Dear All,

Is there someone in the audience who do not watch or have not watched a single Hindi movie! either on big screen or at home on TV screen. If you have not, then I feel sorry for you, but then I am talking about almost all of us, for whom Cinema has become an integrated part of our life.

Oh, well! I don't mean it's a necessity though there's quite a population who have been tested positive for it. They are addicted to Hindi Cinema like rest of us are addicted to tea, coffee or coke (of course, I mean coca cola, the soft drink) Comes Friday evening, they have to rush to the local Indian store and rent a video cassette. Or if they are in one of the big Cities like New York, Detroit, Houston, LA, San Francisco, they can catch one playing on the big screen.(I know, Ornet has now subscribers worldwide; but I have no idea if they have theaters playing Hindi movies in London, Paris, Melbourne, Sidney, Hongkong or Singapore; of course any feedback in this regard will be highly appreciated./Ed). The same story probably repeats next weekend. For more casual movie-goers, watching a Hindi movie with friends and families is an enjoyable way of spending an weekend or a holiday. But what happens when the movie is over! We go back home or rewind the tape and return it. Some movies we like and some we don't. The movies we like, either they have nice music, songs or we like the dialogues or enjoyed the acting, the performance, the direction. But besides those, does it have any lasting effect on us? did we ever learn anything from watching a Hindi movie? did it change our lives altogether?

I remember reading this long time back in newspaper. One judge in one of the Indian Courts had once ordered a couple to go and watch a Hindi movie "Woh Saat Din" and reconsider their plans for going through divorce. I am sure there are many more examples like this. The movies have probably not created mass opinion but they have certainly affected public life in more than one way. What do you think? What does our author think?

This week's contributor is no one other than our very own Debasmita Misra from Minneapolis. I am sure you'd enjoy this presentation. Of course, we, here at WT, shall always be glad to hear from you, your point of view.

With Regards,

Surjit Sahoo October 4, 1996
Huntsville, Alabama

Do Indian Movies Give Us Any Message

Debasmita Misra

I am writing this article after viewing a Hindi movie tonight on a theme that has an usual story on the cover but probably gives us a message when we look deep inside. I do have a big fascination for Indian movies because of two reasons, (i) the songs that brings melody to the heart, and (ii) the theme that provides a picture of the trend in Indian mentality. I am not saying that all movies do possess both the above qualities. However, the ones that do possess at least one of the above are trying to give us a message in their own way. Hindi movies being in the forefront of all Indian movies, I will concentrate my discussion on a few of these.

I don't know exactly how many movies have been produced in the last 50 years of independent India. However, almost all of these movies cover a few common central themes. I know we have seen this time and again in the Internet and web sites. But it doesn't harm to describe these once again. Almost each of these movies are based on a love story where two people fall in love whether accidentally or through some arrangement, get married and yield a second and third generation. Then there is a good guy-bad guy theme where the hero struggles throughout to upkeep some philosophy that he believes in and the heroine provides full support despite the fact that her father is the bad guy who tries to destroy the philosophy of the hero. Then there are the bad cops who openly admit that they are in the noble payroll of the bad guy and do not owe any allegiance to the government. Some of the movies have slight deviation from such central plots but at the end all of these boil down to some happy ending (in some cases "sad ending", e.g. Ek Duje Ke Liye) after a lot of Dishum-Dishum fighting.

The above is a crude picture of the general theme that immediately strikes our mind and correlates to some "formula". Who can better describe these than Sujata Pradhan (Ref. WT article of 1995).

My purpose in writing this article is slightly different. I had mentioned briefly about Indian movies in an earlier article in WT column in 1995. I will reiterate my previous statements and then move slightly ahead to see if all this makes any sense.

I can broadly divide the post-independence movie era into four distinct periods: 1. The early period, 2. The relaxation period, 3. The presentation period, and 4. The evolution period. What follows next is yet to come.

OK what do I mean by these high-sounding non-worthwhile classification. If we remember the movies that we had seen long back, the songs that filled the programs of Bibidh Bharati, we can realize a spirit of happiness or pleasure. This was the pleasure of independence which I called the early period. Lyrics like "E Desh Ki Dharti Sona Ugle Ugle Hire Moti" - Manoj Kumar, "Hum Ish Desh Ki Bashi Hain Jish Desh Main Ganga Behti Hai" - Raj Kapoor, "Yeh Hariyali Aur Yeh Rashta, In Rahon Main Tera Mera Jivan Bhar Ka Bashta" - Rajendra Kumar, "E Batan E Batan Humko Teri Kasam" - Don't remember who sang this, and many more filled the hearts of both young and old. This was the time of rejoice and the feeling of independence. We deserved it because we needed to pacify the cruel memories of bloodshed, sacrifice, and death that just preceded the independence day on August 15, 1947.

