Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mangal Pandey--the Rising

I suppose you are wondering what movie I am talking about-since when folks talk about the 2005 Aamir Khan movie Mangal Pandey:The Rising the photo most often show is the where Aamir is dressed as a sepoy (a native soldier in India under the command of the East India Company). I like this Holi photo better, it mirrors the joy of the the desire for freedom.

This story is a dramatization of the 1857 Sepoy Uprising in India--and had this succeeded-India might have had its freedom 90 years earlier than 1947. In 1857, India was not under the control of the Queen of England, but the East India Company--the Company did its best to extract as much income out of India's peoples as it could. The company forced Indian farmers to grow opium and sell it at fixed prices to the Company which in turn sold it at high profit to China in exchange for Tea, silk and spices.

The major tripping point of the uprising was the introduction of the rifled Enfield Musket--which had a cartridge containing powder and shot that needed to be bitten off by the soldier and then loaded into the barrel of the rifle. Up until this time, the Indian Sepoys used the 'Brown Bess' musket that had separate powder and shot that was loaded into the barrel--the ease of the cartridge and the greater accuracy of the Enfield was the reason behind the change. But, the cartridge was the instigator of this rebellion--rumor spread that the cartridge was coated with the fat of cows and pigs. The Sepoys consisted of Muslim and Hindu men to which each one found the fat of either animal abhorrent--the Muslims felt pig impure and the Hindu saw the cow as sacred.

The man behind this uprising, Mangal Pandey--was a devout Hindu who refused to submit to this humiliation. Pandey felt that by putting the fat of a cow into his mouth, he would be impure and his community would shun him. Pandey had the ability to muster the support of the many troops in India--and a rebellion was begun. It is not to say that this Aamir Khan movie is true to the tale of the uprising-it twists the story to make it more patriotic and adds a bit of romance- but it still gives the viewer a feel for the suppression that India suffered under the East India Company. After the rebellion was quashed, India then came under the rule of the English monarchy--it is not to say that this rule was any less suppressive, but this is for others to debate.

I found that watching this movie after seeing the new, and last Harry Potter film to be appropriate--both are about rebellion, and both show the fights people can fight when they are so moved. Watching this movie makes me wish to delve further into this historic episode--and thus into the history of India. Aamir Khan does well with this role--and brings the spirit of Mangal Pandey to life; let us not forget these players of history that tried to bring equality to their peoples.

Mangal Pandey-@1827-1857

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