Cinema has now completed 100 years. During these long years Indian cinema has broken many new grounds and established several milestones. It began with mythology and films like Raja Harish Chandra etc. were produced. Those were the days of silent movies. There were movements but no dialogues or sound. Then come the period of romances, sad melodies and music. K.L Sehgal then became the main attraction. It was followed by social and family films with a fine scattering of detective and history-based films. Next come Dev-Anand and Rajesh Khanna. Dev-Anand’s Guide, Jewel-thief, Kala Bazar, Nau do Gyarah etc. proved great musical hits.
The coming of Amitabh Bachchan as an angry young hero on the silver screen marked the beginning of another new chapter in the history of Indian cinema. Shooley, in which Amitabh starred with Dharmendra, Sanjeev Kumar and others proved a turning point in Indian cinema in terms of dialogues, scenes, fantasy, characterization and entertainment value. Today it is the song which rules the roost. It is the song alone which has made the heroine a dominant factor in the films. The songs like Ek do teen, Dhak dhak, Choli ke peechche, Didi tera dewar etc. which have made a couple of films a great success and block-busters. Madhuri Dixit. Sri Devi etc. are the heroines whose careers epitomize the magic of these hit songs.
Cinema and films are very popular in India. Indian film industry is second only to that of America. Hundreds of films are made every year in India in Hindi and other regional languages. They are screened in the cinema halls, telecast on television network and then there are their video versions. Films are the cheapest and most popular means of entertainment. Films are the craze among the youth. Besides feature films there are documentaries and cartoon films. There are foreign co-productions as well. For example, Gandhi directed by Sir Richard Attenborough and Salaam Bombay by Mira Nair and Unni are two very successful films of this category. India exports films to over 100 countries.
But most of the Indian films are formula films or clever imitations of foreign movies produced keeping in view the box-office only. Film-making in India is purely on commercial lines and is not so well art-oriented. They are full of contrived situations, scenes, cheap-songs, dances, violence and sex and devoid of realities of life. Therefore, they are not convincing and their aesthetic appeal is negligible. There are many blockbusters but they hardly touch or satisfy the artistic urges of the enlightened audience. The good and artistic movies do not sell hot and the cheap ones are a great success on the box-office. The young boys and girls imitate the fashions and pseudo adventures of their heroes and heroines and sooner or later get into trouble. Full of artificially, cheap romance and eroticism, they mislead the youth who are obviously immature and inexperienced. Many a crime among youth has been inspired by such films. The increasing unrest, lawlessness, indiscipline etc. among men and women of the country can be easily contributed to these films. Films produced by Bollywood show criminalization, violence and sex blatantly. Our youth is unable to distinguish between real and genuine adventures and cinema stunts. They mistake the stunts and villainy for adventure and then try to put them into practice in real life.
The nexus between film industry and mafias and underworld dons is also a matter of great concern. Mafias and such other anti-social elements often finance the meg-budget films, help the actors and actresses in becoming stars and then demand their dues, which create many serious problems. For example, the alleged involvement of Sanjay Dutt in the Bombay Blast case of 1993 seems to be just a tip of the proverbial iceberg. Sanjay might be an innocent victim but it certainly points out at a very dangerous situation that has recently developed in Bollywood.
The cinema has taken significant strides in India during these years. We have produced many all time great films which have been openly and widely acclaimed by the international and foreign viewers. They have won many awards in international and foreign film festivals. We have produced a film stalwart and doyen like Satyajit Ray whose films have won accodades, laurels and awards both at home and abroad alike. He was awarded the highest Indian Civil award of Bharat-Ratna, though belatedly, for his exemplary service to the cause of Indian cinema. The international and foreign film viewers also recognized his superb cine-talent and suitably rewarded it.
Indian cinema is a great force to reckon with. It has a mass appeal. It has a great responsibility to shoulder and produce decent films in the larger interest of the country. It has a good access to the masses and therefore, can reinforce human and social values and public morals in such a way as no other medium can do.