Socio-Cultural depiction in Hindi Cinema
- Prof M Venkateshwar
Indian cinema is celebrating its advent of hundred years. It was in the year 1913 that doyen of Indian cinema Dada Saheb Falke, with his passion for a new art form, created history by producing the first movie ' Raja Harishchandra ' in silent version. In the year 1931 Ardesh Irani created history by adding sound to the silently acting characters on the screen. This revolution brought life to the on screen characters and thus the everlasting journey of India cinema began and it obtained its true celluloid form in all Indian languages across the country. Film makers used this magical audio-visual medium to depict the past glory of Indian civilization, to promote and raise the patriotic fervour among the people, to suggest social reforms besides providing entertainment. Cinema became a source of amusement and intellectual awakening among the masses as well as elite of the society. In Hindi Film directors like Bimal Roy, MIndehboob Khan, K.Asif, V. Shantaram, Guru Dutt, Raj Kapoor, and several others film makers of the 1950s and '60s ( the golden age of Hindi cinema ) left behind a rich legacy of purpose socially relevant films, which are unparallel even till date.
Hindi cinema which has been the main stream cinema in the country among the other regional language cinema, committed to the emerging socio-economic and political realities of the time and has fulfilled the aspirations and imaginations of the people by depicting the social, economical and political realities of the times. Indian cinema both in Hindi and Telugu, drew from the past, but the past was not mere nostalgia, it recalled a newly independent nation that much before the British arrived, or the foreigners claimed to civilising India, we were a nation with vibrant civilisation with immense human values.
Like our socio-religious reformers of the 19th and 20th centuries, Indian film makers also played their part in impressing the society to change their ways and to adopt human values instead of adhering to the meaningless antihuman dogmatic traditions. When the entire nation was strangled by British yoke and the morale of the nation was low, the attempt to restore the pride of a wounded nation was expressed best in K.Asif's magnum opus Mughale - e - Azam. This mythical romance between a Mughal heir to the crown and a courtesan took 16 years to complete, during which period everything, from the hero and the leading lady to most supporting artistes, changed !
The founding fathers of modern India reiterated the composite cultural values of this great nation from ages, without any discrimination between the different faiths and religious beliefs.hence Asif's Muslim courtesan sings a Krishna bhajan in the court of the Mughal Emperor. The Emperor of Hindustan in Asif's masterpiece allows for both persianised urdu and chaste, almost sanskritised Hindi to be spoken in his court.That a muslim King married a Hindu Rajput princes was never a matter of dispute in the film, which elevated the spirits of people to follow the same way.
In the early 50s and late 40s there existed a strong passion to make some big historical movies which depicted the glory of Indian rulers. Sohrab Modi, the legendary film maker, actor and director created Minerva Movietone studios in which he produced great historical movies which depicted the grandeur of the medieval India. His Sikander, Pukar and Jhansi ki Rani are landmarks even today. His passion for movie making was such that he spent enormous amounts of money to train his technicians in London and coloured his movies abroad. he was the first to make a Technicolor movie Jhansi ki Rani in the year 1953. his adaptations of Shakespear's plays like Hamlet as Khoonka khoon set a new trend in the Indian cinema. He was the first to make the first Indian (Hindi ) version of Victor Hugo's novel Les Miserables as Kundan, which has been an all time hit. The few of the other historical fictional movies made by Soharab Modi were which became popular, include
Mirza Ghalib ( Bharat Bhushan, Suraiya starrer ), Rajhath,nausherwan-e-Adil etc.
Films made by Bimal Roy and Raj Kapoor always gave voice to the voiceless, expression to the ignored, and a platform to the deserving. ' Do Beegha zameen ' ( Bimal Roy ), Shri 420, Awara ( Raj Kapoor), Meboob Khan's Aan were such films which inspired the millions who were waiting in the corridors to find their identity.
Some of the films quietly portrayed a society trying to come to terms with its own cracks. Bimal roy's Do Beegha Zameen and sujata, spoke up for the defenceless without resorting to rebellion. While one film highlighted class politics, the other focussed on the caste divide. I Do Beegha Zameen talked of the poor in the cace of the mindless industrialisation, Sujata sought to eradicate caste biases. later B.R. Chopra experimented with the theme of the unwed mother and widow remarriage in Dhool ka phool and Ek hi rasta. B.R.Chopra has been an incessant maker of bold and beautiful film with some entertainment added to them while handling the problems of rape victims ( Insaf ka taraju ), Talaq controversy ( Nikah )etc.
