Cinema, like other modes of media, is inspired and influenced by the society and it portrays it colourfully. A glance at the Indian films produced recently confirms to this fact. The changing trends in films reflect the changes taking place in our society.
In recent times most of the award-winning films are those which have urban setting with all its glamour and dark sides, exposing sex, violence and crime. Earlier, films of rural background were the first choice. Now-a-days more and more films, both art and commercial ones, focus on the urban life, the changing pattern of life in villages and towns, new social ethics and the impact of modernisation and globalisation on society. Films like Page-3, Being Cycrus, Dil Chahta Hai, Girl Friend and Chandni Bar readily come to mind. They handle topics which are sensitive and controversial as relationship between a young woman and much older man, young man and older woman, lesbian aspect of friendship, lives of bar dancers, etc. Earlier commercial films avoided or treated these subjects casually or left them to the so-called art films. The shift clearly shows the changing face of our society.
At the same time films endeavour to appeal to different classes of people and to their varying tastes. Romance, popular novels, patriotism, underworld-politician nexus are still the moving themes and are projected without any hesitation. Devdas, Mangal Pandy, Veer Zara, Parineeta, etc.
belong to this group. They portray the multicultural aspect of the Indian society. Now, analyse the relation between the hero and the harlot portrayed in Mangal Pandey. It was something unthinkable in old times, once again pointing towards the change in the mindset of society and its changing standards and maxims.
We ought to bear in mind that the three aims of art or films are to inculcate the sense of beauty, to entertain and to exhort the audience. Many firmly believe that of these three, the first one is the foremost. For this purpose filmmakers employ different techniques and ways of storytelling like montage, flashback, etc. But the centre remains the same—man and his society. Film may be bad or good, based on a fiction or a real story, centered on a village or a city life, but it explores the phenomenon that is man and his often contradictory relation with the society.
When the camera follows his desires, dreams, activities and dialogues, it also captures and explores his vague and complicated association with the society. It shows how community influences, directs and controls the individual. Eminent film director and 2004 Dada Saheb Phalke Award winner Mr. Adoor Gopalakrishnan says, “It is impossible to truthfully present characters who do not represent social life in some way or the other.
I can ascertain that there are lively social issues in all my films.” There is severe criticism that films now-a-days alienate themselves from simple life and ground realities. Producers and directors take film as a mix of dances, songs and load them with unnatural situations, projection of hero and ill-timed jokes and romances. It is absurd to think that mere technical brilliance and hightech audio-visual effects are the main features of a cinema. These movies, devoid of selection or fineness, also represent life and society though negatively. The anguish and protest of public over corruption and abuse of power are reflected in an all-powerful hero who fights for justice.
The struggle and tension of common man is portrayed through him. Absurd jokes and artificial comic scenes are added to make people laugh and relax. Common man’s insatiable and secret desires are the reason for vulgar and obscene films. Here also, the link between man and society is revealed. However the films like Good-bye and Good Luck, Munich and Crash which won Oscar for the Best Film award, have different stories. They highlight the political tension and changing world order after September 11 attacks, different aspects of the cause of Palestinian people, prejudice and social segregation in the US, etc. These are the issues of global concern. Further, Brokeback Mountain discusses the taboo subject of homosexuality—man’s desires and how they lead to the breaking of families.
These are the issues of our time and whether we like it or not, we have to address them. Cinema, ultimately presents the man in society with all its virtues and vices. It may neglect some features to highlight a graver one or vice versa.
But none can deny the fact that it projects nothing but man. Commercial films do this weakly or casually, parallel films forcefully, but with reservation, and pure art films, complicatedly and wearingly. The French new wave master director Jean Luc Godard commented, “Some things in life are too complex for oral transmission. So we make fiction out of them, to make them universal.
