The purpose of movies?
By Vernika Awal
Farah Khan recently made the statement that “Films should not be Preachy”. This allows us an opportunity to revisit a popular debate on the role of cinema in modern society.
There are several sides to this argument. There are some film-makers, Farah Khan for instance, that believe that the sole aim of a movie must be to entertain. This style of film-making is also associated with directors such as Rohit Shetty that are renowned for making out and out entertainers. There are other film makers and actors however that believe the films must contain a social message and that entertaining films have the ability to powerfully deliver social messages. Aamir Khan has been a proponent of this philosophy. Through movies such as Taare Zameen Par, 3 Idiots and Peepli Live, Aamir Khan has been able to raise awareness on a wide range of issues. In fact dyslexia became a nationally recognized household term only after Taare Zameen Par. Thus Aamir Khan straddles a middle path whereby he is able to deliver entertaining movies with messages.
On the extreme ends of the field are the critics that believe that Bollywood is a corrupting influence and are responsible for all sorts of social evils. Backward elements have frequently attacked Bollywood and accused it of being the root cause of crimes against women due to their role in objectifying women. At this point it is also essential to note that not all of this criticism is baseless.
Studies have shown a definite link between actions shown on the silver screen and their emulation by easily influenced youth. Who can forget the horrifying spate of deaths that occurred in the 90s when young children tried to emulate the flying ability of ”Shaktiman” and jumped off the terraces of their houses. Thus given the tremendous influence that cinema and television plays in the lives of millions of Indians it is important to understand that the film-makers bear a certain responsibility as well.
Farah Khan elaborates, ”the movies, instead of having a preachy message, should show you the right principles without preaching or without making it on that message. So, if there is a movie, make sure that the women are not depicted terribly or horribly in it”.
However in a free society, it would be wrong to dictate terms to film-makers. This is a violation of their constitutional right to Artistic expression. However, given that they have an out-sized influence over a large easily influenced population, they should definitely be more cautious and thoughtful in the making of their movies. Item songs that objectify women should be reconsidered. For instance, imagine the impression that a video such as ”Chikni Chameli” would make on a gullible semi-urban teenager. He will start believing in the ‘item-song’ version of women and will be unable to respect them in a manner fit for a civilised discourse.
”I appreciate that Bollywood is expanding into different areas and making new kinds of movies but I strongly feel that if possible, item songs must be avoided. When I see a woman on the screen gyrating in front of a hundred drunk men, I feel ashamed to be a woman”, is the somewhat strong opinion of Surya, a History Honours student.
”I think definitely film-makers are maturing and are creating movies where the female leads have strong characters but I think in a lot of movies the female characters are not accorded enough dignity. Item songs are of course, a part of this larger problem. So definitely a change in mindset in Bollywood would also be welcomed. I love how Vidya Balan is getting strong character based roles. We need more of that”, is the opinion of Sonal, a Psychology student in Delhi University.
Thus we are film-makers branching out into a wider range of movies and definitely female actors are getting stronger characters but Farah Khan’s balanced opinion on the representation on females in movies must also be appreciated and respected. In the long run, it could play a significant role in influencing the mindset of the larger Indian population.