I do not remember the exact title and date when that article was published; the only detail I can recall is that it appeared in The Hindu, and that it examined the role of cinema in violence and other crimes. It made an interesting observation that although people may not be immediately motivated to subscribe to violent behaviour after watching action movies, watching it played repeatedly on screen does make them callous and apathetic. No arguments; yes, we do not seem to be appalled any more while witnessing the aftermath of violence of any type in society.
I wonder whether the observation made in The Hindu article holds true for our lifestyle, psychology and thoughts as well. In other words, does cinema also make us insensitive in matters other than violence? If you talk with people of the previous generations, you would find them getting nostalgic for the ‘golden era’ of Indian cinema, and complaining about the high dose of violence, vulgarity and nonsense shown in today’s movies. However, I should clarify that a comparison of contemporary cinema with that of 50s or 70s is not intended here. In the context of the subject that we are discussing today, it really does not make any difference at all. Yes, indeed, movies have always been insensitive to certain sections and members of society — yes, even in our parents’ and grandparents’ times. Here we focus only on Indian cinema because the subjects are Indian people, and also it is the cinema that is watched in the largest number in this country. The term ‘Indian cinema’ includes cinema produced in all languages spoken in this country.
However highly we boast about our intelligence, discretion and ancient wisdom, Indians do have a habit of treating the written word as truth. I think, the same holds true in the case of the content shown on screen also. Although all teachers and philosophers born from this soil have repeatedly stressed the need of careful evaluation of their theories and statements before accepting them, somehow we prefer to trust them, and thus escape from mental aerobics and intellectual hard work. We are excellent followers. In terms of the electronic entertainment, it means that we have difficulty discerning real world from the virtual. So often you find youth trying to emulate their role models from the entertainment industry.
The motivation for this post came from an article that appeared in popular Marathi magazine Chitralekha. The article expressed disgust and annoyance at the depiction of Tusshar Kapoor as a mute in the movie Golmaal. The comments and rebukes of his friends directed at him for his not being able to speak ‘normally’ was meant to be humorous, though from any perspective, one wonders whether they were indeed so. All the time we show verbal sympathy with people suffering from any type of physical restrictions. We use euphemism while talking about them; and feel as if we have indeed done a highly noble task. But if we just scratch the surface, it is all nothing more than simple lip-service. We just speak thus, and rub our hands off and claim to have fulfilled our responsibilities. But as Swami Vivekananda also said, the character of a person is reflected in small gestures and not in big deeds. How does an individual behave in day-to-day life — that is important. What made the producers think that the general ridicule directed at the character played by Tusshar Kapoor was funny? Also, hadn’t any of the several actors read the script or the dialogues beforehand? Or didn’t any of them find anything objectionable during the shooting of the movie? And what about the censor board? I don’t claim to have read all the media reports, but among all the reviews that I could manage to read, the Chitralekha article was the only one where any correspondent or reviewer had spoken a word of protest. Have we indeed become callous?
What difference does it all make? A lot. Being repeatedly exposed to such content and way of depiction, we grow insensitive to our fellow humans. It also causes further agony to the people for whom there is no escape, since the reason for which they are ridiculed is not in their own hands. One very beautiful excuse given by movie producers is that they are just showing the practices that are already prevalent in society, and not teaching or encouraging any bad behaviour. This is the excuse which is routinely used to bypass the censor board. But then, as mentioned earlier, society watches these movies, treats the characters as role models, and emulates their example. So it is a sort of cycle where the movie claims to show what is practised in society, and society practises what is shown in movies!