The cinema is something between art and life. Unlike painting or literature, the cinema both gives to life and takes from it.” The presentation of life and society differs from director to director. Yet, whether it is Satyajit Ray or Manikaul, Mani Ratnam or Karan Johar, they simply portray what they see and contemplate in social life. It is true that with music and dance, sometimes the soul of cinema goes missing. When we think that all is over and movie and society are completely removed from each other, sometimes they come together. It again astonishes and delights and we realise that cinema is for the society and of the society. Let us conclude with the words of the great filmmaker Tarkovsky, “In all my films it seemed to me important to try to establish the links which connect people.
These links connect me with humanity and all of us with everything that surrounds us. I need to have a sense that I myself am in this world as a successor that there is nothing accidental about my being there.” The Indian cinema has come off age with movies like Black. But the unfortunate part is that such movies are rare. The bulk of the films dished out to audience are based on the so-called formula—a mixture of heroics, melodrama, violence, nudity, music and catchy dialogues. We need to develop to a higher level whereby the true picture of society is reflected in our films.
Secular Character of India India is one of the secular nations of the world. The Constitution of India guarantees equal rights to all the citizens. The subjects of the State can practise any religion or support any theological stream.
In fact, tolerance of all religions has been the basic tenet of our culture. This is the reason why Muslim invaders—beginning with Mahmood Ghaznavi in 1,000 AD—had an easy access to India. Islam flourished on Indian soil. Akbar, the great Moghul Emperor, won over the Indian populace on the touchstone of his tolerance. He founded Din-i-lllahi or the Religion of God to which people of any religion were invited to join. Akbar married Jodhabai, a Rajput princess, and made her brother Man Singh, Commander-in-chief or sipah-salar of his army. At his Ibadat Khana or Prayer Hall at Fatehpur Sikri, priests of different faiths came to express their views about spiritualism.
All this tolerance enraged the Ulema or Muslim clergy but he won over the large Indian masses. Aurangzeb, the last of the Moghuls, reversed Akbar’s policy of religious tolerance. He levied tax like Jaziya on Hindus only. Gradually, the empire disintegrated because, Hindu commanders and officials became antagonists and did not like the polarised character of the Moghul State. Thus, history is witness to the fact that secularism alone is the unifying force that can hold a country of such diversities as are possessed by India. In Indian Constitution also, secularism is the very essence. The Constitution provides a foundation for raising the infrastructure of Indian polity.
It has been the best suited device to promote the well-being and healthy growth of the nation in view of the diversity of religions, cultures, races and languages. Religious tolerance is a unique feature of Indian people. We are very rigid and orthodox in our own social concepts and practices in some cases but in the case of others, we have been very liberal in allowing them to worship according to their religions. That is why the most desirable line of action to be adopted by our national leadership at the time of framing of our Constitution was to take up secularism as the basis to foster emotional integrity in the Indian communities. Our forefathers wanted to build a national character with chief facet of mutual tolerance.
It will be a grossly mistaken view if one thinks that the decision to adopt secularism was a convenient policy of the State. Rather, it was a value upheld by the national leadership after Independence, in the larger interests of the communities. It is closely linked with rich heritage of our country and its social fabric as there could be no other basis for preserving our heritage and ensuring its healthy growth. Led by Indian National Congress against the British imperialism, our Independence Movement always maintained secular character, which was so strong that it could not be undermined by imperialist rulers despite their policy of ‘divide and rule’ and the voices of communalism raised by Muslim League or Hindu Shiv Sena. In the post-Independence era, there has been a ‘transitional period’ in which, right reactionary forces have been active in the country that cause harm to the secular structure of our society. But it was a temporary phase of communal orgy.
As soon as it was over, our people began to realise the grave dangers of communal frenzy. The experience of the riots breaking out after partition was too bitter to forget. The structure of our polity rests on the foundation of secularism—the other foundations being democracy and socialism, providing support to it which is as strong as the former.
