Indian cinema


Thinking of revolutionary movies our screens found two movies released at a gap of 22 years but even after years telling the distraught and torn state of the land of hypocrisies and diversities, the land that is our nation. 

“Pandit Nehru made a horological mistake. At the stroke of midnight when India awoke to ‘light and freedom’, the world was not asleep. It was for instance, around two-thirty in the afternoon in New York,

This is how a 2005 film by Sudhir Mishra Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi begins. Set in the background of the Emergency period and the rise of the Naxal Bari movement in India. Another movie, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro by Kundan Shah from 1983, irrespective of its backdrop the movie can be located in any time frame except for its humour which has decayed to some extent. 


Jane Bhi Do Yaaro takes us on a ride of satire, social reflection, old-time comedy and the corrupt trio of media, corporates and administration. Two common men who set up a Photo Studio wait for their fates to take wings as they sit in Old Bombay’s Haji Ali area waiting for their customers. Upon getting hopeless, Naseeruddin Shah accompanied by Ravi Baswani sings “Ham Honge Kamyab…Ek din”. The hymn is followed by words, “Work which is done with utter determination always yields to good results.” Something we often hear on Sundays while lying around doing nothing. But the question that follows this dialogue sums up the fate of lacs of people in India, ‘When’? 


Setting aside my procrastination, this is a huge reason why I have given up on the self-help genre. Various problems faced by so many generations don’t spring up from waking up late or being hazy at work. Or maybe I have learnt the art of putting the blame for everything on societal problems. What follows the dream of these two photographers in Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro can be called a theatrical mess enveloped with satire but a true picture of my beloved country. 


Meanwhile, Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi follows the life of three individuals, Siddharth, Geeta and Vikram set in a love triangle. Both of our male leads open their character lines with letters written to Geeta. Siddharth, the son of a Muslim man and a Bengali woman coming from a highly privileged background has been radicalised as his ‘beliefs have strengthened’. He says ‘We have to change the world and change it fundamentally’. It’s not so hard to locate a Siddharth in today’s Delhi University as well. A person of high class talking about revolution, saying life is not all about English education while talking in English. He holds the bravado at the start and doesn’t restrict his craving for revolution only to words and slogans, he goes to Bhojpur, in the heart of the action. 


Vikram on the other hand is a child of the middle class whose father is a Gandhian socialist. He says his father’s main profession is to worry but it would have been great if he would have worried about his children. He goes on to become a fixer, involved with corrupt politicians while being madly in love with Geeta. Geeta, believed to be the strongest character, isn’t really an ideologue as Sudhir Mishra himself says 


“Geeta is a person who doesn’t expect the world to change because she wishes it to. That’s why she is the only one left sane and standing in the end. ” 


The movie tries to show the side of left radicalisation which remains only in slogans and talks and is highly romanticised. The movie begins in St. Stephens where Siddharth and his mates come up on a stage and tell students about the ‘new world order’. Such politics exists in university spaces till now, and at the start, it looks the most revolutionary and ‘world changing’, only until you realise they are just words for many.


The street play societies indeed can be an example that is thriving in front of us all. The plays might talk about dozens of problems in society with shining metaphors. Still, the same societies run on strict hierarchies and maintain the status quo that they wish to dismantle in their plays. When his life is in extreme danger, Siddharth returns to his father to the same class that he feigned about. 


Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro on the other hand showcases how two common men find themselves trapped in the corrupt trio that holds the power to dictate lives. The media that lures and threatens to reveal the truth or deceit, isn’t hard to relate given the extremes we have seen in our media channels in the past few years. The two men discover the murderer of an official and think of the media as their allies while they are being entrapped in deceit. The last scene brings them all on a stage where Saleem and Anarkali meet the scenes of Mahabharata while the curtain falls on two men being held guilty for being two common men. In between the dazzling costumes and humorous exchange, lie the words Satyamev Jayate at one corner under webs and dirt. 


Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi brings in the ideological dilemma and the wish to change the order in the forefront. Many might watch it for Swanand Kirkire’s melody Bawara Mann while for many it’s a radical movie to be watched so as to become a part of the revolution talks in their groups. Many might watch Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro just for young Naseeruddin Shah (guilty). But both of these movies attempted to showcase something both in their content and in their cinematic form. 


Writers like me might act at the shock value delivered and write something pessimistic about the country’s way of being while humming notes of “Hum Honge Kamyab”. To call these movies revolutionary or not, cannot be decided by an article, for some say even 3 Idiots changed their way of thinking, so was it revolutionary, in any way? The words of Siddharth in his letter to Geeta have stayed with me for they in a lot of ways describe our generation as well.


