Bollywood Cinema: Miles Away from Existing Reality
Hindi film industry, popularly known as Bollywood, is often either propagandized or misunderstood by the international audience as the face of Indian Cinema industry on the whole. Cinema though a business, is an art form as well. Humans since inception have an urge to document their lives and history through art forms know to them. Only the forms of expressions change from time to time. Cinema has been the most sort form of entertainment in a growing country, with diverse culture like India.
Tracing the history of Indian Cinema we might find, irrespective of the languages, the themes of our early cinema are deeply inclined to mythology and fantasy. Around the pre-independence era patriotism could also be sited as one of the major themes, often dealt allegorically on screen due to heavy censorship of the British colonial rulers. There was a notable shift in the themes and approaches of Cinema in India somewhere around the 40s. The paradigm shift was from mythological themes to social themes. It was in this era, the livelihood of the common man was explored in Cinema.
The cinematic presence of the ‘Angry young man’ was brought into the screen in ‘Zanjeer’ (1973) starring Amitabh Bachan. This wet on to become a trend setter that an array of cinemas followed it. Even now the influence of it is could be seen in the films made almost in all Indian languages. Ever since the early days ‘Love’ has been a constant fascination of the Indian film makers. Irrespective of the genres in which films are made love is ever a ‘constant’.
The social dramas of Hindi cinema, cinema of any Indian language for that matter, pivoted around the struggles of the downtrodden and the middle class of Indians. Heavy drama and loaded doses of sentiments were the essential common ingredients added in the making. The films of this era mostly portrayed the rich as cruel antagonists and the protagonists was essentially a member of the working class or someone who bows for nothing except of what is just and morally right.
Cinema, no matter to what camp it belongs to- art house or commercial- represents the chancing trends and social ideologies. Along with literature cinema mirrors the evolution of the society on the whole, when narrowed down would help us to understand the elements of change. The success of a film is deeply rooted in the needs and social realities of that time. For instance whenever the people and the country on the whole is in deep crisis comedy films would taste success more than films of any other genre.
Post liberalization in India in the early 90s, we witnessed the globalization set foot in India and a creamy layer from the low class and the middle class, with their skills and intellects took the seats of the jobs offering higher pay packages beyond their imagination. Thus born- or became more pronounced- the upper middle class of the Indian society. Any major change in the society would sooner or later, almost simultaneously, find its way to cinematic portrayal. Slowly Bollywood cinema began to change its face. The protagonists were no more- in many movies- from the middle class or the struggling working class. Others were just others, extras to be precise in those plots.
This change was more pronounced in Bollywood than any other films of other Indian languages. Only after Hindi filmmakers those from other languages followed the trend. Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge (1995) could very be pointed out to start a new trend in the backdrop of Hindi cinema. Unlike the films of its predecessors, where many ‘foreign return’ characters in the storyline, this film opens in London where the lead pair meet. This shift in backdrop from India to abroad is important.
Then the rest is cinema history now. Dilwale is in many ways a trend setter heralding the paradigm shift in the people the films talk about. Stories set around non residential Indians (NRIs) became more pronounced and the upper middle class and the rich became the subjects of interest in Hindi films. Despite the hard realities of the common man in India these films created and showcased a hyper reality- from the common man’s perception. In the last 15 years we’ve seen a legion of films set in foreign lands and majority of the audience were shown a lifestyle which they could see only on the screen, far away from their existing reality. This trend sprouts from the mental longing of the Indian mind to lead a western style life. It motivates consumerism and the kindles the urge to lead a rich lifestyle and the lust and greed for money. The more Bollywood cinema retreats from the contemporary Indian realities it constructs an alternate glamorous reality to the viewer.
The psychological impact on the viewer works in both ways. Either the ordinary people who are never able to embrace this reel life for real, take this imaginary (well to them it is) world as a firmament of escape for few hours in the darkened cinema halls. Or they become more and more obsessed with this glitzy screen life and decide to make money that would fetch this life in reality. Often they are achieved either by losing mental peace and real happiness or by letting their morality get eroded and conscience compromised.