When the Indian Cinema is celebrating its centenary year, on the one hand, there are concerns about deteriorating values on screen or there is nostalgia about the classical filmy safar. It is true that Indian bioscope is no longer depicting traditional Indianness. Bharat Muni in his Natya Shastra said that performing art is for ‘education and entertainment’. Now the art of film making is mainly an industry. The vanishing rural India on screen, westernised Jhankar bits overtaking the Indian melody and the nexus between criminal syndicates with film industry are serious concerns. It is also true that movies are having more bad impact than good. Then what is Indian that is to be celebrated about cinema?
The supporters of commercial cinema argue, cinema was considered immoral even in the golden period and it is just a medium of screening that existed and consumed in the society. The relationship between society and cinema, or any other audio-visual media, is too complex. The situation looks more alarming because the Mumbai based-Bollywood is considered as the main stream and it has larger impact on society.
The moment we turn to the origin of cinema and its impact factor we find two things that strike us, which also holds the reason for celebration even today. The Indian cinema is multilingual and mainstream movies are just 18 per cent of the total production. The regional film industries are still largely rooted in the Indian culture.
Even among Bollywood movies, from Raja Harishchandra to 3 Idiots, the movies that have some message to give have had lasted impact. The cinema also responded to the national needs, whether it is freedom struggle, national reconstruction, social and political unrest, war and patriotism or social evils. The industry played an important role in articulating and awakening the public sentiments on key movies like LOC Kargil, Swadesh, and Border still have a mass appeal. Still the religious-cultural festivals are received well. Everything that is truth and good is shown victorious over evil. The values of family life and sanctity of marriage is still respected by the viewers. Its the makers in the market, funded by the other market forces, want to extract profit from selling social vices.
Other important contributions cinema has made are touching the unified cord of oneness in the Indian culture and projecting its richness to the world. The movies from Sant Tukaram, Mother India, Lagaan, etc are internationally acclaimed and deeply embedded either in cultural ethos, real life issues or historical inspirations. In the last two decades, Indian Cinema has also become a carrier of India’s economic resurgence.
While critically evaluating the contribution of cinema to the society, these are some of the facets that make it Indian. It is developed by many legendary personalities to keep it Indian. This volume is a small tribute to all those great people from Dadasaheb Phalke to Manna Dey who fought, strived and successfully enriched the cinema through Indianness.