Who do we think we are? Strutting around, sprouting a radical jargon. A little politics, some rock and roll, but mostly shock value.


Kashish Shivani

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When was the last time when a nation of fragmented opinions unanimously poured their emotions so genuine, so natural and so powerful. Well, it might strain your memory to reconcile until the demise of cinema’s greatest acumen Irrfan Khan moved an entire generation of cinephiles and more beyond. But, what made this man and his death not so trivial?

The world is a carnival of emotions and the celluloid is thus its biggest celebration. The silver screen has for long served as the recluse for all or most of our feelings, and its players inevitably become a part of our lives. The audience around the globe and our nation in particular adores its movie personalities, their influence caters to wider prospects and their presence ushers greater momentum. They feature on our walls and our device screens; our collective memories and pleasant dreams and cultivate our endeavors by endorsing them. But, dont these things cater to the conventional stars of visual grandeur-  those who feature in extravagant films with formulaic conventions, a stardom, a following and a fanbase of their own. While, it might be that we as a generation have evolved with our preferences and adjudication of cinema or perhaps, Irrfan superseded all of this to manifest a culture of a different kind, just as his roles, movies and nature.

On 29th April, the internet community rolled into sorrow as the social media feeds were flooded with feelings over the loss of our finest cinematic potential – Irrfan. Tributes, eulogies, nostalgia and prayers, he was all over, the 53 year old Irrfan was struggling with a neuroendocrine tumor, a rare cancer and hence left the world with his last performance in the March 2020 release ‘Angrezi Medium’. From juniors to contemporaries of film fraternities in Bollywood, Hollywood and Regional Films; composers to sports personalities and politicians, comedians to social media influencers; writers and scholars, everyone mourned the loss of this legendary persona. I found people who are generally technoverted and closeted in expression, remembering the man as if it was a personal loss, and hence it prompted me to discuss the various souls of this single shoulder, which embodied myriads of happiness, sorrow, catharsis, hope, belief, pain and reality as one.

The Pan India Icon

It isn’t surprising that a man who brought life to the character of Ashoke Ganguli in the Namesake as a first generation Bengali immigrant, uttered every word of Paan Singh in natural Chambali dialect. Umber Singh in Qissa cherishes every breath in Punjabi while Roohdaar haunts the streets of Kashmir with same vigour. Ranvijay Singh of Haasil resonates the North Indian political demography as Raj Batra of Hindi Medium does with regard to the typical Old Delhi shop-owner. Thomas in Mumbai Meri Jaan is the rare depiction of the South Indian vendor in the cinescape, and the same goes true for Saajan Fernandes who effortlessly anchors The Lunchbox as an about to retire widower in Mumbai. His last appearance as Keshav Bansal, a Marwari sweet shop-owner in Angrezi Medium marked the essence of his nativity in Rajasthan.

An Artist beyond Big Screen

Irrfan was more than a Bollywood actor, having done films like The Warrior, The Namesake, Inferno and Jurrasic World he is an established figure in Hollywood and has featured in Telugu and Bengali films as well and didn’t hesitate to involve in Short films like Road to Ladakh and The Bypass either. A trained dramatics student of National School of Drama, Irrfan was deeply involved in theatre and was a keen observer in theatre festivals even after gaining prominence. Irrfan started with television and went on to star in period dramas like Chandrakanta and Chanakya and hosted shows like Don and Mano Ya Na Mano. His iconic voice was more than enough to narrate films like Bajirao Mastani or dub over as Baloo in The Jungle Book.

Irrfan as an enthusiastic meme, which is popular with Indian Netizens.  Image Credits: Imageflip
Irrfan as an enthusiastic meme, which is popular with Indian Netizens.
Image Credits: Imageflip

Irrfan didn’t stop here, he went on to feature in television commercials like 7 UP, Hutch, Syska. His every Bollywood Party song or Podcast with AIB and collaborations with FilterCopy has negated stereotypes and was an enthusiastic volunteer for a perennially popular meme content.


