I have always been amused by the way India is portrayed on the Silver screen. No, I am not talking about the India of Bimal Roy, Satyajit Ray or of Gurudutt. I am talking about the India that the filmmakers of my generation have shown me. I am talking about the India which Shahrukh portrayed, Salman praised and Aamir criticized. I am talking about India of Karan Johar and also of Anurag Kashyap. I am talking about India which Dibakar Banerjee painted in front of me. I am just curious to know if the present generation of filmmakers is truly representing the society they are a part of or are alien to the realities.
Sometime back a friend said something which has stayed with me. “A country gets the kind of cinema it deserves” or something of the same kind tweaked from a famous Political Science quote. I actually wondered if it is true, though the statement is certainly powerful. Being an ardent film lover, I do watch films from across the globe. Any film, doesn’t matter how bad, is essentially a testimony of the era it was made in. A film is the visual form of literature- and I can die for this belief! I do feel that we need to search for the nation we live in, in the films it produces. It is important because films are one of the most powerful tools in this country and play a major role in reinforcing prejudices, and at times break prejudices like nothing else. But the matter of the fact is, it is not a tool for social reform, and it should not be. Artists have a crucial role in the society, and their shoulders must not be burdened with the added responsibility of social change (which I don’t know what is!). Films are a source of entertainment and they must be loyal to that.
It is only sad that in the name of entertainment we are shown tried and tested formula films. A genius is one who entertains in a manner which his or her predecessors have not done. But sadly this is not true for many eminent filmmakers.
If an alien (let us assume somebody from Jupiter) is asked to make a view about India by watching the mainstream Bollywood films, I am sure he/she will have a totally different perception of India- something which is alien to Indians! Recently I saw Chennai Express. I do not find it a suitable right now to share if I liked it or not. In the film there is only one Sikh character, played by Mukesh Tiwari. The first time he meets Rahul (you know who I am talking about) he greets him with a “Balle Balle”. These particular species of Sardars or Sikhs are found only in the traditional mainstream Bollywood films who greet everybody with a Balle Balle. I have not met a single Sikh who greets me with a Balle Balle. Just imagine the Alien from Jupiter meeting our PM and greeting him with a Balle Balle thinking that’s a Sikh greeting! Well this is a harmless prejudice, but there are many harmful prejudices prevalent in Bollywood as well, which we may have noticed. For instance, our filmmakers love to make the audiences laugh at every possible point. Most of the jokes they use are based on some or the other prejudice we have in our society- making fun of a particular name from a particular region, making fun of the colour of the skin from a particular region, making fun of the physical appearance of the people and also of the sexual preference. All these contribute in our laughter. It is, on a serious note, a politics of appeasing the majority population. Salman makes fun of somebody’s height inDabangg and SRK makes fun of somebody’s name in Chennai Express, and a major section in the cinema hall gets another point to attack the “other”.
It is all business- we have been told, but more than that it is simply immature and less sensible behaviour in the business. Maybe sensible people cannot be a part of the mega business which operates in the form of cheap entertainment.
This article first appeared in Youth Ki Awaaz on August 14, 2013