Bollywood has been for decades, highly instrumental in the portrayal of Indian traditions, architecture, dance, music, festivals, etc. Over the years, the industry has advanced to promoting westernization and taking a solid stance against evil vices in society. Discriminations based on caste, gender, race, etc. faced by minorities in India have been brought out in many movies. Depiction of international solidarity, brotherhood, and communal harmony, etc. In movies are a great step forward. The fashion and lifestyle of Indians have changed with the developments in Bollywood. Public opinions regarding issues like drugs, violence, etc. are often shaped based on ideas that Bollywood gives to its audience. However, all these can be in both positive and negative senses. The share of Bollywood in the GDP of the nation is almost 19080 crores or $2.67 billion. Bollywood is a massive source of employment opportunities.
India is home to a voluminous population. Bollywood brings to the fore the great diversity in Indian culture. It is a vivid representation of India’s vibrant traditions, heterogeneous culture, and ethnicity. Bollywood movies help us in identifying the various regional cultures, rites, rituals, and traditions. For instance, movies like Dedh Ishqiya and Daawat-e-Ishq show the culture of Lucknow, the city of Nawabs. Bengali culture has been depicted in many films like Devdas, Gunday, Piku, etc. Amazing architecture and tourist places of Rajasthan were shown in Khoobsurat and Shuddh Desi Romance. We get glimpses of colorful and fiery Gujarati culture in movies like Ram-Leela and Raees.
Various dimensions of Indian culture have been presented by Bollywood. The rich history, especially medieval history has been presented impeccably in Hindi movies. India during the reign of Mughals, Khiljis, Peshwas, and many more dynasties have been depicted in period romances like Bajirao Mastani, Padmavat, and Jodha Akbar. Events of historic importance and national pride have been made known to the masses through movies like Kedarnath, Kesari, and Uri- The Surgical Strike. Biopics depicting the life of great personalities are a great source of inspiration and entertainment. Rustom, Neerja, Gunjan Saxena, etc. are examples.
Bollywood has wide-ranging effects on Indian society and the lifestyle of the people, especially the youth, in a number of ways. And like most things, Bollywood too is like a coin with a fair and a dark face.
- HOW DOES BOLLYWOOD CREATE RACIAL STEREOTYPES AND HINDER BODY POSITIVITY AND INCLUSIVITY?
We can observe that most Bollywood movies depict fat or thin or dark-skinned people as comical characters. By careful scrutiny, we can see that Bollywood promotes racial discrimination in indirect ways. Lead roles are often played by fair actors. With globalization and modernization, attires like sarees and other Indian clothes became the mark of introverted and innocent characters. Movies like Aisha often portrayed the transition of the typical village girl to an urban diva who was desperate to fit into the changing world around her. In the movie Bala, Bhumi Pednekar plays a female who is discriminated against due to her dark skin while her male counterpart, played by Ayushmann Khurana, is a bald man. The movie largely revolves around the difficulties faced by him due to his appearance, some desperate things he does to hide it, and finally how he accepts it and wins over his insecurities.
Another fact is that fair people are made to appear dark with make-up. This perpetuates the notion that fair actors are a cut above the others and hence should be given lead roles even if there are other talented people available who even look the part in reality. This leads the youth to believe that fair skin is a necessity to have a good life. Movies often end up telling the girls that they cannot be truly happy until they have size-zero figures or good hair and the boys that they cannot survive if they don’t have buff bodies or chiseled features. Fat or thin people are often portrayed as those deserving nothing but pity and sympathy. This can seriously lower people’s self-esteem. This causes youngsters to take to strenuous workout routines strict diets not to be healthy for themselves but to remain acceptable to their peers. Studies have shown that youngsters often become victims of disorders like bulimia and alopecia while engaging in such pursuits. They end up spending every last penny buying fairness creams, protein supplements, and sometimes even unprescribed medications in order to attain the so-called “perfect” body. Although movies supporting body positivity have started coming up recently, a lot needs to be improved in this sphere.
