Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Indian Cinema - only for entertainment?

Two teenagers meet in a straw-filled carrier of a truck, fell in love and try to create a world of their own in an isolated, rough-terrain area… The father is convinced, “Ja simran jee le apni zindagi”… rags to riches overnight… Heroines are an eye-candy, they are there to sing and dance around trees and to be caught by the villain… the inevitable happy ending.

Cinema is a creative platform to reach out to the society. Thus, it influences and is influenced by it.

Mainstream cinema is famous for painting a superficial image of things. In films, life is oversimplified. The many hurdles are all solved in mere three hours and a ‘happy ending’ is imposed. Movies are, afterall, for mere entertainment, they say. Love stories rule cinema. Even a patriotic movie tends to have some ‘masala’. Love in movies is generally love at first sight. The boy will stalk the girl and after resisting for few days, she will eventually accept the eve-teasing as love. There is also the glorification of first love- “pehla pyaar hi aakhri pyaar hota hai”. In reality, however, it is difficult to distinguish between love and infatuation as symptoms for both may be same (“hawa ka gungunana, dil mei violin bajna.. etc etc”). This notion also forbids the person from moving on. Movies generally terminate with the marriage but in reality, it is after marriage that the real test begins. The deal is not to build a love relationship but to maintain it. Problems arise when the two love birds actually get to live 24*7. But Movies never talk about this. They don’t even consider the differences- inter-caste and inter-religious marriage issues are hardly ever taken up. The issue is generally the difference in status. Love stories also glorify run-away brides and teenagers running away for some ‘adventure’. The society which watches ever step that we take is completely ignored. In movies, life, in general, is shown to be waiting for that one opportunity. Take one right step and everything becomes smooth. The complexities and struggles in life is never shown. Why? Because people want to leave the hall with a smiling face. “It only happens in films”, “How filmy”...This is how people understand the movie culture- interesting but unrealistic.

Movies exaggerate but they are definitely not alien in representing the society. Infact, they play a very crucial ‘social duty’ in terms of upholding the ideals and stereotypes of the society. The basic component of the society is the family. “Marriage is the union of two families” so the approval of the family is very important for a marital relationship. So from getting a family member kidnapped and then faking a rescue to getting beaten up by the girl’s brothers, the boy will do anything to get the acceptance of the family. Marriage is seen as the most sacred institution in our society. The boy’s or the girl’s family may have organized a battalion but the moment the lovebirds reach the mandir, the war will get over and the love-birds will become inseparable. The reason why inter-caste or inter-religious marriages are not a popular theme may be because the society does not approve of them. Cinema is also phenomenal in creating and consolidating gender-related stereotypes. In the beginning of the movie, the boy will describe his kind of girl. It is here that they specify how an ideal girl should be like. Women are seen as mere symbols of love and beauty. With only shakal, no akal, her role is to look pretty and smile. Even today, when the condition is a little better, when asked about their favorite actress, people will oblige some bimbo. The person will then be asked - “and in terms of acting?”. The role of the heroine ranges from being negligible to consisting of 5-6 dialogs including “bachao”. As is believed, Women are shown to be helpless. They also do not have an identity of their own. She will only be someone’s girlfriend, daughter or mother. And Even if in the beginning of the movie, the girl may have some identity, by the end of the movie, she will loose it and become helpless. For the woman, the earth is supposed to be flat. If she ventures out, she will fall off the edge. So when the heroine sets out, the series of events that follows discourage her and she is disillusioned, regretting her decision. This is what the norm of the society is- women should not try to alter the constructed order. Since the past few years, forces of liberalism are attacking our society. And some of the movies are also trying to represent this change. So the image of the hero is no longer that stereotypical one. Ab mard ko dard hota hai.. he can get beaten up, like pink and can cook and do other household chores(he even manages kids now!)Many strong women characters have come up. The new-age woman(‘the modern woman’) is shown to be independent and career-oriented. Issues like homosexuality, teen pregnancy, prostitution and other types of social stigma are also entering the mainstream. So Cinema is also becoming ‘bold’..or I should rather say it is mustering the courage to reflect the changing reality.

In the media culture, Cinema has emerged to be the most important weapon. It, thus, can be and should be used interactively and positively to reach out to the masses. It can, thus, be used to bring out that desired change.

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