The Eternal Connect Between Cinema and Society
“Indian cinema has virtually become a parallel culture. Talk of India with a foreigner and debate virtually centres on Indian films,” said Amitabh Bachchan.
|Image Courtesy: http://indiatoday.intoday.in/|
Cinema is the beautiful combination of art, literature and science. Art and literature are reflections of life representing the moments of life and science studies man and his world. So cinema, a combination of these three invariably presents man and his life in the society. Cinema undoubtedly is reflective of the society itself. What we see or do in reality is more often than not what we see on silver screen. It's not rare that we encounter incidents in our daily lives that are in most ways very similar to the ones that we witness in movies. We often get to see startling resemblances between events of real and reel life, be it films or documentaries.
In Natyashastra, Bharatmuni declares that art is the search for truth. The aim of life is not different and hence cinema, society and life are closely related. Our life and the principles are influenced by the passage of time and changes in the society. Cinema is inspired and influenced by the society and it portrays it colorfully.
A Still from Dadasaheb Phalke's Raja Harishchandra
From Dadasaheb Phalke to Farhan Akhtar, every decade of Bollywood has reflected various hues and aspects of real life on reels of cinema. When Dadasaheb integrated centuries old mythological narratives with emerging medium of cinema in forms of films like Raja Harishchandra and Kaliya-Mardan, it was instantly lapped up by audience and showed spiritual bent of mind of society of those times. Ashok Kumar starred Kismet, released during Quit India Movement, was a cinematic rendition of resistance against imperialistic British by Indians.
Post independence Nehruvian socialist era was time of Guru Dutt, Satyajit Ray and Bimal Roy, ruthless perfectionists, who vividly captured the growing pains of infant democracy and universality of human emotions in their films. During the time of 70s and 80s, with films like Ankur, Manthan and Saransh, art cinema finally came of age and showcased common man’s struggle with the system and striving for basics of life. Post 90s, when Indian society woke up to globalization and liberalization, new-age cinema makers, too broke traditional Bollywood ’s definitive cinematic boundaries.
|A Still from Anupam Kher starrer Saransh|
With pots of money pouring into India, Indian film industry too learned to talk in crores and filmmakers went global, aimed for Hollywood kind of releases, and tried to earn revenues from satellites, video and other avenues apart from box-office collections. Catering to a highly diverse society, Indian film industry is largest in the world, churning out an average of 800 films per year. The audience consists of an estimated 3.6 billion people with 14 territories in India and 52 counties across the globe. As such, no film producer and director can vouch for homogeneous consumption of his films.
Directors like Govind Nihalani, Shyam Benegal, who are not burdened to cater to the masses, inescapably remind viewers of refined tastes - of hard facts and realities of life through their straight-in-the-face films. Then there is entire breed of film merchants who serve to the entertainment palates of the majority by playing it safe; by making traditional commercial Bollywood potboilers. Also there are cerebral directors like Nagesh Kukunoor and Madhur Bhandarkar who delve deep into stark realities of everyday life to give us edgy cinema like Iqbal, Chandni Bar, Girl friend, Joggers Park, Being Cyrus, Dil Chahta Hai- which prick our sense of film-viewing in an entirely different way. They handle topics which are sensitive and controversial as relationship between a young woman and much older man, young man and older woman, lesbian aspect of friendship, lives of bar dancers. Madhur Bhandarkar's film Page 3 effectively brought out the utmost details of the page 3 category people belonging to the upper class society. This national award winning director also spilled the beans in his film Fashion, about the dark, gloomy, and pitiful state of affairs in the world of fashion, modelling and glamour. These films, we all realize and understand, are the mere cinematic versions of the unquestionable truth or fact. In more than a few occasions we somehow identify with the characters in movies.
|A Still from Aamir Khan starrer Dil Chahta Hai|
Romance, popular novels, patriotism, underworld politicians, nexus are still the moving themes and are projected without any hesitation. Devdas, Mangal Pandey, Veer Zaara and Parineeta belongs to this group. Analyse the relation between the hero and the harlot portrayed in Mangal Pandey, it was something unthinkable in old times, once again pointing towards the mindset of the society and its changing maxims. Unfortunately the society today is a witness to various ill doings, communal problems, deplorable events and sheer malevolence. Few of the many plagues of the present society are murders, rapes, suicides and to top it all is the utmost form of violence, terrorism. The worst possible evil at present is undoubtedly terrorism and this is an issue that has been dealt with in cinemas recurrently. Even if we attempt to name a few movies having dealt with terrorism it would amount to many. All this does nothing but evinces that cinema is a reflection of the society. In film Corporate, we were provided with a sneak peek of the sinister details of the world of business. The rampant corruption in the business world was simply enacted in this film. Women getting jobs in return for pleasure, cricketers participating in match fixing in exchange for crores, teenagers taking to drugs, perversion leading to teenage pregnancy, people going to the extent of murdering people over trivial matters - we all get to hear such things, and subsequently we get to see these in movies.
