ROJA 1992: Kashmir with Conflicting Identities

In 1992 Director Mani Ratnam made the first installment of his famous terror trilogy, which contains 3 films: Roja(1992), Bombay(1995), & Dil Se(1998). Roja was his first take on terrorism and the way he depicted it is quite a complex picture.

Mani Ratnam tried to put forth a nationalistic message through Kashmir and its militancy. In one of his interviews, he mentioned that he crafted his characters with traits of innocence and simplicity so that he can depict the cold nature of terrorism and in the end can successfully deliver his patriotic message.

There are three main characters in the film, Roja, Rishi & Liaqat. Roja is our protagonist and it is from her point of view we see Kashmir’s story. She also acts as the middle of the two extreme identities of a patriot and a traitor played by Rishi and Liaqat respectively.

Rishi is symbolic of a Patriot because he plays a character of an earnest government employee, he is a cryptologist and he is seen to be very dutiful towards his job and his nation. Liaqat on the other hand is symbolic of a traitor because he is the head of a militant organization in Kashmir and is leading a secessionist movement there. Roja in the middle of a patriot and a traitor is she is a simple housemaker but has no interest in nationalistic values, though she has strong ethnic and religious roots.

Just after the marriage of rishi and Roja, rishi was ordered by higher officials to go to Kashmir for an intelligence project. In Kashmir rishi was abducted by Liaquat’s gang and Roja was left helpless. she got no assistance from local police and Liaquat and his mates asked rishi to tell his govt. to release one of their organization’s members Wasim khan from jail. Rishi didn’t plead in front of govt. rather he said Jai hind and wished that govt. may never release Wasim khan, no matter whatever happens to him.

Later in the whole film, Rishi tries to convenience Liaqat that his fight and views are wrong. He should start looking at the country and countrymen with love and fraternity. Roja, on the other hand, was keen to release Wasim khan in exchange for her husband, she doesn’t care about national; security, she only cares about his husband’s security. Govt first rejected the Wasim khan bail but seeing Roja in pain and one other officer getting tortured by the militants, they finally agreed, but till then Rishi had already escaped the militant camp, and militants failed to get Wasim khan released.

Liaqat in the end accepted that what he was doing was inhumane and Rishi has transformed him into a human. Roja too became aware of what is the problem of Kashmir and seeing the resilience of his husband and the work of police and army she too became a patriot. So in the end the two disloyal subjects of Indian Nationalism, Roja & Liaquat got transformed into what the nation wanted, true patriots. Rishi is symbolical of the nationalistic ideal which the film [ut forth and Roja & Liaqat who were early very distinct from that ideal, later rose to that level. Hence the nationalistic message was delivered with the different struggles of ROJA, RISHI, & LIAQAT.

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