B.R. chopra exposed the the dark underbelly of industrialisation in Naya Daur.
The glimpses of Dhool ka phool could be seen in 1970s in Shakti Samanta's Aradhana, a heroine oriented film, made a statement on behalf of women without being painted as guilty.
By the late 1960s, Hindi cinema dealt with several trivial issues with considerable maturity. While Chopra and Samanta highlighted social anomalies, several other films presented their own unique prowess of bringing decoits back in to the fold. ' Give the wrong doer a second chance'. In films like jis desh me ganga behti ha, Ganga jamuna and mujhe jeene do, Rajkapoor, Dilip Kumar and Sunil Dutt gave powerful performances of characters who had strayed from the righteous path. it is evident that the cinema of those times was closely wedded to politics and society. Even at times the solutions suggested in the film were too impractical, but the intentions of the film maker was honest, which impressed people.
Awara, released in 1951, shortly after India gained independence, presented the city as both a nightmare and a dream. A little more than half a decade after Awara, guru Dutt's Pyaasa critically presented the frustrated life of an urban intellectual, exposing the loneliness of a man in crowd. In between came V.Shantaram's Do Ankhe Barah haath, a scathing comment on our criminalreforms, arguing for reformative rather than punitive justice.
In 1957 Mehboob Khan's Mother India created history and immortalised nargis in the lead role of a mother who kills her own son to protect the dignity of the daughter of her enemy. The high moral and ethical values embodied in the true spirit of liberation of Indian peasants from the unending cruelties of the village head, have been portrayed by the characters in the film. Consequently in real life, Nargis found her soul mate in Sunil Dutt.
There have been some successful attempts to bring the realities of War on to the screen. Navaketan's ( Devanand) Haqeeqat was one such film made to depict the miserable failure of Indian forces fighting Chinese in the north east and conceding in a pitiable manner. Haqeeqat was a multi starrar film, with iconic actors such as Jayant, Balraj Sahani, Dharmendra, Viajayanand, Priya Rajavansh and others lived the characters and showed the realities of the battle field.
Hindi cinema has a legacy of patriotic films such as Jagruiti, Hidustan ki kasam, Shaheed, Paigham, Ankhen, Hum Dono, Purab paschim,( manoj Kumar ), Upkar ( Manoj Kumar ) etc.
Devanand made a big impact with his presence as a candid, handsome actor who set his trend and style in romance. He proved himself a vivid producer of meaningful reformative films like Haqeeqat,Hum dono,Guide, Pem Pujari, Jewel thief etc.
Hindi films have been very articulate in presenting the rural life of India. In films like Ganga Jamuna, Mother India, Teesari Kasam, Godan, Do Beegha Zameen, Naya Daur and many more have depicted the hardships of rural population.
There has been a genre of mythological film also in Hindi cinema, though not very powerful, but impressive eg : Nagpanchami, Chakradhari, Ram Rajya, Lav Kush, Bhakt Prahlad,
Sati Savitri etc.
Raj Kapoor has been a phenomena in film making as producer, director, editor and actor. he inherited his film culture from his legendary father Prithviraj Kapoor, who established Prithvi theatre and played innumerable historical and social plays. Inspired by his father Raj Kapoor established RK Studios which facilitates film makers to produce films. Raj Kapoor has been phenomenal in making films which used to purposeful as well entertaining. His iconic films include Aag, Jagte raho, AAh, Shri 420, Awara,Jis desh me Ganga bahati hai,Ashiq, Sangam, Mera nam joker, Bobby etc.
There have been some very artistic films rich in music and cinematography with patriotic themes in Hindi as well. V Shantaram's Dr kotnis ki amar kahani, Teen Batti char rasta, Phir subah hogi,Toofan aur diya, Stree, Jhanak Jhanak payal baje, Navarang, Do Aankhe barah haath, Geet Gaya Pattharo ne, jal Bin Machhali nritya bin bijali etc are pride of Indian cinema even today. Shantaram as director, actor and producer of Hindi and Marathi films was equally successful in all the departments of film making.
There has been a substantial contribution of south Indian film society also in making films in Hindi. AVM and Gemini studios regularly produced good entertaining films with family values. The south Indian directors have made films with actors like Rajendra Kumar, Jeetendra, Raja Kapoor etc in the lead role with heroines from south. There have been innumerable remakes of south Indian films in to Hindi which have been very successful.
