Republic Day Movie recommendations are usually a compilation of patriotic movies, which we've probably already seen a few times over the years. I was about to do the same when I started thinking if there was another way to feel more connected to our roots through the lens of film, and bingo! What could be a better way to do this than to look back in time captured by classic films filmed in pre-independence India? These films were impacted by the ongoing fight for independence and aptly capture the essence of that era.
However, finding movies shot before 1947 available to stream on OTT today is not an easy task. While most platforms have “classic” or “old” “retro” genres, you will probably end up with hits from the later stages of Indian cinema: a brilliant array of films starring Amitabh BachchanRajesh Khanna or Dilip Kumar.
Even though I had Netflix on full blast, I couldn't find a single title from the era in its long list of recommendations (believe me, I tried every cheat code and hack). Even Prime Video had only one: Mehboob Khan's. Humayun.
JioCinema, however, will let you stream many of these classics, for free (of course, with some annoying ads at the beginning of the movie). Apart from the ones JioCinema recommends below, you can also opt for shah jehan (1946), Sikandar (1943), Tansen (1943) and pucar (1949) available on the streaming platform.
Next in line was Sheemaroo's own OTT platform, SheemarooMe, which still hosts movies from times gone by, even from the 1920s. While you may still have to fight a few ads here and there, if you're not a subscriber , for an ardent fan of retro movies, this could be your next favorite website!
While YouTube doesn't have many movies from the pre-independence era to rent or buy, some channels like Ultrafilms and Shemaroo I have uploaded full movies for movie lovers including Neel Kamal (1947), Achhut Kanya (1936) and Amar Jyoti (1936).
If you have an Amazon Prime subscription, you can also opt for an add-on for Eros now – which includes many titles such as the iconic Devdas (1935), Khazanchi (1941) and Anmol Ghadi (1946). While the original Eros site and app are down, the Eros Now channel on Prime's Video works fine.
That being said, get ready to take a trip back in time this Republic Day with these rare pieces of cinema. Here are our picks for six classic Indian films filmed before 1947, available to stream in 2024. Happy binging!
Bhakta Pralhad (1926)
In 1926, silent cinema had already existed in India for 13 years. At this time, mythological and religious stories dominated cinema.
Bhakta Pralhad is yet another classic from the father of Indian cinema, Dada Saheb Phalke. It tells the mythological legend of demon king Hiranyakashyap and his defiant son Prahalad, who is a devotee of Lord Vishnu. Hiranyakashyap did everything possible, from burning Prahalad with oil to having elephants trample him, to stop him from worshiping Vishnu, but Prahalad's faith remained unscathed. According to legend, the film shows the Lord finally appearing to rescue him and killing his demon father. The film was later remade in most Indian languages.
Now, let us not forget the fact that this was a time when cinema was still relatively new in colonized India and viewers strongly associated actors with their mythological roles outside the theater too. Interestingly, this is also the time when buses were introduced in India, in the coastal city of Mumbai.
Dharmatma reached Indian audiences when social injustice and untouchability were the norm of the day. It is a biographical film of Sant Eknath, a philosopher, saint and poet from 16th century Maharashtra. The film focuses especially on his humanitarian defense of the “untouchable” castes.
Dharmatma offers a rare glimpse into the deeply troubling social fabric of that era. The bilingual film was shot in both Hindi and Marathi and was one of the only four films made on caste at that time.
The film was originally titled “Mahatma,” but the name did not meet the approval of the certification board (probably because the term had become synonymous with Gandhi at the time?). This is also the year when the Government of India Act, 1935 was passed by the British Parliament.
Try the bygone days and long Urdu dialogues in 4:3 aspect ratio with classic black and white Pukar. One of the first Muslim social films of the time, Pukar follows the internal conflict of the Mughal Emperor Jehangir, known for his “eye for an eye” attitude, when a woman accuses her wife Noor Jahan of murdering a commoner for mistake.
It is worth mentioning that after a few months of its release, when people were probably still talking about the film and its characters in their ritual evening tea breaks, British India officially declared war on Nazi Germany during the Second World War. (Isn't it intriguing to think how the timeline of wars and art coexist?)
Kismet occupies a special position in the history of Indian cinema for many reasons. It was the first blockbuster Indian film, grossing one million rupees and redefining the position of cinema in India. It is also the first to feature an anti-hero character in prominent dual roles. Packed with plenty of patriotic songs, the film also resonated with the ongoing struggle for independence.
Here Ashok Kumar, an undisputed superstar of that era, steps into the shoes of a pickpocket who does not feel even an ounce of shame for his immoral acts. (You probably remember him from his role as Professor Sinha in mr india. Or is it just me?). Moral epiphanies, emotional breakthroughs, and romantic breakthroughs await us.
Prithvi Vallabh (1943)
Prithvi Vallabh is an ideal king for Avantipur: kind, just and brave; he bows his head before God and before no one. Tailap, the ruler of his neighboring state, is quite the opposite. Envious of Vallabh, Tailap hatches an evil plan to attack his property and keep him captive.
Durga Khote Mughal-E-Azam Fame plays Tailap's equally evil sister, who becomes an accomplice in all of his conspiracies.
Interestingly, the film was a remake of Manilal Joshi's 1924 silent film of the same name, which itself was an adaptation of a Gujarati novel.
Where: Prime Video
Another hit for Ashok Kumar at that time was this classic, the seventh highest-grossing film of 1945. The film brings a piece of history in the form of the Mughal emperor Humayun, who was forced to flee to Iran after losing Delhi to his enemies. , soon after he was crowned after the death of Babur. Narguis (indian mother) plays Humayun's queen consort Hamida Bano in the film.
Unfortunately, this is the only pick of the era I could find on Prime Video. So, if the movie buff in you awakens and you decide to look for more on the platform, let me save you from the disappointing exercise!
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