Culture is the pillar upon which a society mushrooms. It is the ensemble of all that constitutes the everyday life of a state or a society. Every aspect, be it the art, social norms, language or attire, adds its flavor in the making of what is both materialistic and abstract – the thread by which all the components of a society is joined – the aura that we call – Culture. It takes decades and centuries for a culture to flourish and take its shape. A culture develops with human creativity over the years and also by the exchange and intermixing of ideas and way of life across different civilizations.
India is a land of immense diversity. Religions, languages, geographical conditions, socio-economic framework and even ethnicity have always played vital roles in building the culture and the zeitgeist of a region. With revolutions – scientific, social and political – the cultural as well as physio-graphical landscape of the earth has been rolling and changing at tremendous speed. The world, as of today, is smaller than it was for those who lived few decades ago. Internet, media and telecommunications have impacted the world like never before. In such a scenario, where all the cultures of the world interact heavily, the situation is aiding the world to head towards homogeneity of culture in a greater sense. Though such intermixing that would lead the world towards a common culture, is at a preliminary stage…the metropolitan areas of many countries now already look alike from many corners.
India is a country where media plays a great role in the formation of the mindset of citizens. And Indian Cinema does affect the viewers and make them think & imbibe rationale and theme of inspiring movies. India proudly stands at top position in the number of movies released every year. Bollywood, Tollywood and all other regional language cinemas have now become an intrinsic part of entertainment. Movies that are portrayed may sometimes be based on reality or sometimes be fictional. Indian Cinema for decades have catered to the society that watches movies primarily for the sake of entertainment but indeed in due process of fun – daub the hue – the theme into the day-to-day life. There exists a reciprocal relationship between the contemporary culture and Indian cinema that is molded in an Indian context. They affect each other simultaneously. Sometimes, movies based on regional social cultures like that of Rajasthani, Kashmiri and so on reflect the reality – the popular culture of the region. And when movies based on international themes having western outlook is on the big screen – the extra-territorial or new norms slowly and steadily come out of the screen and start mingling with the regional culture – giving it a new shape and color.
For instance, movies set in the backdrop of live-in relationship in someways became a source of this contentious issue as the commoner found a way different from the Indian social norms to follow. Even the modern outfits of actors and actresses – not so native to the Indian land, enter into market and subsequently into daily life quickly; though such changes take place basically in economically and technologically advanced areas. Thus we can say that Indian cinema impacts Indian culture in different proportions in different regions and also that the Indian cinema is not the sole reason behind any shift in the culture of the nation as factors like globalization, commercialization, scientific and economic advancements and human creativity and rationale have even bigger impact on the shift.
When Dadasahed Phalke made the movie “Raja Harishchandra”, the ancient culture of India through the chronicles of the great Indian king came into the limelight. Nobody ever wondered that cinema could be so creative and didactic in nature. Though the moral values of the lessons of mythology depicted in such fashion emote the viewers to follow the path of truth with perseverance, the social and political culture depicted hardly resembles the contemporary one and also never bolstered the social culture to change accordingly – as never the society turned on to monarchical system or even started wearing fanciful and scintillating outfits.
Then there were movies in 60s and 70s like – “Purab and Pashchim” with Manoj Kumar as the lead actor, that highlighted the differences between western and native Indian culture with great sarcasm. The movie for decades became an example to portray the beauty of our nation’s culture that still exists in many of its parts. And then “Namastey London” with almost same theme came out in the twenty-first century. Thus, we can say that Indian cinema over the years have always reflected nation’s popular culture.
The changing beats and rhythms of music in India is an exemplary example of how the pervasiveness of Indian Cinema and its music downplayed the ancient classical music and folk music which till its advent were no less that regional cults. The tune, rhythm and frequency of contemporary songs resemble more to Pop, Jazz and hard music. There was a time when the children brought up in traditional families used to learn Bhajans and Ghazals from their elders. The case isn’t so different as far as even dance patterns and styles are concerned. Over the years, Indian Cinema has nudged hip-hop dances into the social functions and ceremonies….simultaneously drifting Dandia and other folk dances away from the culture that once adorned our society on a day-to-day basis. The wheel has turned and the youth is tuning totally into fast-tracks irrespective of what they actually mean!
Movies based on orthodox and regional anti-social activities like child marriage, exploitation of the deprived sections, superstition, class conflicts, communal detestation and so on have been eye-openers to those who practice these and also to those who are the victims of such trends – aiding a paradigm shift in the social and cultural norms of the affected regions. Shekhar Kapur’s “Bandit Queen” and Anurag Kashyap’s “Gulaal” portray such issues.
Political culture of India in the recent years has also undergone typical changes. The citizens have now become more aware, keen and also assertive in their demands. Some part of the credit also goes to Indian Cinema that has for long acted as a guide to all those who remain oblivious of the existing political & governmental functioning and ideologies. Cinema not only portrays the lacunae in a political, economic or social arena but also suggests ways by which the loopholes and the evils could be removed. For instance, the Tamil movie ‘Sivaji’ brilliantly portrays how the black money can be re-routed into the national market for developmental purposes (though not feasible for a commoner but it did instigate the doers to proceed in the right direction).
Today, children and youth greatly admire the ostentatious materialistic display of outfits and style of the actors in the movies. Also, the movies bearing romanticism and showcasing disputatious issues like pre-marital sex, live-in relationship, homo-sexuality etc though without highlighting them extensively, have indeed inspired the commoners. Pros and cons always exist! Such revelation of issues certainly give a spark in the minds of those who are in their formative years and the effect of which is seen with the passage of time – as the slow and steady change of culture. The movie “Ï am” based on such issues must have had impacted the viewers; and the impact being positive for some while also negative for others.
In a nutshell, Indian Cinema hasn’t been a big cultural revolutionary, as it also has its own limitations; nevertheless, it indeed has over the decades contributed in some ways, with level of impact varying according to region, context and cultural aspect, in shaping and also sometimes ameliorating the culture of the land.