Whither Indian Cinema?
George Bernard Shaw, the famous philosopher and dramatist, once said that happiness was an occasional episode in the general drama of pain. What it implies is that life is nothing but a drama, a cinema and all that which have relation with the glycerine, glamour and green room. In the view of this parallelism of life with that of cinema and vice-versa, the need of evaluation and autopsy into the 100 years’ span of the Indian cinema becomes even more inevitable. The time period of a century for as déjà vu human genre as cinema is the kaleidoscopic saga of varied emotions and ethos of socio familial, philosophical, political, economical and religious aspects of Homo sapiens. Right from the nascent and innocent days of the spiritual plot of the maiden movie ‘Raja Harishchandra’ to the ultra modern feature film ‘Rascals’, from the exemplary classical, realistic and idealistic ‘Mother India’ to sensational and sizzling film ‘Murder’ and legendary love lyric of ‘Devdas’ to the oomph-oozing and midriff and breast- showing ‘Dirty Picture’—the Indian cinema has lived a life which can best be illustrated as the bizarre cocktail of love, lust, lure, lewdness and entire gamut of lachrymose feelings that nestle so naturally in human hearts.
They say that literature and cinema are the mirror which reflects the realistic and contemporary familial fabric, social structure and configuration of moral and ethical values. But what about the social accountability role of the cinemas which are churned out with a world record both in quality and quantity by the Bollywood industry? But what about the jingoistic zeal, patriotic pathos and social sanctity role of the Indian cinema which so profusely changes the hearts of the people of the ‘hero-worship savvy country of nearly 1.24 billion population? In the wake of the post-reformed era of globalisation of the information technology of the centenary year of the Indian celluloid world, the media and movies are mystically standing in dock. People are baying for blood of the media and all the paraphernalia which are directly and indirectly connected with the trade mantra of ‘light, camera and action’. At the crucial stage of the cultural and intellectual metamorphosis of the Indian society vis-à-vis the world society the cinema industry of India needs to redefine and review its role and rituals to rededicate itself to bring about miracles that may prove to be the harbinger of social welfare of the common masses and anaesthesia of the pangs of pain and penury of the proletariat segments of the society.
There is no denying that reel life has always hypnotised and mesmerised the real life of human beings. What is shown on silver screen turns out to be the code of conduct, creed, culture and cuisine of actual life. Obscenity and sex sauce of utter marketing mechanism and entrepreneurship strategy has become the battle-ground which the think tank and connoisseurs of cinema must make a serious selfintrospection about. The decency and decorum of personal life and societal attitude to women have exponentially been plummeting to the nadir. The moral measure and ethical standard of the people, especially of the younger generation, have undergone the unprecedented and highly undesirable erosion the repercussions of which are so clearly visible in the persistent rise in the cases of rape, molestation, murder and all that jazz. People from all walks of life blame the cinema for all the menace and maladies which ail the present configuration of the Indian socio-familial system. There is no denying that there is substantial proof of these accusations when majority of contemporary social evils and familial felonies get sustenance from the films. Crimes are plotted along the lines of the stories shown in the movies. From fashion to the body-revealing dress codes and from way of life to the standard of cultural and moral etiquette films motivate them all, films colour them all and most importantly films cheat them all. They say that cinema is the most beautiful fraud in the world. And these very fraudulent activities have done more harm to the otherwise puritanical and scrupulous lives of the common masses. However, at this crucial stage of human fraud and emotional lechery the people behind the camera must be very much cautious of what is to be served to the spectators lest the idealistic human values deteriorate and putrefy.
Karl Marx once said that religion is the opium of the masses. But in context with the fast-changing and deteriorating scenario of the social norms and familial fundamentals, I must say that cinema is the opium of the masses. What we mean by the opium and its influence is which gets further substantiated when the great heartthrob of the Indian silver screen Shahrukh Khan says that cinema in India is like brushing your teeth in the morning which we cannot escape. In the aftermath of the present nefarious scenario of cultural dilemma and intellectual perversion in the labyrinth of which the people have fallen into, the cinema must rewind its reels to show what can really bring back the conventional human and emotional values by virtue of which the so-called aped western culture of ‘mom’ and ‘dad’ retrieves their socially revered and universally acclaimed names of mammy and papa.
However, this opium of cinema needs to be urgently intoxicated to make the people regard women as very much equal and normal creature of the same planet as men are. Cinema can play an epoch-making role in changing the insight of the people to reinstate the presence of divinity in women and root of existence of the world from the womb of which the entire creatures find its sustainability and breath of life. Our religious scriptures and epics have regarded women as the deities and ultimate source of power. No doubt, our cinemas too have exaggerated the importance of women and deified them, but what about the present miserable and shocking situation when they fall vulnerable to a host of inhuman and barbaric treatments by the men known and unknown to them? What about travesty of worshipping an array of goddesses, to name a few like Durga, Kali and Saraswati, for the grant of wishes which we die for and at the same time divesting them of their modesty and outraging their chastity? We need to fix our mental whimsicalness and moral modalities to finally fix our motto and motive of what shape we are willing to give to our family and society. The answer needn’t to be sought anywhere but only into our conscience and heart. The answer is transparent and nothing to be hid from anyone and the modern cinema must inculcate these parameters of idealistic values into the psyche of the people via stories and scenery shown on the 70 mm screen.
Ours is a society where our values are as essential as life and death matter for us. Our rich cultural and intellectual values have sustained us to climb to what we may call the pinnacle of the development with preservation of decency and decorum. The growth trajectory in the absence of our modesty and morality would only lead us to the path of destruction, would lead us to the path of denunciation and finally would lead us to the path of decimation. In its 100th year of its life cinema must make a serious soul-searching to find where it has faltered and must count its failures to re-emerge as the saviour of the humanity and harbinger of what we may call the Thomas Moore’s Utopia and Gandhijee’s so-called all blissful society of Ramrajya. Life may not be as much beautiful and fantastic as the story of a cinema but sometimes cinema’s fiction too seems to be hard facts of life. When these hard and bitter facts of life are beautifully taught to the people and enlightened them with their solutions, only then can the practical and most-desired meaning and message of cinema be said to be realised in true spirit.
By Shreeprakash Sharma