A Literature Enthusiast

Irrfan Khan with Shamsur Rahman Faruqi Sahab Image Source: Thread Reader App
Irrfan Khan with Shamsur Rahman Faruqi Sahab
Image Source: Thread Reader App

I often wonder how many mainstream icons of such engagements engross with literature or other arts, while the quest goes on forever with disappointments, many a times I do come across someone like Irrfan, who reads Om Prakash Valmiki’s ‘Thakur Ka Kuan’ so enthusiastically, and passionately pens his feeling to great Urdu Writer Shamsur Rahman Farooqi, admiring his ‘Kai Chand the Sare Aasmaan’ and his eagerness on making a film on the same.

A Devout Human

Among many reasons that prompted so many people from various walks to respond to the demise of this great actor was probably the humanitarian nature that was typical of Irrfan apart from being a brilliant actor. Attaining the stature he was endowed with Irrfan was humble in his approach, his confidants and acquaintances reminisce him as a person of natural instict who respected his work and humans, nature and creatures alike. He was a dedicated family man, who loved his wife and children.

Apart from being a volunteer for social causes. In 2015, the actor had visited Badanavalu, a village near Nanjangud, to support theatre personality and social activist Prasanna, who launched a movement to promote sustainable living, the actor spent night with the people of the movement and has continually supported causes for sustainable development and climate change.

Irrfan with Activist Prasanna Image Credits: Deccan Herald
Irrfan with Social Activist Prasanna
Image Credits: Deccan Herald

There might be many stars with social campaigning, a perfect rags to riches story, brilliant executioners in their own fields but there was something specific about this human, the man who will be cherished by generations for what he was and what he has left as his works.

Featured Image Credits: India Today

Faizan Salik

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The 71st Republic Day bestows upon Ekta Kapoor the Padma Shri award. But to what extent does she really deserve this prestigious honour?

Ekta Kapoor, the producer of over a hundred television serials, numerous web series and many more movies, also widely known as the “Czarina of Television”, was conferred the Padma Shri on the 71st Republic Day for her “distinguished service” in the field of art. Having joined the industry in her teenage years, Ekta Kapoor has only grown in her field and captured the time and attention of countless middle-aged women across the country.

The Padma Shri award is the fourth highest civilian award in India. It seeks to recognise achievements in all fields of activities or disciplines where an element of “public service” is involved. My question to you is what exact sort of public service does Ekta Kapoor offer to this country. Apart from corrupting the minds of millions of her viewers with unrealistic exaggerations of stereotypical Indian households, demonizing the women and objectifying their bodies, I highly doubt Kapoor has offered any real contribution to the growth of Indian cinema.

“Where Ekta Kapoor is the Queen of Indian Television she bears the onus of the Indian television being in a state of misery. From creating absolutely irrelevant and idiotic stuff to feed the Indian women, and further adding to the focus of masala and formulaic approach of Indian Television, it never rose from its mediocrity that has nothing to do with reality,” quotes Faizan Salik, a second-year English major student from Jamia Milia Islamia.

The television industry under Kapoor appears to have arrived at a stagnant halt where the producer refuses to broaden her perspective and continues to broadcast pretty much the same plot with different actors. Having bound the scope of these television series to match the mindsets of her majority viewership, Ekta Kapoor has successfully made the Indian Television yet another failure of the country.

Is this the kind of contribution that we look for in our country? Is this the kind of producer we bestow the fourth highest civilian award upon?

Cinema poses a crucial medium to spread awareness to the public at large. I am definitely not against the commercialised cinema meant for the sole purpose of entertainment. But when out of 100s of her serials like Saans Bhi Kabhi Bahu Thi, Kasauti Zindagi Ki, etc, not one single show attacks the sexism, social hierarchical structures and basic prejudices in society, I apologise but I find it rather difficult to vouch for our highly glorified producer.

I do not wish to defame Ekta Kapoor. We have all shed tears watching Shor in the City and laughed out loud at Kya Kool Hain Hum. But when you possess such a loud voice that is heard by millions of people, I only expect you to do your duty to the country and speak to them what they really need to listen to. That is when I’ll believe you truly worthy of this honourable award.

Feature Image Credits: The India Idiot


Aditi Gutgutia
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Bollywood influences and almost the entire population of the nation, and the Hindi movie industry’s understanding of freedom is embarrassing and this is reflected on what they decide to show us on Independence Day.

National holidays are always a reason to celebrate. Even if they do not come with a festival, they prove to be a holiday we never knew we needed. A breathing space, quite similar to a Sunday, but incredibly precious. While our lazy brain cells debate whether or not to spend the day holed up binging on a senseless television show, corporations are at work.

