Hindi Films and Society- By Aneek Chaudhuri

Hindi Films and Society- By Aneek Chaudhuri

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If we consider the topic, we should at first know the actual meaning of reflection.  Suppose a film is being screened in front of a number of people. To be more precise, let’s assume that a vast auditorium becomes the receptor of the film, as a whole. What is the approximate number of persons for whom the film is shown? This question barely matters. But why? Shouldn’t really the size of audience decide the engaging capability of a film? The answer is a ‘straight’ no.

In this piece, we will discuss about the role of Hindi films in influencing the society (particularly, Indian society) till date and even, in the future. However, a linear thesis will not be put on and both the pros and cons will be discussed here.

Hindi films or what we had commonly quoted as ‘picture’ or ‘cinema’, had begun in the early twentieth century; although, the era produced films without sound. According to valid sources, the first Indian film was ‘Flowers of Persia’ (1898) by Hiralal Sen. However, critics have claimed the film to be nothing but a mere influence of Lumiere brothers (the persons who initiated filmmaking).


 It was in 1913, when the first feature film, Raja Harishchandra got produced in India.  The film was not only the montage of sequences but it had spoken about the era’s  reality in a subtle way. Dada saheb Phalke is often called the father of Indian Cinema  and he always had a logical backing upon him for such an affiliation.

 But what was so special about a film that could speak none, but only display?

 When we talk about of the society in 1900s, I mean before liberation of our country, we  come to realize a bunch of realities. Most of those refer to the society, while some of  them refer to the ‘anglo’ feeling of inferiority.


Making Raja Harishchandra was no easy thing for Phalke, as he had to ease off his pockets, with unease.

Phalke left his job at a printing press, and travelled to London to learrn the sophistication of filmmaking. Actually, intellect was not much to appreciate, when one lacks the basic amenities; same happens to a filmmaker, as he cannot make a film without the film equipments. He came back to India, draped in and with English attributes (English camera, English raw film etc.). It only reflects the structure of colonized India, when the country had no option than depending on its fellow looters, the Britishmen.

Initiating the film was not easy as well, when women taking part in films or any kind of visual performances was a social stigma; and Raja Harishchandra definitely had women characters. Hence, he decided to cast a man as a female character in the film.

He began with advertisements such as “ugly faces need not apply”; finally, was able to discover a ‘girlish’ man, Anna Salunke. Anna played the role of Queen Taramati in Raja Harishchandra.


 After reading the 488 words column, we can surely claim that a film always gets  influenced by the social circumstances (intentionally or forcefully), rather than films  influencing the society. However, the vice-versa can also be explored from the medium  of films, especially Bollywood.

 Let’s take the example of Devdas. I don’t mean the one that casted Abhay Deol, but  the one that comprised K. L. Sehgal, or Dilip Kumar (Devdas has been made four  times, incuding its contemporary ‘DEV D’).

 In Devdas, we observe Paro being a shy, timid person, is totally totally dependent on  the social structure of the time. Although, she loved Devdas, she was made to marry someone else without her intention. Actually, this might be very simple to criticise the film plot, but how can one really imagine a twentieth-century story to depict female characters as outspoken? Girls were not even asked if she liked her to-be spouse, during the era; hence, this is another example that reflected the social truth. Beside this, can you really find someone who would be motivated enough from this film and stay devoted to a person, as Paro did? (Paro had lighted a lamp in Devdas’ name and had never let it blow off.)

But, if we compare the same film with its modern parallel, DEV D, things are completely contrasting. DEV D showed Paro to be expressive in her physical desires and at the same time, the film revolved around the society in 21st century.

I believe now you have been clarified that a film easily gets affected by social patterns and in turn, produces something that is meant to engage the viewers. Hence, I will discuss the reasons for the same. It can be summarized into the following points:

• Uses and Gratifications

• Self-identification

• Entertaining the audiences


 India is an amalgamation of a number of religions, sects, languages, strata, classes  and many more to mention. In such a country, audience or a film viewer might have a  motive to watch a movie which is likely to differ from any second viewer. And, it is  obvious. If a ShyamBenegal film is screened in front of 2 viewers, both will come out of  the screening hall with separate interpretations of the film. This may be due to certain  reasons; one, viewer A may be an office-goer and works in a technical company. He  would come to watch the movie for relaxation. In the same way, suppose viewer B does  a job in an advertising agency and he is likely to watch a movie for its aesthetic values.  Therefore, we can easily say that a person’s uses and gratifications really matter.

 The second point is of self-identification. We will discuss this feature in a way that would be much similar to the point described above. A middle class may opt to extract the socio-economic realities depicted in a film, while a richie-rich being will prefer the luxurious parts of a film i.e. car used in a film, dress worn by the protagonist, or even the exotic locations used in the film. Hence, audience derives the materials from     a film that is identifiable to their   daily lives.


The third point is of entertaining the audience. Bollywood films are generally made to entertain the audience, keeping in mind the socio-economic variations present in India. This highly states the impact of society on Hindi films, when films are made considering the attributes of the society. Thus, we can deduce that the impact power of cinema totally depends on an individual, or to say, an individual’s characteristics.


 However, there are also films in the modern era that has prefectly shaped the society.  One of those is Dabang. The impact of Dabang had been so large on the youngsters  that they are still imitating Salman Khan’s style of hanging sunglasses over the back  collar of shirt. Yes, there have been few instances of cinema’s influence on society, but  the vice versa is more impressive and practical.






 The country is advancing, so is its intellectual process of cinema; in such a situation,    the public becomes more engaged than ever, in interpreting the soul of a movie, in their  own unique way. By unique, I mean the individuality of each person who becomes the    receptor of a film. Once, hypodermic theory was largely applied to understand the    process of communication, where people were thought to be effect less when injected  with principles of media agenda. But now, one has to surely admit the importance of a  viewer, as well.

 In short, the medium of film is intricate; it is made for the people, however without an  appropriate exchange with its viewer, a film can never be successful. Hence, a film is  the inculcation of social norms, which in turn, is able to influence the society, at times.

About the author

CSR VISION is India's (probably World's) first monthly magazine in print devoted to CSR and Sustainable Development for bringing together all stakeholders of SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT at a global and local levels and act as a platform for promoting strategic CSR and sustainable development practices through dissemination of information and knowledge.