The trailer of Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy, a big-budget film on freedom fighter from Andhra Pradesh, is out. The cast includes big wigs of the Indian film industry with Chiranjeevi playing the lead role of Narasimha Reddy. The film, directed by Surender Reddy and bankrolled by Chiranjeevi’s son and actor Ram Charan, has Amitabh Bachchan, Jagapati Babu, Nayanthara, Tamannaah, Vijay Sethupathi and Sudeep playing prominent roles.
The trailer of Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy, released on Wednesday, starts with Bharat Mata Ki Jai slogan and references to Bharat Mata, motherland getting repeated in the three-minute video. History shows Narasimha Reddy waged war against the British East India Company in 1846 much before the term Bharat Mata was coined. The agenda behind converting the story of an unsung hero to pre-independence freedom fighter needs introspection.
The trailer, released on Wednesday, starts with Bharat Mata Ki Jai slogan and references to Bharat Mata, motherland getting repeated in the three-minute video. History shows Narasimha Reddy waged war against the British East India Company in 1846 much before the term Bharat Mata was coined.
Idea of the Nation-State
It was in only in 1873, the notion of Bharat Mata was put forward through a play of the same name by Kiran Chandra Bandhopadhyay. Later on, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyaya wrote a hymn named Vande Mataram in 1875 as a filler in his journal Bangadarshan. In 1882, it was added to the his novel Anandamath. Vande Matam, eulogy for a mother, was sung in public for the first time by Rabindranath Tagore at the Calcutta session of the Indian National Congress in 1896.
In 1905, Abanindranath Tagore portrayed Bharat Mata as a four-handed saffron clad woman with grain, cloth, rosary and manuscript in her hands. This painting is considered as the first visual depiction of Bharat Mata and has been extensively used during the freedom struggle.
Narasimha Reddy’s revolt
Majjera Narasimha Reddy hailed from Koilkuntla in Kurnool of Andhra Pradesh, which was then part of the Madras presidency. He was descendant of dispossessed Poligar of Uyyalawada. He led the rebellion against the British Company regime protesting the agrarian system introduced by the latter. The revolt started on 12th July 1846 and over 5,000 peasants took part in the battle. The battle was suppressed by Lt. Watson and about 200 peasants were killed. Many peasants were captured, some others including Reddy escaped and took refuge in Nallamalai Hills. Reddy was later captured and hanged to death on 22nd February 1847.
Much before the First War of Indian independence, the revolt led by Reddy made a mark as a large number of peasants took part in it even when their livelihood was at stake. Though not a celebrated freedom fighter, his fight against colonial oppression is remarkable. There were no protests in the region against the power shift until he came to fore to resist the suppression by the company. The revolt was not against any native feudal forces but against the British conquest. The protest was localised to Koilkuntla and came to an end after he was hanged.
Though the revolt of 1857 stands tall as a symbol of resistance against British rule, there were less discussed uprisings in part of the pre-independence India during the first half of 19th century. One of such kind was the revolt led by Reddy and the staggering number of peasants who put up stiff resistance against the British. Britishers turned a deaf ear to the peasants’ grievances which resulted in displeasure and them. They mobilised under Reddy and fought against the powerful and suppressed. Most of the uprisings before 1857 revolt culminated in the same way. One such hero was Mangal Pandey who fought against the British and was hanged to death in 1857.
While Reddy was hanged by British in 1847, Pandey is regarded as the first martyr of first martyr of India’s freedom movement. Reddy’s revolt mobilised thousands of peasants but never garnered national attention. Soon after the revolt, the rebels took refuge in the hills and their activities came to halt as the Britishers sent forces. They moved from villages to villages but was later surrounded and captured. Along with Reddy, his 16-year-old son was also captured by the forces.
Reddy’s revolt mobilised thousands of peasants but never garnered national attention. Soon after the revolt, the rebels took refuge in the hills and their activities came to halt as the Britishers sent forces.
Looking back into history
Swaying away from the history, the trailer shows Reddy using the term Bharat Mata while asking the Britishers to leave the country and chants the slogan Bharat Mata Ki Jai before being hanged. He, in reality, fought against the introduction of the ryotwari system and tax reforms brought to alter the indigenous agrarian structures. The idea of motherland came years later but the trailer ends with Reddy asking Britishers to “get out from his motherland” as his last wish before being hanged.
The overt use of Bharat Mata in Sye Raa Narasimha Reddy probably signals at the intention to appease audience across India as the film is set to release in five languages – Telugu, Tamil, Hindi, Kannada, and Malayalam. At a time when showcasing nationalism has narrowed down to chanting Bharat Mata Ki Jai, no wonder the slogan has appeared repeatedly in the trailer.
Nayanthara and Tamannaah are assumed to play the roles of wives of Narasimha Reddy –Siddhamma and Lakshmi. Nayanthara is introduced in a grandiose marriage ceremony scene. In another scene, Tamannah’s Lakshmi asks Reddy to add his name to hers. While ambiguity lingers around the role of Big B and Vijay Sethupathi, the trailer hints that Amitabh Bachchan will be playing the role of Guru Gosayi Venkanna. He is seen advising (Reddy) to win the first war for freedom (against British East India Company). Vijay Sethupathi plays a leader from the Tamil land and pledges to stick to Reddy through thick and thin like Lakshmana to Rama.
The period drama made on a budget of Rs 270 crore, will hit the theatres on Gandhi Jayanthi, promises a visual spectacle with the power packed stunts and graphics.
- Dominance and Resistance: A Study of Narasimha Reddy’s Revolt in Andhra by K. Venugopal Reddy
Vishnu Priya is a former journalist, who likes to see everything through a prism. Her interest resides in research with special focus on women in mainstream Indian cinema. She has fought taboo and stigma around menstruation since childhood and it’s going strong. She looks up to exploring the unexplored arenas and starting a discourse on it. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook.
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