Film may be bad or good, based on a fiction or a real story, centered around a village or city life, but it explores the phenomenon that is man and his often contradictory relation with the society. 2004 Dadasaheb Phalke award winner and eminent director of Malayalam movies Mr Adoor Gopalakrishnan says, -“it is impossible to truthfully present characters who do not represent social life in some way or the other. I can ascertain that there are lively social issues in all my films”.
|A Still from Madhur Bhandarkar's Corporate|
Social dynamics have always regulated the content of cinema. The main protagonist of any film fights villains who are manifestations of contemporary societal evils - from village money-lender to land-hawks to advocates of dowry, dons and modern day terrorists. A society, which is highly tolerant despite ethnic, religious and linguistic cleavages, is visible in rendition of a religious bhajan by Mohammed Rafi in a role essayed by Dilip Kumar in the film Ram Aur Shyam. Khans from minority are the darlings of the masses. The biggest super-star in Tamil film industry Rajnikanth, is a Marathi by birth.
Indian cinema has always tried to showcase Indian culture in all its ramifications. Family ties, particularly, joint family system and series of rituals like wedding, engagements, celebrating of new-born etc are always present in our films. There are feel-good films like Bobby, Kaho Na Pyar Hai, which define puppy love; Sholay, a wholesome entertainment; Golmaal - healthy sprinkling of humor; Border and LOC -stories of supreme sacrifices of our valiant soldiers, Murder and Jism, which deal with the theme of adultery; Black Friday - realistic portrayal of 1993 bomb blasts– all ideas picked up by our social setup.
Oscar awarded/nominated movies tell a different story. They emphatically declare cinema to be reflection of the society. Films like Goodbye and Good luck, Munich and Crash which won Oscars for best film, they highlighted the political tension and changing world order after 9/11 attacks, different assessments of the cause of Palestinian people, prejudice and social segregation in the USA. Brokeback Mountain discusses the taboo subject of homosexuality –man’s desires and how they lead to the breaking of families. These are the issues of our time and whether we like it or not, we have to address them. Cinema ultimately presents the man in society with all its virtues and vices. Something’s in society and life are too complex for oral transmission, so cinema makers make fiction out of them to make them universal. The cinema is something between art and life, unlike painting and literature; the cinema both gives to life and takes from it.
|A Still from Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain|
The Indian cinema has come off age with movies like Black. But the unfortunate part is such movies are rare. The bulk of the films dished out to audience are based on the so-called formula- a mixture of heroics, melodrama, violence, nudity, music and catchy dialogues.
“Great films will be made when we become a great audience,” said French author, Andre Malraux. Indian filmmakers are often panned for making unreal cinema. But with audience enlightening up and graduating to outside cinema, cinema-makers have tough job in their hands to keep audience glued to their celluloid products. Cinema industry is realizing that they need to be experimental and open up to new set of ideas and shed their old reservations about audiences. Schlock cinema, with lot of plot-holes and half-baked stories, are becoming things of yore. Simple relatable stories about unassuming characters from non–metro and moffusils towns and villages are flavor of filmmakers. Time and again cinemas have acted as a mirror to the society. Cinemas have persistently dealt with the problems of the society, and brought out the darkest secrets of the world as it is today. The thought that a movie always equals entertainment is but a myth. I would like to salute the filmmakers, actors, and producers who have done and are still doing their bit to let the people know about the society better. So, as a conclusion I would like to restate and make clear that cinemas are undeniably reflective of the society that we live in and the strong link between reel and real is here to stay.
About Author -
This guest post is written by Thewhitescape, a social media nut, freelance writer, blogger, creative thinker, editor, fashion addict and a wanna be author based out of Hyderabad. Blog: http://thewhitescape.wordpress.com. Connect with Thewhitescape on Facebook Page. The views expressed by the author are personal.
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