traveling to India to document the story of five freedom fighters of the Indian revolutionary movement. She befriends and casts five young men in the film, which inspires them to fight against the corruption of their own government. A R Rahman’s fervent music added to the movie’s cult status.

Mandela (2021)

This low-key production was a remarkable satire on the grassroots politics in the country where caste and religion dominate. The vote of a single man, who by a quirk of fate gets to be named Nelson Mandela, gets to decide who will be the president of a village panchayat that is riven into two casteist blocks. The treatment of the situation is quirky without being forced. Hence the humour is organic. One of the movies which was slotted a spoof even when it was merely holding a mirror to the reality.

One (2021)

Malayalam cinema has made some remarkable and hard-hitting political movies. A State, which has plenty of politically aware people, such movies were bound to be made. 1 is about a Chief Minister who wants to take on the political vested interests working against the people and the State. Some of these venal forces also happen to be from his own party. The character of the Chief Minister was said to be loosely based on the Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. The film was accused of being a shill for him.

Dasvi (2022)

This is fun movie is straight out of Hindi heartland States like UP, Bihar, Rajasthan and MP. But that would have put the film in trouble, and hence the filmmakers situated this political story in the fictional State of Harit Pradesh. It is about a Chief Minister, who is sent to jail for a scandal, who appoints his wife as stop-gap Chief Minister in his absence. But the seemingly docile woman, as the acting Chief Minister, becomes her own person and wants to thwart her husband’s release. Woven into this story is message for the need for school education.

Madras Cafe (2013)

The complex and convoluted ‘Tamils problem’ in Sri Lanka is the backdrop of this movie. It encountered huge push-back from political parties in Tamil Nadu as they felt that the Tamil rebels in Sri Lanka were shown in bad light in the film.

The film was set in the late 1980s and early 1990s, during the time of Indian intervention in the Sri Lankan civil war and assassination of Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi. The film deals with an Indian Army special officer who is appointed by the intelligence agency R&AW to head covert operations in Jaffna shortly after Indian peace-keeping force was forced to withdraw. Theatres in Tamil Nadu chose to not screen the movie.

Thackeray (2019)

This is a biographical film on the man who founded the Shiv Sena, Bal Thackeray. He was a polarising figure, and his party is never away from a political row or two. To make a movie on such a person and party was always difficult. For, it is impossible show the full truth in the political climate that exists in India. Anyway, the film received criticism for the way it showcased South Indians. But the problem is Shiv Sena and Thackeray owed their rise to the fact that they were decidedly anti-‘Madrasis’ (the erroneous but omnibus term for South Indians).

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