May 29, 2024

The Scoop India

News You Need To Know

Grey Shades of Bollywood’s Silver Glamour

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By Sushiila Ttiwari

Managing Director

7Qube Biz Solutions

Not very long ago a friend of mine called to seek advice. Her daughter who is in second year of college, participated in some college fashion show and now was getting modelling offers. Should she pursue that as a career? My blunt advice was, “If she’s ready to transport drugs, become a drug addict herself and ready to sleep her way up, please do. Else continue studies, get the right internships and have a decent life. Not that corporate or business is any different, but she has a choice. In fashion, you have no choice.” Later I got to know she is back to studies.

Cinema, the epitome of India’s visual prowess, has long been a mirror reflecting the nation’s societal intricacies. Let’s look at a little history and its life path that is dominant of narratives meant to influence the society in general.

Tolerance and Inclusivity

As Bollywood industry was just evolving during the time of Partition, it also adapted very well to the nerves of the two nations. At that juncture, Bombay Film Industry and Lahore Film Industry also took sides, with many actors of Muslim origin taking on Hindu screen names, which was a way to probably mirror the mood of the nation. History is witness to that.

The trend changed in late 70s when actors retained their original Identity as India had become a mature democratic nation, making Bollywood actors stars, some overnight. Bombay, now Mumbai, came to be known as the city of dreams. Let’s see what’s behind the glamour shine that is being hidden away from us. 

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The Institution

A 172-plus billion rupees Industry, as of 2022, has an influence on the masses that any institutions like schools and universities can have. Although every institution and corporate university is regulated by bodies, how does this industry avoid any regulations? Every time the comparison is with the West, my question is, is our system as efficient as theirs? Yes, we have an Information and Broadcasting (I&B) ministry and Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), but…

There was a time when Ramanand Sagar shifted from cinema to TV due to the heavy influence of Dubai on the film industry. Initially the think tank of the Government of India was averse to the idea of airing the Ramayana and the Mahabharata on Doordarshan (DD). But DD’s officials argued that these were classical epics, purely depicting our culture, and not necessarily religious. Valmiki treated Ram as a human being who was an ideal man— ‘Maryada Purushottam’. Apparently, a major objection came from the I&B minister V.N. Gadgil who felt a Hindu mythological serial on a public broadcasting station would give rise to Hindu power and benefit the vote bank of the BJP. This is recounted in the book “An Epic Life: Ramanand Sagar, From Barsaat to Ramayana”. The ministry was so careful that they sent Mr. Sagar back simply for the smallest of reasons, like what impression the costume of Sita would have created on the audience about the portrayal of mythological characters. Ramanand Sagar had to invest up to 4 years to finally have the show on DD.

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The Issue  

We saw Bollywood glamourize interfaith marriages, narrating a story of certain ethnicities being more loving than the others. Real life stories of domestic violence or unceremonious use of social practice in the name of religion were being protected. Very few stories came out in public, and the media cleverly chose to brush those stories under the carpet. Take the example of a famous actress married to a famous lyricist and director who was physically abusing her, leading them to live separate lives. But the media chooses to ignore such stories in the name of personal privacy. We have multiple influencers celebrating interfaith marriages and parting their ways too quickly for another partner.

Thus, Bollywood has mirrored societal issues while simultaneously profiting from them and has kept covers on certain narratives.  

Not to forget stories in films being twisted to develop a narrative. For example, in Chhapaak, the villain was shown as a Hindu putting Tilak on his forehead using a religious slogan, when in real life the perpetrator of the crime was a Muslim.  What creative change required the film’s antagonist identity to be changed? At the same time, we had the film Kashmir Files only talking about victims of certain ethnicities, forcing people to take sides.

Have Indians not noticed these trends, or stayed silent not finding their voice being heard or have been tolerant?

Nepotism

In the early years of independent India film Industry, male patriarchs of the industry would not allow their daughters/daughters-in-law to join the film Industry. Why? It wasn’t considered a suitable industry for women in their families, but other women or women from small town were considered fair game. It took a very long time and a few generations to break that trend.

Now we have a splurge of nepo-kids joining the industry who have no talent to speak of but have a million-plus following. While promoting these individuals as relatable figures, the industry fails to acknowledge the struggles faced by outsiders trying to break in, raising concerns about fairness and accessibility.

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The Lack of Regulation Within Bollywood

Kangana Ranaut, considered an outsider, is still finding it challenging to market her films – troubled and bullied by co-actors. She has openly mentioned in interviews Bollywood drug parties and how she was openly exploited by an actor for months before her first film release when she was not even 18 – what is the IB ministry doing about it? She had also mentioned the same actor taking her to parties and introducing her to mine owners. What is this racket? It’s only a few women who have come out in the open to talk about it. Why does the media stay quiet and not give light to such voices?

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While the #MeToo movement is easily forgotten, we recently had Raj Kundra (Shilpa Shetty’s husband and so-called businessman) in the news for being arrested for the accusation of producing porn films with many women having filed their complaints. How did he get past the system and get bail, leaving the girls to get intimidated, to obstruct justice. Now he’s making movies and acting in it while the wife goes around promoting him. Agreed she didn’t know about his business, but then now when she knows what’s her stand? The matter is sub-Judice in court and will remain for many lifetimes. Till then the victims will either die/commit suicide or turn hostile. How many such supporting wives are there in these industries – be it Bollywood, Mollywood, or Tollywood?

Why is Bollywood not governed like other bodies? The I&B ministry should take stringent steps to govern this industry and make it safe like schools, universities or any other institution. 

Be Aware and Make Informed Choices

Educate more and more. More than stopping our next gen from not entering the industry we must teach them not to follow any influencer/celebrity. Teach them to be more informed about their choices.

When some Bhatt and some Kapoor say, “Don’t watch our films, don’t follow us,” listen to them then too.

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