Some movies with a dash of Spirituality (2/4)
by A. Bhatia
In this series, we consider some movies through the spiritual lens of 12 personality traits mentioned by The Mother of Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Pondicherry in India.
Part 1 had covered the traits of Sincerity and Humility. In this post, we consider movies that touch upon such traits as Gratitude, Perseverance, Aspiration and Receptivity.
In the pre-independence era prior to 1947, we had self-sacrificing doctors who rendered their services in alien lands, serving the people affected by war and plague. Old-timers may remember Dr Kotnis Ki Amar Kahani (1946), which was based on the true life-story of Dr Dwarakanath Kotnis, who was sent to China during World War II. Dr Kotnis had helped the people of China during the Japanese invasion. His selfless service makes us remember people like him with profound gratitude. He had married and settled down there itself but had eventually died of the plague.
Our hearts get filled with gratitude when we think of either the Corona Warriors or the soldiers who guard our borders.
Jaagte Raho (1956) takes us through a night in the life of a poor peasant (Raj Kapoor) who enters a multi-storied building in Mumbai looking for some water to drink. After witnessing the shady deals of the high and mighty of the society, he is shocked but is not able to find water. Eventually, he finds a young lady (Nargis) watering the plants in a temple nearby who helps him to quench his thirst. The look of gratitude on his face says it all.
Saving Private Ryan (1998) is based on the profound sense of gratitude an army feels towards its soldiers and their families. It is set against the backdrop of World War II and the Normandy Invasion. General George Marshall learns that three of the four sons of the Ryan family have got killed in action and that the only remaining son, James Francis Ryan, is with the 101st Airborne Division somewhere in Normandy. Inspired by Abraham Lincoln’s Bixby letter, he orders Ryan to be brought home and to be reunited with his mother.
Many of us have a bulldog-like quality in us, of not giving up on the goals that we desire to achieve in our lives. Irrespective of the kind of difficulties we face and the obstacles we come across, we keep working on a particular project till the objective is met. If we have made a sincere promise to someone, we go out of our way to fulfil it.
The Shawshank Redemption (1994) is one of the several movies which showcase the indomitable spirit of human beings. A prison life replete with all its obnoxiousness does not dim the flame of hope inside. If a tunnel takes 19 years to build, so be it. Life has to be lived, not thrown away, just because odds happen to be stacked against us. A promise made needs to be fulfilled.
Almost all sport-themed movies focus on this quality. Think of Lagan (2001), Iqbal (2005), Bhaag Milkha Bhaag (2013), Mary Kom (2014), Dangal (2016) and M S Dhoni: The Untold Story (2016).
Then there are movies of individual resolve which uplift your spirits by highlighting the kind of travails the characters go through to achieve what they want; Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year (2009), Nil Battey Sannata (2015) and Secret Superstar (2017), to name a few.
Erin Brockovich (2000) is another good example of this personality trait. We shall return to it soon enough.
Rolling stones gather no moss, as the wise men say. Life is but another name for the inner motivation we have when we aspire for higher things. The aim could be a basket of materialistic desires or a wide spectrum of spiritual progress. When we aspire for it, perseverance propels us towards our chosen goal.
Sujata (1959) was about an untouchable girl (Nutan) brought up by an upper-caste couple. It is only when a young man (Sunil Dutt) walks into her life that she awakens to her aspiration to lead a normal life.
In Swades (2004), we get to meet Mohan Bhargava (Shah Rukh Khan), a NASA scientist who wants to return to his roots in India, with an aspiration to solve the problems of local villagers using modern technology.
Aaja Nachle (2007) had a gutsy US-based choreographer Radha (Madhuri Dixit), desirous of saving Ajanta, an old open-air theatre planned to be demolished to make way for a shopping mall in her home town in India. The difficulties faced by her in keeping an old cultural tradition alive in the face of strong forces of so-called modernization formed the crux of the script.
Despite outward signs of success, many of us feel lost, confused and searching for what we really want in our lives. Elizabeth Gilbert (Julia Roberts) shows us a way out of this misery in Eat, Pray and Love (2010). She steps out of her comfort zone and embarks on a journey of self-discovery. She cherishes nourishment for the body in Italy and for the soul in India. Finally, and unexpectedly, she finds the inner peace and balance of true love in Indonesia.
In Udaan (2010), we meet a 17-year old youngster who wants to be free of the overriding discipline of his father at home. How he overcomes his low self-esteem and picks up the courage to aspire for a life free of humiliation and abuse is the central theme.
Hindi Medium (2017) showcases the aspirations of a young couple to ensure that their son willy-nilly gets admitted to a good English medium school. The movie ends on a positive note and captures the potential of refurbished public schools, which could give a healthy competition to so-called elite schools. It was based on a successful experiment conducted by the Delhi government in its public schools a few years back.
Sui Dhaaga (2018) introduces us to Mauji (Varun Dhawan) and his wife Mamta (Anushka Sharma), who, when humiliated and cheated by the company where they work as tailors, become entrepreneurs and make their venture a success despite severe odds.
In all these cases, the settings and the aspirations are quite different. But the central message is clear – that we need to work hard to realize our dreams.
This is a unique quality of those with an open mind, capable of receiving and taking in knowledge and new ideas and then acting upon the same, if necessary and prudent.
Take the character of Uma (Sharmila Tagore) in Anupama (1966). She is extremely shy, diffident and introverted. She has been brought up by a father who blames her for the death of his wife during childbirth. She falls in love with Ashok (Dharmendra), who is disliked by her father. A close friend of hers gives her a dressing down and awakens her to the possibility of a happier life in Ashok’s company. She picks up the courage to stand up to her father, obtains his hesitant consent and joins her beloved.
Taare Zameen Par (2007), based on the challenges faced by a young boy suffering from dyslexia, brings in the character of Ram Shankar Nikumbh (Amir Khan), a cheerful and optimistic art instructor. After meeting the boy’s parents, the perceptive teacher is able to diagnose the illness from which Ishaan (Darsheel Safary) suffers. He also finds the boy’s hidden talent for art and takes him under his wings, enabling him to start living a near-normal life.
Avatar (2009) happens to be a movie which pitches for sustainability and care for the environment. Set in 2154 AD, it calls upon all of us to be receptive to the fragility of nature and the limited resources of our planet. One of the unique concepts brought up by the script is that of the sacred Tree of Souls.
In a way, such movies exhort us to be receptive to changes happening all around us and revising our basic priorities in life. Perhaps the Covid virus is also nudging all of us in the same direction.
(This series of posts is dedicated to Ms Usha Bhatia, my late wife. Inputs from Mr Sanjay Mohan and Ms Gargi Banerjee are gratefully acknowledged)
Ashok Bhatia is an occasional author, a speaker, a regular blogger and content creator on such topics as Management, P G Wodehouse, Bollywood and life in general. Based on his 35 years+ experience in the corporate world, he is acutely aware and conscious of the need for high values and ethics in business. Almost all his articles and books have an underlying current highlighting this very theme. In him, one finds a fierce critic of any kind of compromises on this front. He believes that business ships which are built on a keel of sound values end up not only having a better brand equity but also yield better returns to their stakeholders. When businesses are broad minded and give back to the society at large, they serve a higher purpose. His blog posts can be accessed at ashokbhatia.wordpress.com.