Social, family themes dominate Indian films

June 24th, 2008 - 12:45 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Taare Zameen Par
By Jivraj Burman
Mumbai, June 24 (IANS) Unbelievable but true - Indian filmmakers, criticised for promoting ills like smoking and violence through their films, actually churn out more movies endorsing social and family values than other genres. Of the 1,146 movies made last year, a whopping 870 were ’social movies’ - meaning basically clean fare meant for family viewing. All might not have taken up burning social issues, but by definition of the genre, they have extolled traditional Indian values.

Overzealous social activists may see many evils in Bollywood films, but according to the information and broadcasting ministry’s own admission based on the movies certified by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC), Mumbai’s tinsel town makes the highest number of social genre films.

Almost half its total annual production is directed towards the family audience - movies that can be watched by all, irrespective of age and gender. Such films produced last year include “Ta Ra Rum Pum”, “Taare Zameen Par” and “Namastey London” - all telling different stories but meant for family viewing.

Despite an increasing young movie-going population, family audiences still constitute 60 percent of India’s cine-goers. Keeping this in mind, most filmmakers consciously attempt to cater to family tastes with varying degrees of success.

“When we make films, we borrow heavily from society. The fabric of Indian society is so closely structured that everything one does makes an immediate impact on the other,” says actor-director Anant Mahadevan.

“The films only reflect the interplay of emotions the impact brings forth. Even if I make a suspense film, there is bound to be some reflection of society. So you can’t see a suspense film, an action film or a thriller in isolation,” Mahadevan, who directed films like “Dil Vil Pyar Vyar” and “Dil Maange More”, told IANS.

The CBFC certified a total of 3,700 movies for screening in India last year. Apart from the 1,146 feature-length Indian movies, it cleared 361 foreign features, 313 foreign short films and 1,873 short ones from India.

Interestingly, as many as 2,575 received the ‘U’ certificate while only 663 got ‘UA’ and 462 were categorized as ‘A’ films.

Among the Indian movies, the CBFC accorded ‘U’ certificate to 629 movies, ‘UA’ to 310 and ‘A’ to 207.

However, producer Pahlaj Nihalani says that the definition of social films has changed over the years.

“There will be few takers today if we make the kind of social films our predecessors made in the 196os. In these days of stiff competition, we will have to go by the market trend. Even when making a family drama, some amount of masala needs to be added to make the film audience-friendly,” he said.

Mahadevan echoed his views. “The films we make today look different from those in the past because our social values are changing.”

According to an information and broadcasting ministry report, India made only 64 movies based on crime last year and only 44 were action flicks.

Of these much-criticised action movies, almost half were produced in the south while Bollywood showed its predilection only for thrillers and comedies. It made over 35 thrillers and 23 comedies in 2007.

“The films we make are intrinsically on triumph of good over evil. How one narrates it makes one film different from the other. Conflict is the key word. Only the depiction varies from film to film,” explained producer Mukesh Bhatt, whose latest movie “Jannat” is currently doing good business.

Though in previous years Bollywood had produced quite a few patriotic films like “Border”, “Gaddar, Ek Prem Katha”, “Sarfarosh”, “Rang De Basanti” and “Swades”, it produced none last year.

Except one in Kannada, Indian filmmakers avoided this genre.

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