It is a proven fact that some political parties try to exploit every political, social, or economic situation by raising bogey of communalism, i.e. by sowing the seeds of hatred between the two communities in a bid to gain political advantage. As such, it has occasionally been giving severe jolts to the foundations of secularism. Such manipulations by communal forces as well as the politicians have been a source of discontent among the masses.
Theological terrorism poses serious challenges to these secular-minded people who are on the path to achievement of our socio-economic objectives. There are certain aspects, which should be very clearly understood by the intellectuals and youth who are the saviours of the nation and who have a vital role to play in the process of developing the national character of India. First of all, it should be very clearly understood that religion has nothing to do with the functioning of the administration. There is no religion in the world, which promotes hatred between the two communities or deprecates any religion of the world.
Human values, equality and social justice are the real values of all religions. Secondly, communal riots, which have been frequently recurring in our country, are not based on religious controversies or caste conflicts. No person is murdered by rioters simply because he practises a different religion from theirs or because his religious practice has harmed any one. Thirdly, communalism has been exploited by the reactionary forces to create dissension amongst the people and disrupt the economic progress of the nation. The communal card has been used in India with an ulterior motive of disrupting in our progress by the national and religious villains as well as by our enemies from across the border. They have succeeded in this mission on account of different reason. They pose a great danger to our nation as well as to the masses. They weaken the foundations of our democratic set-up.
In order to strengthen the democratic institutions and also, to achieve socio-economic objectives of our nation, it is very important to cut down the communal monster to size. We have had enough of blows by the devil of communalism during the past five decades; we cannot take any more of them. The administrative measures to curb communalism call for establishment of special units of police force, paramilitary troops, and provincial armed constabulary and intelligence agencies to deal strictly and effectively with such persons, groups and forces who attempt to provide communal tinge to any incident. A slackened attitude on the part of the police or intelligence officers, undue favour to some sections should be made an offence. The offender must be awarded severe punishment.
Social steps for strengthening secularism include the constitution of public committees at various levels to function as vigilance organs. These committees should work in proper coordination with the various government agencies to apprise them of the situation that has caused, or is likely to cause communal disharmony or has caused any discrimination on communal grounds. An inter-religion council should be formed to promote religious harmony as well as, regulate relations and mutual cooperation amongst various communities to avoid conflict amongst various religious groups or amongst the community and the State. Courts should be given special instructions in respect of trials under offence to secularism. Government of India may appoint a high-power commission to give suggestions for promotion of secularism and also to provide safeguard to it. Gandhiji’s attempt to hold Hindus and Muslims together led to his assassination.
He tried to persuade Jinnah not to make efforts for a separate State. He even conceded the Prime Ministership of India to him. But all was in vain.
Bloodshed ensued after partition. In free India, the Constitution protected the rights of the minorities to such an extent that the Hindus blamed the government for being partial. This led to the formation of some fundamentalist Hindu organisations like the Shiv Sena and the Vishva Hindu Parishad.
The foundations of secularism have been receiving severe jolts quite frequently. With the demolition of the Babri Mosque, the minorities started nurturing a feeling of insecurity. The Mumbai riots were a reprisal of the Ayodhya incident. The situation is well under control but the communal volcano could erupt any time. It is, therefore, the politician who is trying to inflame communal passions to satisfy his lust for power. The Indians— Hindu, Muslim or Sikh—only wants to live in harmony and get on with their work. Politicisation of religion has to be checked before it erodes the foundations of our secular democracy.
In fact, it is a myth that India has a single dominant religion. The Christians came to Kerala much earlier than they went to Europe. Even now, we could see synagogues of Jews and churches of Christians in Kerala.
The Muslims also settled there long ago. Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan said, “Light is good, no matter from what lamp it comes.” Good ideas and teachings are found in all the faiths of the world. Gandhiji put our secular nature in a nutshell, “I do not wish my country to be walled in from all sides or want its windows shut; I wish the breeze of all the lands to blow in!” The evil communal forces would never succeed in decimating our strong societal fabric.