Bollywood has unfortunately contributed a lot to degrading the LGBTQ community as an isolated entity. They are picturized to be fit for no other jobs than thieving and prostitution. Nevertheless, movies like Shubh Mangal Saavdhaan show inspiring stories of the empowerment of this community.
- DO ISSUES LIKE SEXISM AND AGEISM EXIST IN BOLLYWOOD?
From Sonali Kulkarni playing Salman Khan’s mother in Bharat to Vani Kapoor playing Hrithik Roshan’s love interest in War, sexism and ageism combine in Bollywood to restrict acting opportunities to female actors while perpetuating problematic norms about beauty and aging.
Since the 2000’s or maybe even before, the epitome of romance in Bollywood has been King Khan wooing a woman. But looking through the movie timeline, we realize that the lead male actor remains the same while his female counterparts keep changing. For instance, in Shah Rukh’s movies from Dil Se to Love You Zindagi, a number of women from Manisha Koirala to Alia Bhatt have co-starred with him but he has remained in the lead role throughout the years. While actors like Salman and Akshay Kumar are giving blockbusters after blockbusters even to this day, female actors who started out with them, like Madhuri Dixit, Kajol, or Rani Mukherjee are often tagged as actors of the 1990s. Most of these women are now vying to make comebacks but often it does not happen in the way we expect. They are often cast in either women-centric films like Mardaani and
Helicopter Eela or in nostalgic films like Dilwale. Many are now mostly judges of reality shows or doing guest appearances in movies. But the male actors are seemingly evergreen stars. When we look at the romantic couples in movies like War, Kabir Singh, and Bharat, the age gap between them brings out the entrenched ageism in Bollywood. In movies like Waqt and Zero, female actors can be seen playing mothers too much older males.
The gist of the problem is that women are primarily viewed through the lens of beauty rather than talent. Women are burdened with encountering this gendered age bias. Now Bollywood divas like Deepika Padukone and Anushka Sharma are venturing out as producers to provide better roles for themselves and others. But male producers too should play a part in crushing these biases since they enjoy a lot of power, privilege, and respect in the industry.
- HAS BOLLYWOOD NORMALIZED PUBLIC DISPLAY OF AFFECTION AND RAPE CULTURE?
Showcasing love publicly has always been a great taboo in Bollywood. Colleges in Hindi movies are often falsely portrayed as places where there is only fun and no studying takes place. This can cause a cultural shock to teens who are new entrants to colleges. Bollywood has played a significant role in popularizing public display of affection among youth. Young people often harbor beliefs that such display of affection is okay. This can trigger restlessness in Indian society where such expressions are hard to be accepted. In our movies, every celebration is picturized to be incomplete without alcohol, smoking and drugs. The youth are often misguided by the actions of the hero or even the villain. They are well-versed with the crude language used by the villain and consider the use of toxicants as normal. Movies like Shootout at Wadala are examples for this.
Bollywood creators have, since the beginning, realized that display of sexual content in movies spelt money. They got creative and began to allude to this without any explicit expression. Use of visual metaphors and unsubtle song lyrics were employed to indicate sexual content. By the 1980’s, in order to reverse the decline of demand for Indian cinema due to emergence of other sources of entertainment, filmmakers started expressing such content more explicitly. The were often shrouded as immoral elements and thus rape culture emerged in Bollywood. Most movies glorified the hero who saved the helpless damsel from the rapist villain. It almost never threw light on what the woman must have gone through emotionally. The issue was simply trivialized by giving the solution as matrimonial union of the perpetrator and the victim.
But, actors who played the rapists in earlier films like Shakti Kapoor and Prem Chopra were considered cool and macho. On the other hand, in some movies, rape was depicted as something casual or even comical. Careless jokes relating to sexual content were cracked in movies like 3 Idiots and Tohfaa. Certain scenes in movies like Dabangg, Rowdy Rathore and many more normalized acts like stalking and eve-teasing. The National Crime Records Bureau reported that 4 women are raped every hour in India. Studies have proved that viewing aggression increases the tendency to inculcate it in personal life. But, most Bollywood movies are in nature, forgiving to the perpetrators of sexual violence.
