The Indian Psyche in Bollywood

Jan 25, 2010

Every country has its own tales to tell of its people. These tales of success and of failure are reflected in every aspect of the country. So also is in the case of our country India. The success story of India is reflected in every part of its culture, tradition and art. Above all, films bring out the true story of India, not the same ones but those which change according to the time. These stories as told by films have always been of success and achievement neither vague nor rosy but rather of anger, frustration and high emotions. Where do you find them all? Much of them are frozen in history books but some of them come as reality and that reality I am talking about are films, Indian Bollywood films. Over the years Bollywood, the entertainment agency of every Indian has reflected these stories in the best way possible. Often the main theme reflecting political, social and economic set up of the people of that time. The heroes and the heroin’s have come out has people reflecting the lives of the common citizen of the country. But not all of them have ever been the same.

In the 21st Century Indian Cinema along with the American and Chinese films industries, became a global enterprise. The technological revolution has led to the up grading of film production. The content of the films has gone through a radical alteration. Now the Indian films are screened in over 90 countries. Indian films today compete with foreign films at International level and the directors like Shekhar Kapoor, Nira Nair, Deepa Mehta etc. have found success overseas. Today India is the largest producer of films close to a thousand annually. But the fact is that this entertainment sector was seldom far from the pulse of the people. Many however would consider that the work of Bollywood is to entertain and not to enlighten or motivate viewers.

I would like to begin with the movie Shaheed (1948) directed by Ramesh Sehgal, starring Dilip Kumar and Kamini Kaushal.It was a film about the Indian Independence Movement. This was one among many nationalist films made during this period which  portrayed the struggle for Independence .Followed by this came the world famous Mother India (1957) just ten years after during a time when the country was caught between the need for modernization and the continuation of technological advance. Gandhi’s idea of ‘Gram Swaraj’ was brought out amidst conflicting situations. The heroine, Radha, stood as a symbol of Indian womanhood and a new independent nation. Movies of this era were largely based on such themes, either recollecting the struggle for freedom or giving new hope for thecountry. Haqeeqt (1964) gave a picture of devastated India after the 1962 Indo – Chinese war.  This movie gives an idea of the Indian psyche at that time and how a nation lost a war and its faith. Border (1997) though released much later but belonging to the same time tells the story of how a band of 120 soldiers of the Punjab Regiment of the Indian Army defended the country’s border. It was a time of despair but those not all released movies of the time were not full of this feeling.

In the 70’s the country saw its most turbulent era: political instability, economic crisis, rampant corruption in the administration, rising unemployment and violence. At a time like this, movies were quick enough to feel the disturbed emotions of India. Their aim was to respond to the situation positively. Deewar (1975) directed by Yash Chopra, starring Amitabh Bachchan was about two impoverished brothers who, after their family is betrayed by the misplaced idealism of their father, struggle to make a living in the streets of Mumbai. Coolie (1983) by Manmohan Desai brought out the plight of the common laborer struggling to earn his daily bread. Similarly Lawaris, portrayed the plight of street children.Main Azaad Hoon (1989) directed by Tinnu Anand, was about fighting against corrupt and lazy politicians and against media politics. To a large extent they tried to picture the tumultuous politics of the early 70’s and 80’s.These films established Bachchan as the ‘angry young man’ not only of Bollywood cinema but also of India.

As the country moved toward the 90’s there was more stability in the economy but politics continued to be unstable. By now people had lost faith in politics and were busy trying to make a living by the new opportunities given them by economic reforms. Rapid industrialization, a rise in employment and standard of living, literacy growth brought out the new kind of movies called Romantic Era. Rajkapoor and Rajesh khanna emerged as romantic heroes. Love stories, family values, love songs, running –around – trees were the main themes of movies like Om Shanthi Om and Mera Nam Joker -. As the country was breathing fresh air movies provided equal comfort.

The dawn of a new century brought a sea of change. India became one of the fastes developing nations with advancement in science and technology, economic boom. The IT and BPO revolution made the country develop some kind of restlessness. On the one hand there was bombardment of Western culture but another hand pull for national identity. Communal disturbance and growing violence was becoming part of the nation. The country was looking for a breakthrough. Lagaan (2001) by Ashutosh Gowarikar, a deadly combination of cricket the rebellion brought back country’s fighting spirit. Now India was looking for future leaders young and innovative, there was need of more Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Swades (2004) tried to enkindle the patriotic spirit in Non Residential Indians (NRIs) and reminded them of their duty towards their Motherland . Rang De Basanti (2006) was about a reawakening, making the youth , who till then believed that politics and social involvement as dirty business, beckoning them to respond to their duty towards their country by fighting against all odds. Guru (2007) told the successful story of the emerging business and corporate sector of the country. Chak De India (2007) which used field hockey to explore the new themes like sexism, ethnic and regional prejudice and religious prejudice under the larger umbrella of Indian nationalism. This could be said as an era of transformation.

