Cinema and its larger than life presence affects each one of us, directly or indirectly. We look up to some characters, act like them and aspire to be like them. Indian movies have given us some amazing characters in teacher’s role. Here Nalin Rai takes a trip down memory lane and gives us his take on some of the most memorable and inspiring teachers in Indian movies.
When the Prime Minister of the country raises the clarion call to the nation, and, more specifically, to the teachers and the students, to come forward and contribute with their efforts and might towards the process of nation building, as a fan of cinema it indeed provides an opportunity to travel through the annals of cinema from the past and to search amongst the plethora of films focusing on teachers to pick out inspiring roles that should be a source of inspiration for the present generation as well.
It goes without saying that Hindi cinema in general has viewed the role of a teacher rather myopically, either portraying them as caricature (scores of roles of Hindi teacher that have been played over the years) or commoditizing them as objects of desire (Sushmita Sen in ‘Main Hoon Na’), belittling the important role played by the noble profession.
It is an onerous task to search for the needle in the haystack but an opportune time like ‘Teachers Day’ demands that the effort indeed be made. Here then are some important characters of teachers enacted in Hindi cinema that continue to inspire:
A film belonging to the black and white era with Abhi Bhattacharya in an inspiring role of a teacher taking children on a discovery trail of the country, with the patriotic song – Aao Bachchon tumhe dikhayein jhankee Hindustan kee – a song that gives one goose bumps. One always wonders whether this song not be introduced as a part of the curriculum to encapsulate the magic called India for youth of the present generation.
2. DO AANKHEIN BARAH HAATH
A black and white masterpiece by V. Shantaram, it is one of the most inspiring films, which underlines the fact that a teacher is not just the one who teaches within the four walls of a classroom, but one who is ready to hold out the hand and reform even those condemned by society. When one talks of reforms of the criminal system and the role that a prison in-charge could play as a guide in the lives of circumstantial culprits, this film stands out as a shining example. As a matter of fact, it is one of rare films which continue to be shown as a part of the criminal reform process.
Gulzar’s interpretation of The Sound of Music within the Indian milieu is another milestone of Hindi cinema that needs to be seen by the present generation as it underlines the fact that if a teacher is good, he or she can indeed reform the brattiest of wards. The soul stirring lyrics of the song ‘Musafir hoon yaaron’ can indeed be regarded as the mantra of every teacher, as a teacher is always on the quest of discovery, and year after year continues on this trip with a new batch of students.
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Vinod Khanna in one of the most inspiring roles of his life trying to reform a bunch of college students with no support from the system underlined the existentialist dilemma that a teacher faces if he or she has to be associated with a college which has students of notoriety dominating the landscape.
Educational institutions have also been an arena where clashes of ideas and generations continue to happen and they decide the destiny of the institution, with the old order fighting to maintain the status quo, while the new order trying to usher in the change with the new ideas that it has come to associate with. Mohabbatein underlined the fact that change cannot be stopped and it has to be imbibed; otherwise one has to face hostilities of the youth as it happened with Big B and Shah Rukh Khan in this film.
6. MUNNA BHAI MBBS and 3 IDIOTS
The world of academia is characterized by quirky characters; characters who are rarely agreeable to cow down and to accept that indeed the world is changing. But when they do, they emphasize the fact that they are human and they have to fight to maintain the facade of invincibility that they create around themselves as a sheath of protection.
Boman Irani etched two roles of a lifetime that underline the fact that in academics such kind of teachers are also required – who become catalysts to facilitate points of disruption by extending their influence in trying to maintain the status quo of the system.
What the Prime Minister said on the eve of Teachers Day is an important message that we need to imbibe if we have to make a better India. And the first step forward in this direction would be to start including our teachers in important functions of our lives, like marriages, birthdays etc. Once we start doing that, and seek inspiration from any of the movies cited above, the Better India is indeed then just round the corner.