Off late from 1970s onward there has been a conspicuous change in the subject and the theme as well as presentation in Indian films. Crime thrillers, underworld criminal life, sex and violence became more and more popular. This gave birth to action movies and the whole film ethos shifted from social romances, relationship, values and other ethical environment to more commercial entertainment. Even the music replaced melody and rhythm to beet.
GP Sippy's Sholey in 1975 ( a story of a decoit and his capture by two goons ) broke all records and played for more than three years.
Basu chatterjee and Hrishikesh Mukherji are well known film makers for their small budget movies which are full of humour and meaning wioth rich musical conent. They have been very effective in creating their own audience who admired their films and enjoy them today.
Anand, Bawarchi, Chupake Chupke, Angoor, Khatta Meetha, Golmaal, Rajani ghandha,
Films based on muslim culture mainly the culture of Hawelis and their nuances have been picturised in a very rich and nostalgic manner by Hindi film makers. Kamal Amarohi, Abrar Alwi, Guru Dutt etc were the pioneer of making such films. Pakeezah, Bahu Begum, Mere Mehboob, Mere Huzur, Saheb bibi aur ghulam, Palki, Umarao jan are some of the popular films.
There has been another genre which emerged in late 1970s which is knwon as new wave cinema or art cinema, which are made with small budget and have been mostly financed by the national film development corporation ( NFDC), Govt of India.
Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani, Shekhar Kapoor are such film makers who have created an awareness for this genre of films among the intellectual audience. Ankur, Nishant, Bhumika,Mrigaya, Mandi, Basar, Junun, Drishti, Pankh, Pinjar, Train to Pakistan,
1947 Earth, Arth, Saath Saath, Saradari begum, Jubaida, Matrubhumi, Hajar chaursai ki ma are some of the intense art films worth watching to feel the pulse of the new wave cinema.
The contemporary Hindi cinema has travelled a long way and covered a long distance to arrive at, where it is today.The new generation of filmmakers have new challenges to present in their films. The present social, political and economic challenges which are prevailing in our society today are the subjects of the present day cinema. the regional language films have taken the centre stage. They are as attractive as Hindi cinema. The technology in dominating the art of making films as never before. Audio and visual technology has revolutionised film making. Film making is costing a fortune now. The locations have shifted to foreign countries thus enhancing the cost many fold. The promising young generation is venturing in to film making which is a commendable sign of progress.
Rajshree pictures is a very important popular banner under which Tarachand badajatya, Suraj Badajatya have been making great films of social and cultural ethos. Their films depict the family values and the relationships with the delicate element of love and affection.The have been pioneers of promoting true Indian values with melodious music.This film institution has been making films from the early 1970s and has given so far films like Dulhan vahi jo piya man bhaye, Mai tulasi tere angan ki, Nadiya ke par, Geet gata chal, Hum apke hain kaun, Hum saath saath hain etc.
Rakesh Roshan, Karan jauhar, Arbaz Khan, Vishal Bharadwaj, Anurag kashyap, Anurag Basu, Garui Bhalki, Zoya ali khan. Farhan Akhtar, Faraha Khan, Aditya chopra, Madhur Bhandarakar , Prakash Jha, Amir Khan, Ashutosh Gowariker, Vidhu Vinod Chopra,Yash Chopra, Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Rakesh Omprakash Mehra are some of the promising film makers presently involved with passion in making films in Hindi and enriching the film traditions in India.
Some of the Hindi films which have created box office records and gained popularity among the audience in the recent times are : Dil Wale Dulhaniya Le jayenge (DDLJ) played for 800 weeks in a cinema hall in Bombay,broken all records existing till date, Kuchh kuchh hota hai, Dil to pagal hai, Veer Zaara, Lagaan, Black, Munna Bhai MBBS, Parinita, Devdas, Mohabbaten, Kabhi Khushi kabhi gham, lakshya, Border, Kaho na Pyar hai, Krish, Hum Tum, Race, Rock Star, Dil Chahata hai, Zindagi na milegi dobara,Kahani, Barfi, Talaash, Jab tak hai jaan etc.
Hindi film industry is one of the biggest in the world known as Bollywood, which is competing with the world cinema. Hindi Cinema represents Indian Cinema and has created its history which is enviable.
Prof M Venkateshwar