Cover art by Raghavi Luthra, VIII-D
Bollywood. What comes to mind? Excessively flamboyant songs, cliché love triangles, dancing around trees in dream sequences. Right? Wrong. The Indian film industry produces nearly 2,000 movies each year. Degrading all that time, effort and talent by stereotyping it all as unsophisticated and gaudy is deplorable. Over the years, our film industry has massively impacted our society, be it with a new clothes trend going viral or a whole new goddess being formed due to one motion picture. Needless to say, this country has produced unforgettable legends over decades, who’ve given us movies that have had a lasting impact on us with a social message subtly etched into our hearts. India, our journey so far, but through the tale of cinema.
Bollywood has given many profound and politically inclined movies. Starting with a film which has our ‘angry young man’ in the lead role, Main Azaad Hoon is a film that highlights exploitation of the masses. Released in 1989, this movie portrays Amitabh Bachchan as an anti-corruption crusader for the poor who fights against monstrous malfeasance until his last breath.
Sometimes, the poor aren’t heard, and have to spend their lives facing injustice due to the obsolete caste system. In 2004, a movie Swades was released which was rather contrary to what everyone thought King Khan was about. It is a film that raises the vital question of brain-drain from India to the West, where Shah Rukh Khan plays a NASA scientist who returns home and is appalled by how primitive the thoughts of people in villages are. He strongly speaks against the caste system, gender inequality and child marriage, breaking free of the same ‘norms’ people follow in this country.
Children aren’t meant to be married off young. They need education, but we need to accept that some are special. Taare Zameen Par, a 2007 movie with Aamir Khan as a school teacher, illustrates that people with disorders like Dyslexia need more time and love to learn. They aren’t abnormal, they’re like ‘stars on the Earth’, with their own unique talents. A mother is the only one who supports her child in this movie, and we all need to learn to do so, too.
However, women aren’t just meant for household activities. A 2012 movie starring Sridevi, English Vinglish brings to light the unrecognized position of the Indian homemaker. It raises several key issues around lack of women empowerment, entrepreneurial opportunities and self-reliance, and displays what determined women can achieve.
Furthermore, Padman (2018) is a true story on how women have never been provided sanitary hygiene and are just left to fend for themselves in fields outside villages, causing several types of infections and also deaths. Akshay Kumar, usually seen as some frivolous Khiladi-guy, portrays Arunachalam Muruganantham, the man who made affordable sanitary pads for poor women, and changed the way people had been thinking of women issues for decades.
Chhapaak, a 2020 released movie highlights the atrocities of acid attack victims and their rehabilitation. Deepika Padukone plays Laxmi Agarwal in a biography of an acid attack victim who proceeds to fight for justice for those like her.
All I have done is pick out 6 gems in a whole treasure trove. These movies don’t even cover half of what lies in Bollywood, not half of the wondrous things you can learn through this priceless world of cinema. Over decades, movies led by immortal icons have shaped our opinions and the ways in which we think and behave. So before stereotyping Bollywood as garish, vulgar and filled with lurid movies, think again, because this is our journey so far, but through the sweet, barfi-like tale of cinema.
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