Rationalising Indian Cinema

Media, art, literature, theatre, cinema – these are considered to be the true reflectors of any society. Lending a voice, a face to the mass ideology, principles and thinking of a particular society at a particular time, these are the true pillars of a democracy. And as such they enjoy (rather should) complete freedom from any form of control or bias in an ideal democracy.

Be it freedom of media from government, or the independence of an artist to portray his thoughts and feelings the way he wants, it is justified as long as it doesn’t offend anyone’s sentiments and as long as it keeps itself within the conventions and norms of the society.

In a conservative country like India, artistes who have ventured to go beyond the convention have suffered the wrath of moralists. Be it Salman Rushdie, M.F. Hussain or Taslima Nasreen – all have faced the dire consequences of daring to bare their soul to the society.

But I wonder that why the rigid moralists (who create a furore over Hussain’s nude paintings or over Taslima’s grim exposition of gender bias) don’t ruffle a feather when young models dressed in skimpy outfits do the pelvic thrust dance on the silver screen.

No matter how rational, broad minded and independent I may be, I cant bring myself to accept the sleazy skin show sequences in our Bollywood flicks, even if it be in the name of artist freedom, or democracy or what not.

There is a thin line between utility and misuse. We may enjoy our rights but the moment we start taking unnecessary liberties, we are misusing that very right.

Theatre and then cinema has always occupied a meaning place in the society. Indian cinema has seen some very wonderfully brilliant films and film-makers. The magic of good cinema is felt when each one of the audience is appalled by what goes on the 70mm screen, be it a tragedy, romance or a comedy. From the fine realistic movies by Satayjit Ray to the romantic marvels of Raj Kapoor (and the entire clan) to the comic wonders of Mahmood, cinema has enthralled generations. Every age group, every section of society is connected through this very link called cinema. Those who don’t even go to schools, form an audience of the phenomenon called cinema. It is the most popular source of information and education, especially in India. We may or may not admit it, but Bollywood has the biggest influence on our lives.

And so it is the responsibility of the moviemakers to maintain a standard of Indian cinema. It is not to say that cinema should start preaching and do away with sensuality and taboo topics. There is a very thin line between sensuality and vulgarity, between comic and cheap slapstick humour, between a real tragedy and a 3 hour melodrama full of weeping females.

It is this line which I think Indian cinema has crossed. It has turned into one of those cheap erotic novels meant for catering to the whims and fancies of the public but can never match the charm of a truly romantic fable. Driven by market and mass appeal, many moviemakers have resorted to a crude way to ensure box office success. Showing meaningless violence, eroticism, skin-show can never make any film successful. To prove this, there are many good films too (Life in a Metro, Page 3, Cheeni Kum, Chandni Bar) which have dealt with taboo topics but are devoid of any crassness and have done well at the box office too.

Indian cinema certainly needs a revaluation and a revamp. It needs to be beautified (as it was earlier) instead of being vulgarized. There is definitely a need of some kind of parameter to judge where the delicate line is being crossed. But beyond that cinema should be kept free and independent from the “moral police” in India. It’s not the content or the subject that is at fault but the way it is presented which has to be changed.

Nishi Jain

[Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/saz2k45/2347659770/]