Independence Day is indeed a great day to celebrate our struggle for attainment of freedom from colonial rule. Many sacrificed their lives,many lost their near and dear ones and a large number of people lost their homes and hearths and became refugees in order to achieve this independence. August 15, 1947 is a red letter day for every Indian and this day’s significance is enormous for the entire country and all the countrymen.
As a child, the very mention of Independence Day or anything related to the country brought before my eyes the image of a great person -Mahatma Gandhi. I was not fortunate enough to see him in flesh and blood, chiefly because he left for his heavenly abode long before I was born and only after I grew up that I was introduced to his philosophy and his life. His life in South Africa and his subsequent struggles on his return to India, his organising qualities and his power to unite the nation as one has always inspired me tremendously. We, in our teens and even during the prime of our youth, were not too privileged to have television sets at our disposal to watch and listen to the Independence Day addresses of great leaders like the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and had to content ourselves with listening to their commentary on radio.
The very mention of this special day brings a host of memories to my mind although I fail to find the reason why the mention of this day makes me traverse down memory lane.No, Iam not one who was born in British India and like many surviving seniors, the memory of this day in 1947 does not bring a feeling of indescribable romance in my body like it did to my late father or his contemporaries. For the generation to which my father belonged, the transitional change from British rule to the rule that started after 15th August 1947 was a sea of difference.But for one born in an Independent India, that feeling is naturally missing. However, it is a matter of pride that I am a citizen born in an Independent India.
Who can forget those days when celebration of this grand day was beset with a great sense of awe? The armed forces parade and the music played while theArmy marched past sent ripples throughout my body.The whole ambience of the playfield where the Independence Day celebrations were held created an euphoric feeling in my mind.
It was also a fun time for us youngsters with an abundance of toffees,fruits and glasses of milk coming to us without any need for asking. There were games to be played – some regular ones and some funny ones like having to break earthen pots with a stick and with the eyes covered.
Those were the days when there was neither the television or the internet to offer you the bonanza of entertainment and information like it is done today. On the evenings of Independence Day or Republic Day, the Films Division of the Government of India screened special News Reels.They were too informative and it was somewhat enchanting to watch the current events and speeches of the great leaders of the country in front of our eyes.
In this article, I am tempted to write about my singular experience during the Independence Day celebrations in the year1960 because I feel that that the matter is of some special significance. This incident occurred in Nazira, which was a small town during the period I have mentioned but which has become an important petroleum production centre and administrative centre today. The experience revolves around the practice of free cinema shows for children below 10 years of age.
The cinema hall in that small town of those days had inadequate sitting arrangements– both in the matter of comfort and also in the number of seats.And on the contrary, the number of viewers was enormous. There was hardly any arrangement to ascertain the age of the spectators and many over-aged boys also used to enter the cinema hall. Not to speak of finding a seat, I could hardly find a place to stand near the exit door. The August heat was terrible and the cramped interiors made matters worse. The film started and to my utter surprise, the actors did not speak.I had seen several movies in Assamese and Hindi earlier with my parents and relatives where the actors spoke. I cursed myself for making the mistake to come and watch this movie. The heat on one hand and the crowded hall on the other was giving me a nightmarish time. A little later, I decided to forget the discomfort and concentrate on the film.
The cinema hall had just one projector and when a reel finished, there used to be a breakbefore the next reel was fitted and played.The film took more than four hours to get finished. When I came out of the hall, I was covered in sweat. It was only on my way back that I saw the poster of the film. The name of the film was Raja Harischandra.I did not realise at that point of time what significance this dumb silent film carried. It was much later that I learnt that the film I saw in that non-descript cinema hall under a very arduous situation was the first motion picture to be made in the country.