As people go on changing their views of society, we notice that social issues slowly start seeping into Indian cinema. Coincidence? I think not. We’ve heard about the idea that cinema shapes our mind and that the exaggerated versions of reality are what we think of as facts. But have you ever wondered if the facts and discussions that the public have are what shape the film industry?
Think about it. In the 20th century, if you saw a movie there would have been certain characteristics that were constant. For example, if a kid didn’t listen to his parents the entire society would go haywire. The gossip would spread like wildfire. The parents would be livid (to say the least) and it would probably end in the kid becoming an outcast and that kid regretting everything.
Now, was this the case in every household at that time? We don’t know. But, once people started showing interest in that type of films, the film industry took to it. In the words of Pringles Chips, “Once you pop, the fun don’t stop.”
Think of it this way, you are scrolling through your social media feed. You see a post that you find interesting and you like the post. Soon, what happens? You guessed it. You start getting more posts like that. I could go on and on but that would make for all examples and no point. So, before I go too heavy on the examples, I will move on.
So, in the early times, thinking outside the box was not the norm. I would even go to the extent of calling it taboo. Even if some people didn’t agree, they probably didn’t voice it as they wouldn’t have wanted to stick out like a sore thumb. But, as time passed and we entered the 21st Century, the ideals for society began to shift a little. It wasn’t just fashion that changed, but people’s minds as well.
Till that point, even neighbourhood romance was shunned upon but with the beginning of new trends began the era of romance. The idea of a rebel kid who spent his days flirting with women and roaming the city with his friends became the new ‘in’ thing, as showcased by Kollywood’s ‘Alaipaiyuthey’ starring Madhavan and Bollywood’s ‘Rangeela’ starring Aamir Khan. The entire idea was not inspired by the Indian society. But snippets of it were. As people started to get bolder about their life choices and actually stood up for themselves, cinema also gained courage to become bolder with its movies.
And the golden rule of cinema, as we know, is that once you like something, they will keep using it till you get sick of it. (Random sidenote: I’m talking about Indian Cinema in general and not one industry in particular.)
So, as you probably already realized, the majority of Indian Cinema drifted towards the ‘family friendly and socially irresponsible’ conceptualised and stereotypical movies. And as time goes on, society’s changing rules are what tell filmmakers what will sell and what won’t. Imagine if someone played ‘O Kadhal Kanmani’ in 1965. The level of openness in discussing live-in relationships and the lack of interest in marriage would make them feel so uncomfortable and infuriated that the movie would’ve become a flop.
Now, this isn’t to belittle or ridicule any of the movies done at the time. These concepts were mind-blowing at the time. It’s like the Alphabet. Nowadays, we go around saying, ‘The Alphabet? That’s child’s play!’ But imagine, the time during which they came up with the Alphabet. It was probably the greatest invention of that time.
I want to emphasize that the popular themes of each generation weren’t the only types of movies made. As it was pointed out to me, there were always a few movies that were very ahead of their times. They were probably far too ahead of their times which is why the issue they were highlighting weren’t taken too seriously.
To all those people reading this and rolling their eyes thinking, ‘I never did that!’, let me ask you one thing: What was one movie that your generation wasn’t too pleased about and has the theme/message of that movie made a re-appearance in cinema now? It’s like fashion. What was considered fashionable back in the day went out of style in the middle only to return as ‘vintage fashion’ now.
I want to conclude with one thing. Indian Cinema and Society are like cliché and Bollywood: One can’t survive without the other and they make each other whole. (If you didn’t feel the cliché in this, I can only say one thing to you: ‘कुछ कुछ होता है! तुम नहीं समझोगे!’)