Film is not only a piece of art but also a tool of social reform as it expresses the feelings of humans and their idea of contemporary society. Films are the mirror that reflect the society.
Also they reflect the changing scnario of politics and economy in India over the decades. Talk of the rise of middle class or the emergence of small town India or the gradual breakdown of the old feudal order or of despair, anger, alienation and separation or of resurrection, a new resurgence and a new confidence. You will see them in the screen of Bollywood and other regional industries.
Bollywood also reflects the transformation of the Indian psyche from a post-colonial pastiche of different politeness of the 1950s to teh confident global Indian of present century. Shammi Kapoor initiated this transformation during the 50s and Amitabh signaled thought his on-screen activities that Indians have been changing in their thought and behavior. The new Indian could also be seen in the path of breaking Dil Chahta Hai. Suddenly it was cool to be cool. For decades, Bollywood reflected the angst and agony of struggling India. What started as a catharsis of the castrated has now ended in the metamorphosis of the mutilated. Along with the Heroes, villains have also changed faces on the screen. From the cruel zamindars to antagonist rich fathers of the heroines, from deadly smugglers to anti Indian Dr. Dangs and Mogambos, from corrupt politicians to new age monsters like terrorists, Bollywood has portrayed all those characters which Indian society has endorsed as villainous and anti-social.
The new age heroine is also a revengeful and strong like Anjam’s Madhuri while heroines of early days were epitome of beauty and elegancy like Vijayanti Mala in Sangam. From colorful Mela dances and nautankis to sizzling bar dances and discotheques, from Holi celebrations to valentine’s day proposals all these represent slow westernization of society.
50s were the year when India tried hard to leave a mark, when song like Mera Joota Hai Japani… would be sung in far away lands of Soviet Union, China, Turkey and Africa. During the decade, cities were attracting rural masses for employment. But concerns were also being raised about the cultural decline. In that sense, Mother Indian and Do Bigha Zameen brilliantly portrayed the rural scenario. After all, it was not very long ago that Mahatma Gandhi had said that real India lived in villages. In 1957 Pyasa, a treatise on individual struggles in post-independence India hit cinema. The film directed by legendary Guru Dutta was rated as one of the best 100 films of all times by Time Magazine.
After Independence, it was early 60s when India had to look for solutions to its numerous problems, Majon Kumar’s celluloid mediation on Lal Bahadur’s slogan of “Jai Jawan Jai Kisan’ through his film Upkaar underlined the sacrifices which were expected from the sons of the soil. Chetan Anand’s Haqeeqat chronicled the saga and valor of soldiers who lost their lives defending the nation. The story of Guide was in more than one way the story of an Indian who didn’t know which road to take till the end.
If the 50s represented romanticism and hope and the 60s were marked by disillusionment and escapism, the 70s were clearly signed by rage and despair. This was the decade of angry movement, the death of democracy, the decade in which petrol suddenly became a precious commodity and inflation savaged India. The ‘oil shock’ of 1973 triggered a devastation bout of inflation that promoted movie makers like Majon Kumar to make weepy films like Roti, Kapara Aur Makan. This decade also witnessed the entry of Amitabh with movies like Zanjeer, Sholay and Dewar, which completely redefined the image of Indian hero. He portrayed the angry young man who is hell bent on changing the system; becoming a ‘villain’ in the process of that helps his cause. Of course, Indians wanted a revolution, but were not ready to completely destroy the old system. So Bachchan, the revel would be routinely killed in the climatic scenes. By and large, Indians were still very religious at haert. Hence, Jai Santoshi maa was able to become a blockbuster in spite of its release with Sholay, the movie of millennium.
In the 80s, India faced real life Mogambos, while new frontiers of discontent opened up from Kashmir to the North-East, Bollywood was busy experimenting with ingredients ranging from science fiction to Hollywood remakes.
A strong schizophrenic decade the 90s witnessed a churn in politics, economics and society that would often transport India to the very age of despair. The decade saw a transformation in yet unemployed and poor hero into a rich and confident personality. Movies like HAHK, DDLJ and KKHH shoed an affluent actor-actress pair. Coming to political scenario, India was confronted with new villain, terrorism, which was reflected in films like Roja, Maachis, Sarfarosh and Dil Se. Mumbai riots and bomb blasts were acutely pained in movie like Bombay.
In the new millenium, the world came to terms with a cocky. India bulging with a bare chest confidence. Sex was no longer a taboo and we had movies like Murder and Khwahish. On the other hand, masterpiece like Company and Satya were denoting the stronghold of underworld while Ganga Jal and Omkar showed the rule of bahubalis. If Dil Chahta Hai echoed self-assured, cool and keep smiling, live-today mantra of Indian youth, black, Corporate, Lage Raho Munaa Bahi and Black Friday vindicated that even Bollywood films can deal the complex issues. Lakshya and Rang De Basanti depicted the maturing of the young Indians ready to die for a national cause.
Thus, one can say that a movie is not only a visual treat to its audience but it also an account of the societal, economic and political setup in which a persons is living.