If we could rank holidays on the basis of which can be most easily capitalised, Independence Day would surely be at the top. It does not just carry meaning; it carries immense emotion and history, too. It also helps that independence is a spectrum – any incident in our lives could be loosely tied to the idea of freedom. The sheer number of products and the brands they belong to hence find different ways of associating themselves with this day, and frankly the results are incredibly creative and inclusive. For example, last year Ola’s campaign, #MyIndependenceDay followed Meghna Sahoo, their first transgender driver, getting ready for the day’s work or #UnitedByHope from Benetton.

Although these advertisements are produced by corporations that value profit more than anything else, they push the boundaries and very often start conversations. It is important for imaginations to be filled with myriad notions of freedom and patriotism. Bollywood, on the other hand, seems insistent on feeding us one type of patriotism and one idea of freedom. Judging by what the industry has been serving on Independence Day for the past few years, they seem obsessed with an aggressive and predominantly masculine brand of patriotism.

Let’s consider Independence Day releases of the past five years. Here’s a list for your reference-

2019 – Mission Mangal, Batla House, and 


2018 – Toilet- Ek Prem Katha

2017 – Rustom

2016 – Brothers

2015 – Singham 2

It doesn’t take a lot to notice that the protagonist is almost always a dedicated male soldier, a dedicated male police officer, a dedicated father, etc. It’s one man’s fight to save a city or the country.

Mission Mangal stands out presenting a different brand of patriotism, one that involves the use of intelligence and team-work. Even though the poster makes it very clear that the male scientist is more important and hence takes roughly the amount of space given to five female pivotal characters, it is refreshing to see that, for once, it is not one man’s fight to make the country proud. In fact, a lot of people were involved and all of them had equally important roles to play.

Isn’t that a much more holistic and realistic approach to understanding what being a patriot is? The ability to collectively make the country a better place? The decision to release these movies on Independence Day has consequences.

They begin to set the rules for what defines patriotism for popular imagination as they set the standard. People fill theatres on Independence Day, expecting this standard and then production houses continue making this brand of movies to suit this standard. It is a vicious cycle.

Another problem with these movies is that they always end well. That one man does succeed to save the city (no surprises there). Independence Day is a happy and proud occasion but independence is a process. It did not end on 15th August and it does not end when the credits start rolling.Bollywood barely tries to scratch the surface on the idea of freedom. The amount of influence they hold on public consciousness is no secret. Yet, they steer clear of uncomfortable conversations. Mainstream production houses never produce films that make you squirm in your seats. Look at the wasted opportunity, our country still houses communities who are yet to achieve an independent existence.

Our movies need to reflect realities, they need to urge us to define our own patriotism by making decisions that benefit the country in some way. We need to stop being fed stories that make us believe that there is no work left to be done, or even if there is, there is a muscular man out there to do it.

Feature Image Credits: The Times of India


Pragati Thapa

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Pahlaj Nihalani, the former chief of the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) is perhaps one of the most popular heads the board has ever had. His two year tenure came to an end this Friday, on August 11, 2017, as he was removed from the position by the decision made by Information and Broadcasting Ministry (I&B ministry). His career as the chief  has been marred with criticism, controversy and feuds with the film fraternity, echoed by film directors and producers as well.

His decisions have always gained traction in terms of media attention and welcomed backlash. Soon after joining office and taking charge, he introduced a ban on 28 swear words, despite their usage being restricted to Adult (A) Certification films.  This rule was followed by the decision to ban all (A) Certification movies from being displayed on television. This pronouncement invited a negative reaction from the audience, with questions of creative freedom being raised. In 2015, he found himself amidst another controversy, this time around a film based on homosexuality, called Unfreedom by Raj Amit Kumar. He publicly disapproved of the excessive nudity displayed in the film  and said that it would “ignite unnatural passions” within the Indian society. In the same year he reduced the duration of kissing scenes from the Hollywood movie Spectre as he found them to be “too long and unnecessary”.  He was again faced with dissent for suggesting 89 cuts in Udta Punjab. Nihalani has also made public statements against films that talk about important social issues, such as Angry Indian Goddesses, Lipstick under my Burkha, Aligarh etc, defending his decisions of restricting their viewership by claiming them to be “too women oriented” and that “homosexuality is not for the youth to watch”.

