The Indian film industry has come a long way since Independence. We have the Bollywood and also regional film industries. There is glamour, money and plenty of works would be known for aesthetic values and sensibilities.
Satyajit Ray stood out for his height, commanding tone and good works. In Mumbai, people might have forgotten someone called Dhundiraj Govind Phalke. His films based on religious icons laid the foundation of building up the world’s largest film industry.
Films like ‘Lanka Dahan’ and ‘Raja Harishchandra’ were run away success. Not to forget the fact that the images of Hindu Gods — now moving on screens, destroying evils and teaching morality – instantly struck a chord with the viewers.
There came different era – many years later. The works of filmmaker Hrishikesh Mukherjee. He provided a window to Indian middle class life – the frustration of the middle class, the wit of a lover boy who did not like his father-in-law or portrayal of characters on how and men move towards achieving parity in a relationship.
The social context of the time is well reflected in dialogue from comedian Keshto Mukherjee – who says –
“Yeh milavat aur banavat ka hee zamana hae (This is an era for pretence)”.
There came an era of films like ‘An Evening in Paris’ made by Shakti Samanta where the heroine is in a revealing swimsuit.
Raj Kapoor had emerged as another icon and much popular in India and also the erstwhile USSR. But among the ‘high priests’ of culture in London or New York it was Satyajit Ray.
He became a national icon showcased to the world “in a way that no Indian art personality ever had been” – said ‘India Today’ in 2000.
Ray’s works got regular article-length reviews in ‘The Times’ and even PM Indira Gandhi organised private screening of the maestro’s films for foreign dignitaries.
This is the season of ‘patriotism’ and hence we must recall the movies of Manoj Kumar and his Bharat angle and characters.
More recently, films like ‘Uri – The Surgical Strike’ has gone down as an immensely successful.
In 2022, ‘The Kashmir Files’ written and directed by Vivek Agnihotri presents a fictional storyline
centred around what happened to Kashmiri pandits in Jammu and Kashmir.
The film talks about cultural genocide.
“Kya Kashmiri Pandit ko apne ghar jaane ka mauka milega? Is this justice?” The refrain so far has
been to not ask these uncomfortable questions.
Sickularism and Bollywood:
There also came yet another era of angry youngman, Amitabh. But these years saw another transition.
Minority appeasement of political leadership had become a trend.
Can we have some other Gods meaning from other religions? In ‘Deewar’, Amitabh does not believe in God, questions God Shiva !! but see the coincidence, he is saved from bullets by ‘number 786’.
In Hindi films, a nice person who comes to help the hero or his family or a kid is mostly – if not always – a Muslim or a Christian. In blockbuster ‘Sholay’, among all the villagers, it is the Imam says he is ready to sacrifice his son!
Occasionally Sikhs may be lucky !! But Sardarjis are also ridiculed in Hindi films !! In a virtuous Karan
Johar’s movie, a sardar kid is shown counting stars!
In most cases, a child in a movie is adopted by a pious Christian…. some aunty Fernandes, Bare-chacha !!
Where was the pious Hindu on screen….he was shown as a crook in ‘saffron’ a Sadhu or a temple priest who connives with brigands !!
And, the song, “Ganpati Bappa Moriya Pareshaan Karen Mujhe Chhoriya”.
Today, the charge is ‘saffronisation’ but the story was totally ‘otherwise’ for decades. Not only these, even
Pakistani stars flourished in India quite easily !
Let us not go into Yusuf Khan era. In recent times, Zeba Bakhtiyar’s first Bollywood movie was ‘Hinna’ and it is said the filmmakers spent months to ‘discover’ a suitable talent like her.
Meesha Shafi is Pakistani singer who has worked in “Bhaag Mika Bhaag” in 2013.
Cricketer Mohsin Khan also tried his fortunes on silver screen in India. He had married
Reena Roy, who later returned ‘home’. Saba Qamar played a key character in critically acclaimed ‘Hindi Medium’.
A few Muslim Bollywood stars fell from the grace in recent times due to their unpalatable remarks on India. Naseeruddin Shah has let down his admirers. He has not only done some memorable works in India; he also acted in Pakistani films that include Pakistani super hit ‘Khuda Ke Liye’ in 2007. The film also starred Pakistani stars like Fawad Khan, Shaan and Iman Ali.
Among other Indians who worked in Pakistani industry has been Sara Khan.She featured in ‘Ye Kaisi Mohabbat Hai’ with Pakistani actor Noor Hassan. Om Puri too has acted in Pakistani films.
Before Shilpa Shukla became popular as flamboyant hockey player ‘Bindiya’ in Shah Rukh Khan’s
‘Chak De India’, she had made her debut with Pakistani film ‘Khamosh Pani’.
In circa 2021 when the son of actor Shah Rukh Khan was arrested for consuming drugs at a party, the Sickular army did not think law should take its course.
They were pretty fast to jump that it was a motivated and deliberate move intended to tarnish a Muslim actor’s image.
Last few years also saw debate about nepotism especially after the death of Sushant Singh Rajput.
It was a drama Bollywood would like to forget but the case is not closed yet nor justice delivered.
In curious developments, filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali and Yash Raj Films chairman Aditya Chopra
were quizzed by Mumbai cops.
Bhansali, in his statement given to Mumbai Police, had said that he had approached Sushant for four films including Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela (2013), Bajirao Mastani (2015) and Padmaavat (2018).
However, Bhansali recalled being told by YRF that Rajput’s dates were unavailable. The three films turned out to be blockbusters at the box office and won several popular awards.
Chopra meanwhile had said that they never stopped the late actor from working with filmmakers outside
the production house.
Karan Johar’s manager too was summoned.
All eyes on India’s film and television industry, which employs over a million people and thousands more
indirect way. The industry albeit has admirers around the world and is a money spinner.
“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time”. – Leo Tolstoy in ‘War and Peace’