The recent past has seen movies of fun and laughter. Today urban India is in a position to pay even Rs.500 for a movie ticket. There is money in the hands of the people. So when money rules the country, there is hardly any space for values. So it became the case of movies. Today’s movies reflect item songs, glamour, silly jokes. It is for a population which has become suddenly rich and does not know what to do with the money. So when today’s crowd goes for a movie they seem to be saying, ‘Hey! I have paid Rs. 500 and I am tired of working 24x7, so you entertain me. Now movies have become stress busters and tension releasers.

As you would agree, Bollowood certainly portrays the socio – economic realities in India of its time. So next time you watch a Bollywood movie, do not blame the movie director or producer for they are doing what majority of us want them to do. They just reflect our own psyche in their movies.

Rohan Sequeira - archives: 


by Rohan Sequeira
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Comment on this article


    Thu, Jan 28 2010

    hi rohan nice article............

  • pratap, pune

    Tue, Jan 26 2010

    Hai Rohan...good article and nicely potrayed the psyche of our people...keep it up....congrats!

  • Dimple Fernandes, Mangalore

    Tue, Jan 26 2010

    Hai Rohan congrats. nice article re.I love articles regarding films.keep up the good work.

  • Prashanth Dsouza, M'lore/Malaysia

    Mon, Jan 25 2010

    I agree with Roshan on certain aspects of his article. You goto thailand,singapore,malaysia Philippines or australia, the first thing the taxi driver tells you that he knows Amithab or SRK and sumtimes starts to sing hindi song to impress you. Well so is the fame of the hollywood. In Malaysia all chinese and malay they do not understand hindi but using subtitles they see hindi movies every wkend. Earlier rape scence was a selling factor so much that every movie had to have one. But people got bored. In todays era you need to have some masala or item songs or else it wont be a block buster.

    There is nothing called a family movie nowadays. Parents ask thier kids to dance to such songs as it would help them in dance competition. If you go out with todays kids, they want to pull ur legs because they saw the same thing in movies. When i used to be small i used to ask what is murder but i dont think todays children no need to ask such questions to elders. They are taught right from theft, rape , murder, extortion, suicide, gang bang etc etc in the movies. How to propose a girl, how to do ragging, how to take druns all these recipies are commonly available in todays movies. Parents, youngester and kids watch all movies togeather. Really dont know how to differentiate and what to differentiate. If you are living in cities movies are the only saving grace. Good or bad who cares!!!

  • saleem, Mangalore

    Mon, Jan 25 2010

    Accha hai, filmi bathein. chalega yaar..... But dont forget to say All is Well.

  • geoffrey, Hathill

    Mon, Jan 25 2010

    The author has chosen a movie or two from each decade or so to prove his point. The truth is Indian movies serve as a vehicle for common man to escape from reality for 3 hours. Majority of our movies are an insult to human intelligence. The so called action movies defy laws of physics and in many occasions common sense too. Plagiarism has become order of the day in bolly, tolly, kolly, sandle and what not wood.

  • A.D'Cunha Shenoy, Mangaluru

    Mon, Jan 25 2010

    Indian movie industry unlike Hollywood is the best for of entertainment for our masses. From the middle east to africa to Russia and neighbouring countries movie goers just die to see Bollywood movies. While all movies provide enrtainment, many are real life realities faced by one or other and others are extreme examples for life. What would be Indian life without Hollywood and the great acting personalities like the Kapoors, Dilip Kumar, rajesh Khanna, Ashok Kumar, Simi, Raj Kumar, Wahida Rehaman, Rajashree, Meena Kumari, Rekha, Rakhee, Mumtaz,, The Bachanns, The Khans and so on. Enjoy the movies, they will bring tears and joys and all in between.

  • HENRY MISQUITH, mangalore\Bahrain

    Mon, Jan 25 2010

    Good article....Rohan, keep it up. Amitabh the name has so much of weight. We can never forget his best movies Don, Mukaddar ka sikandar, zanjeer, sholay, Deewar etc. His movies had a soul and great music. Today's movies have rotten music, lyrics and songs. The women are dressed or not dressed like porn stars.

  • Lancy Dias,

    Mon, Jan 25 2010

    Hi Rohan Congrats well written article keep it up

  • Antony Crasta, Mangalore/Sydney, Australia

    Sun, Jan 24 2010

    Thanks Roshan for the interesting article. I have been out of the country for the last 22 years, and as such, been out of touch with many of the great Indian Bollywood films, and your article has given me a broad insight into as to what happened in the Indian film world during this period. While I have seen and enjoyed many of the great Hindi films like Mother India, Haqeeqt, Deewar and Sholay, your article enlightened me on some of the great movies like Coolie, Lawaris, Main Azad Hoon, Om Shanthi, Swades, Guru, Chak De India, unknown to me, and I look forward to seeing them.

  • Barbara Bayer, Muscat, Oman

    Sun, Jan 24 2010

    Excellent article worth sparing time to read through. The changes from the past to present is excellently potrayed. Very truely stated about the movies and the producer directors. Well done Rohan Sequeira, keep up the good work!!!

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