But after some spine-chilling incidents like Nirbhaya case, movies like ‘Mom’ and ‘Pink’ have taken a stand against rape culture. But such movies have not even remotely capitalized over movies that displayed rape culture more vividly. This has led to persistent misogyny in the Bollywood and even beyond. Even in the era of #MeToo and similar movements, pop culture and Bollywood still have a long way to go in display of such content.
- IS THERE GLORIFICATION OF VIOLENCE IN BOLLWOOD MOVIES?
Bollywood has always been known to show and often exaggerate the hero as physically strong. In action movies from Sholay to Singham, Acts of violence are always hailed as great. In his prime, Amitabh Bachchan was popularly called “Angry Young Man” due to his highly fiery characters seeking revenge.
Researches have shown that viewing violent films can induce the viewers to resort to aggression when in duress and can even lead to crimes. It is a highly disturbing fact that movies have become a source to gain knowledge on how crimes are committed and even ways to escape the consequences. This can lead to questioning of social safety. Therefore, such scenes should be avoided or shown with certain limits. Another intriguing fact is that while love scenes are shown metaphorically, violence is displayed in a blatantly open manner.
- HOW HAS BOLLYWOOD INFLUENCED THE IDEAS OF THE YOUTH ON FASHION AND SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS?
Innumerable movies use the costume element to give viewers a clear idea of who is who in them. Religious and economic differences between the characters were brought using clothes. But what actually what mattered to the audience were the clothes worn by the lead couple. Hairstyles adorned by the heroines and the clothes they wore were considered trendsetters and copied by their fans, especially the youth. This is more pronounced in present-day scenario. Young girls and boys love to copy young actors like Alia Bhatt and Tiger Shroff and many more. There is often cut-throat competitiveness to appear on par with these stars leading to demand for the clothes in the movies which in turn leads to cheap copies flooding the market at a fraction of the original price. This lowers demand for the real merchandise. People often bite off more than they can chew when they copy wedding styles of actors even at costs unimaginable to the common Indian family.
Bollywood has contributed significantly to the mammoth change that the concept of social institutions like marriage in India. Every Bollywood movie with a happy ending often shows the couple fighting against all odds to unite and living happily ever after. Arranged marriages are often shown as complicated and as being performed under coercion, and finally breaking off in some way. Concepts like live-in relationships are shown in a positive sense. Teens and youth who blindly believe these notions often end up messing up their careers in the quest to find ’the love of their life’. This can lead to tensions within families. The youth disregards the need for marriage and often dismiss it as a mere formality. The movie “OK Jaanu” starring Shraddha Kapoor and Aditya Roy Kapoor shows the couple in a live-in relationship. Best friends often end up falling for each other. Bollywood seems to embrace the notion of viewing the relationship between a man and woman only through the lens of romance.
- WHAT CHANGES HAVE DANCE AND MUSIC UNDERGONE IN THE WAKE OF BOLLYWOOD?
India has a rich plethora music and dance forms. They are extensively used in Bollywood for expressing different, deep emotions and are entertaining for all, irrespective of the viewer composition. With the advent of globalization, classical and folk forms of dance and music have almost disappeared from Bollywood. Even though they appear in some movies, they are not as popular as the party songs which have been influenced by cultures across the globe. But, in the modern times, dance has been reduced to mere item numbers which fetch money.
Similarly rap music has dominated over classical music, becoming an indispensable ingredient of any Hindi movie. Times of India has reported that among top 20 Bollywood movies, atleast 6 have one rap song. Even though many good singers and dancers have come up, Bollywood has indeed had a small decline in the standard of artistic content in its movies.
Bollywood, therefore clearly has deep and long-lasting effects on Indian society, particularly the youth. The need of the hour is to ensure that movies are suitable to the audience. Content that may destroy nascent minds must be limited or avoided. If employed properly, Bollywood can be a wonderful source of knowledge, awareness and pure entertainment.
BIBLIOGRAPHY : Manorama Yearbook 2021,www.researchgate.com
– Meenakshi Rajeev-