Sunday, December 9, 2007

Us and Our Films

Recently, there were protests (and subsequent bans) in some North-Indian states against song lyrics from the movie Aaja Nachle. The controversial phrase goes like- "...bole mochi bhi khud to sunaar hai...". The protests by the dalits were justified and Anil Sharma, the director of the movie did the right thing by apologizing. The bans were revoked in most states after this.

This post is not about debating the the ban itself in more detail. I want to write about the huge part that our movies play in defining our culture, entertainment and to an extent our politics and identity too. I recently read Ramachandra Guha's India After Gandhi and in the last chapter he talks about the forms of entertainment that we Indians have enjoyed and still do. Movies feature prominently among them. The fantasy and the escapism in our films provided just the right kind of entertainment and getting away from the daily troubles and turbulence of life in India- both in rural as well as urban areas.

Guha writes that themes constantly depicted in Indian cinema- the fight between good and evil, a boy and a girl marrying outside their caste, etc came to resonate with the aspirations and hopes of Indians. The heros in these movies- the depiction of good, became very popular among the masses. Rajnikanth, Amitabh Bacchhan, Rajkumar, NTR and MGR have all enjoyed huge fan followings. People have come to venerate their film stars.

Given the emotional attachment of Indians with our cinema, it would then sound very natural that when a film shows or even hints at discrimination between castes, the members of the offended party would not take it lightly. Indians of all castes and religion love their films inspite of all their shortcomings, and they cannot bear the fact that even the films discriminate among them based on their caste and religion. This is why I think the improper reference in Aaja Nachle provoked such a wide and quick response.

In a lighter vein, music is what make our films special. The rich lyrics, so many different musical styles, highly gifted musicians and singers have all contributed in making our film music unique and great in its own right. I cannot imagine my life without film music. More specifically, I cannot imagine what would I sing in the shower.


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