The truth is that the producers need to make profit. So, how long can they stretch this message of patriotism and bande mataram? Then came the period of relaxation. The same formula but with a slightly different message - "Let's move ahead". The early part of this period depicted some frustration that ensued from the period of British regime. But definitely this did not overlap with the patriotic-love story-sacrifice-happy ending entangled themes. The message was clear that some kings were deprived of their princely powers and they did not wish to lose it at any cost now that "British ne unko pichhe chhod gaya". The zamindars were not ready to give up their slimely acquired property and were targets of frustrated villagers. The sorrowful state of a family that had been separated from their near and dear ones now leaving on the other side of the border in Pakistan. There are many more and I know the readers can add a lot more.

The later part of this second phase saw a more relaxed period when the themes went easy. People were upset after viewing all these frustrated stories that actually happened in several instances despite the common disclaimer "All characters in this movie are fictitious. Resemblance to any person living or dead or any incidence is a mere coincidence". Anyway, the easy phase was more of the bad guy-good guy themes where either a rich person is trying to marry a poor person, or an alliance is underway unknown to the feuding parents, or a story which has been carved from the stretching imagination of a non-normal story writer. What message was being passed onto the public - NOTHING as I see it, something for the people who struggled to procure a third class seat and throw a 10 np. on the screen as soon as Helen makes an appearance, or Prema Narayan winks at the hero, or Jayashree T. moves her body to perform a belly dance.

There were some movies like Satte Pe Satta, Khubsoorat, Golmaal, and movies of B. Naggi Reddy which provided the first step for the third period of the era. These movies had a definite message i.e. Family values, Bonding, Caring, etc. This provided a wake for the people to start thinking in terms of family, society and civic duties and forget the past that we had to obey the commands of some foreign rulers. Of course, on the cover were a lot of comedy and entertainment of for the entire family. These also came with bonus packages from Manoj Kumar, providing us with a pinch of patriotism that we should carry on despite the relaxation. The lyrics and theme of movies like Prem Rog, Prem Geet with the spices of Bobby, Karz, and some movies of the great Rajesh Khanna and Hema Malini pair forced the message that "We are all bound by Love, Love is important, Let's not hate each other" which made the previous messages stronger.

In the wake of presentation period was the message of what the society has stepped into. First came "Purab aur Paschim" with a message of hippie culture. Then came movies which showed black marketing, hoarding, aphim-ganja-charas culture, smuggling of gold and then uranium, goonda culture, my ultimate was the movie "Pratighat" where the goonda supremacy was shown openly. The next step was rape, murder, corruption, and dirty politics with cops in payroll of politicians and innocent people being the victims of the progress in the society. The ultimate was movies which were very painful to watch "even alone". While we do not get anything out of a particular movie, but putting all together we see a general message underlying a particular period of release.

The so-coined last period started with the movie called "Sangharsh", followed by a movie whose name I do not recollect right now but the message was "Is a Revolution Necessary?" Then there were movies on cops taking the wrong side but realizing their mistake towards the end, fight against drug traffics, offspring turning against their corrupt parents who sell illicit drugs and medicines and many more. Have you seen a movie where the police is a perfect attachment-free person but fighting for the wrong cause or the wrong people? I saw it tonight. The movie is "Jeet". The message is let's keep away from the adulteration that our previous generation as created in the society. Now the themes have started involving NRI's (beware!).

In conclusion, I would like to state that Indian movies play an important role in forcing a definite message on the society through their flurries of pointless, mindless, apparently-themeless, excruciatingly painful event oriented presentations. These messages are very appropriate during the time they are vented out to the society. All we need is a strong non-linear filter to screen the cover and integrate the theme over a period to procure this message. Of course, there are movies with a completely different thread such as "Roja", "Bombay", "Masoom", "Anjali" etc. which is another topic of discussion.

Before I finish, I want to ask all the readers whether the messages have any impact on us or should we just watch the movies from an entertainment point of view? If not, then are we thinking in the direction the message is leading us through?

Your comments are always welcome...

Debasmita Misra
Debasmita Misra

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