When we think of cinema, we think of concepts like creativity, art and expression. Interestingly, Nihalani’s decisions as the chief of CBFC have curtailed just that. Unnecessary cuts from movies like Befikre; showcasing instances of public display of affection to clearing movies full of sexual innuendos, objectification of women and sexist jokes like Mastizaade, Kya Kool Hain Hum, and Grand Masti, highlights his hypocrisy on what he deems “appropriate” for the Indian culture which he glorifies, spearheading to uphold and preserve in our society.
At a time when concepts like feminism, gender equality, awareness about sex and sexuality are imperative in the Indian society, his “ban-this-ban-that-ban-all” policy pushed the conversation in the wrong direction and takes an extremely regressive turn. Instead of understanding the importance of the impact of cinema on the public, when expressed in a positive manner,  his approach of completely dismissing and not acknowledging numerous important social issues, one of them being the expression of sexuality, has only forwarded the conservative mindset in the society, and has pushed awareness surrounding these issues under the carpet.

Since the inception of censorship in independent India, CBFC has inculcated very ambiguous three-fold objectives for censorship, (a) the medium of cinema remains responsible and sensitive to the values and standards of society, (b) artistic expression and creative freedom are not unduly curbed, and (c) censorship is responsive to social change. However, neither the I&B Ministry, nor CBFC have yet provided a clear definition of “standards of society” and has been silent on who sets these standards and on what basis. Controversies are bound to surround this issue of censorship when the CBFC starts acting like a watchdog of what it deems are Indian morals.

The former chairperson told the Economic Times newspaper after he was replaced, “Censorship was necessary and doing away with it would mean filmmakers will resort to showing pornography and vulgarity even in normal films…The more you show vulgarity and obscenity in films, more such incidents will increase in society.” He claims that there have been elements working against him in the ministry and within CBFC as his dismissal came early since his tenure was going to end in the coming five months. He hopes the next chairperson works in a direction similar to his and doesn’t give in to “false notions of liberalism propagated by pseudo-progressive elements in the film industry. “

Prasoon Joshi, one of the leading lyricists and screenwriters in the Bollywood film industry, and the winner of the  Padma Shri in 2015 will be taking over as the CBFC chief. He has worked in Rang De Basanti, Taare Zameen Par, Neerja and many other films. Vidya Balan, a leading Bollywood actress actively working towards social causes is also expected to  join CBFC.

With the recruitment of new members known to have a progressive outlook towards the society, a new wave in the Indian cinema can be hoped, that allows for greater and responsible  freedom of expression of art .

Feature Image Credits- Twitter

Bhavya Banerjee

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Sanjay Leela Bhansali was slapped and his set was vandalized by the fringe group Karni Sena, and made the whole nation question if artistic freedom even exists in India…

Based on some floating rumours, members of Karni Sena vandalised the set of upcoming movie Padmavati and attacked crew members and director Sanjay Leela Bhansali at Jaigarh Fort in Jaipur. The reason for the vandalism according to the Karni Sena members is allegly that Bhansali is “distorting historical facts” because apparently Alauldin Khilji and Rani Padmavati have an intimate scene in the movie. This however, was just a rumour and Bhansali and team have gone on record saying that there isn’t such a thing.

It is shocking as Bhansali, who is a National Award Winner and a recipient of the Padma Shri, has to go through the pains of this vandalism because a section felt as if it was their moral duty to stop the “distortion” of the truth. Which brings me to my question: is there always a need for the absolute truth in art?

This is not the first time an incident like this has taken place in Indian cinema – social pressure has jeopardized many movies in the past. A few months back, when Fawad Khan was forced to leave the country and his movie Ae Dil Hai Mushkil was termed “anti-national”. The situation got so bad that the director Karan Johar had to make an apology video because people were boycotting his movie because of their “nationalist” beliefs. Why is Indian politics getting involved with art again and again?

This is also not the first Bhansali movie that has faced a controversy like this. His movie, Goliyon ki Raasleela, Ram-Leela, was scrutinized for using the words raasleela and ramleela in the title. Petitions were filed against the movie by Hindu protesting and the screening was banned in Uttar Pradesh. Kamal Hassan’s film Vishwaroopam faced many controversies initiating a two week ban in Tamil Nadu as well as protests from the Muslim community.

Filmmaker Govind Nihalani says: “The level of intolerance today is much higher. Today, censorship is happening by private groups – everyone wants to see how one has presented a character or story in the name of religion, history, personality, etc.”

Lack of artistic freedom is not just restricted to only cinema. Writers and painters also have their art banned because it is “not suited to the Indian culture.” Whatever Indian culture is, it shouldn’t be taking away someone’s right to express themselves through art.

Image credits: DNA India


Anagha Rakta

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