Posted by: Vikram | July 26, 2010

When ‘reality’ becomes the most convenient, popular lie

After Rajneeti released, a friend on facebook described it as BS (bullshit). Qalandar took it further on his blog, echoing much of what I thought when I saw the movie. Movies like Rajneeti are not merely bad movies that torture intelligent cinema goers, but they are in many ways downright dangerous. Far from exposing or discussing any reality, they simply take the worst kind of misbelief and misinformation the middle class has or wants to have about politics and projects them onto the screen, masquerading popular lies as the ‘real’ truth.

A full fledged industry like Bollywood, which is completely wired into the culture of a country can decide the truth in many cases. The narrative presented in popular cinema becomes the popularly accepted ‘truth’. The middle class of today and its understanding of politics reflects this to a great extent. There seems to be a happy pact between the prerogative of the middle class to ignore politics (and thus the masses) and cinema’s desire to feed this feeling.

Nobody can deny that politics in India has its fair share of muck. But so do the cricket teams and big corporates ? But how many mainstream big budget Bollywood movies do we see exposing the ‘reality’ of these institutions ? Middle class India simply seems to have no interest in finding out the real ‘reality’ and in many cases it also lacks the intellectual faculty to actually understand the reality. But Bollywood, far from challenging this willful ignorance/stupidity prefers to indulge it. No need for you to stop your drawing room conversations about how everyone but you is responsible for the state of affairs today. All the blame can be laid on the casteist, illiterate voting public and their corrupt politicians.

Things used to be very different years ago. Movies like Mother India, Naya Daur and Do Bigha Zameen did bring forward the reality, but it had as the protagonists, the very people who were and still are part of that reality. Not some New York student doing his PhD in Victorian poetry. Even the regular ‘run around the tree’ romances tried to challenge the established and often cruel norms of marriage. In the recent past, movies like Lagaan and Swades have tried to showcase the rural stories of our nation. In the past year, we have seen Bollywood atleast make an attempt to challenge some conventions with respect to the lives of the urban middle class. But Bollywood and the Indian culture industry in general has to take this forward and change the new middle class’s understanding of their country. And they can do this by allowing the masses speak, for themselves and in their own language.


  1. I think it is expecting too much of modern day Bollywood to provide anything other than entertainment.
    We cannot forget that film people of those days, like Balraj Sahni and Majrooh went to jail for their political activism and hence were non-elitist.
    But then they were a generation that had seen foreign rule

    • Khalil, first for the economics, please see my question at the South Asian Idea here,

      and the answer by Aakar Patel,

      Clearly, the finances of Bollywood are more varied than we think. And it wasnt as if Mother India was not a gripping movie. Movie makers need to take a long term view, both economically and socially. Nothing can and should force them to do this but we can atleast demand it.

      Also there is also the issue of ego. When someone is new, one is less likely to take risks. But there is really nothing stopping people like Shah Rukh Khan from doing more interesting movies.

  2. Vikram: I had reflected on the changing ethos in Bollywood and the post has reference to a book that might be useful in extending this discussion.

  3. […] Read more: When ‘reality’ becomes the most convenient, popular lie […]

  4. Child labor is eating up the world from inside and we are not even noticing.
    We have been blessed to have had a good education-thanks to our parents..
    But then again there are some children in this country who can not even write their own names. Is it not then up to us to make sure that these children also get the education that they deserve.

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