The Times They’re A-Changing

As we get older one of our favourite topics of conversation is the “lack” of moral values among our children and grand children and in general society in particular. We bemoan the fact that they seem to have lost touch with what is important in their lives and have developed a totally new set of norms. This subject has probably been discussed over centuries by the elders of every generation!

Is this really true today?

Are we really becoming “bad “?

Has the line between a hero and a villain been eroded in society, as it seems to have happened in movies in general?

Films are a mirror to the prevalent societal standards and ethos of the young of any culture. They reflect what is happening around you and in many cases they seem to portend and foretell the change in the norms and moral values of a generation. Bollywood films are also a part of this whole process and for many they are symbols of our culture and ethnicity. Today, as always they mirror the thought and emotions of the younger generation, and they occasionally reflect the angst and apprehensions of the older generation.Compare the beautiful Raj Kapoor film  “Chori Chori” with “Salaam Namaste “ – both were romances but there was a world of differences in the evolution and continuation of the love-story.

Chori Chori

Moral values or the benchmarks of morality have changed as the times change. This is the constant truth of life. Change is constant, and ever-prevalent, and a change in how you perceive what is right or wrong is also evident as you grow older and the circumstances around you change.

All these philosophical concepts – are all leading up to our basic premise – do Bollywood films reflect the changing morality norms of today. Do they echo what is happening around us – or are they the forerunners of the change.

Romance and Marriage:

Kya Kehna

Live in relationships, romances between people with uncharacteristic age gaps, babies before signing on the dotted line, divorces and separations  – there have been many films which have been based on these subjects. Cheeni Kum, Salaam Namaste and Kya Kehna were a few of those films. Band Baaja Baraat this year showed the hero and heroine having an overnight tryst and yet go on with their daily lives without making it into monumental emotional hang-up. In Ishqiya, the very sensual and free-spirited Vidya  Balan happily sleeps with both the heroes and plays one against the other with no guilty qualms.

The world around us accepts these films with equanimity because that is what is Salaam Namastehappening in their real lives. Is it right or wrong? Now that is a question which has

different connotation for each individual, and frankly there is no correct answer for this.

Villains or Virtuous Idols:

In the movie Race –everyone had shades of grey within their characterisations. After a little while the line between the good guys and the bad guys seemed to have disappeared. In Dhoom – you sympathised more with the “villain” cause he was the better looking guy and such a charmer. Earlier Pran and Amrish Puri had perfected the roles of villains and their entry on the scene was greeted with boos and catcalls. Today, unless you know the story you are not too sure as to who is the “good ”  guy. Presently, as we watch the success of films such as Kaminey and Dabangg, where the heroes broke more laws than our politicians and yet we cheered them, we begin to wonder about what is “immoral ” and where does the good separate from the bad.

Once again, this is a manifestation of the truth around you. The line between black and white no longer exists. There is a predominance of the colour grey – after all no one is truly only good or black. What is however unfortunate is our acceptance of the evil among mankind without batting an eyelid. We no longer condemn it, we seem to accept it say – sab chalta hai. It is this equanimity that bothers us. Surely we cannot allow society to become criminal and malicious without raising a red flag and fighting it.

Ambience and Trends:

Madhuri's famous saree in Hum Aapke Hain Kaun

Clothes are always the emblems and symbols of civilization. The strappy blouses, the sexy clinging sarees, jeans which seem to have been moulded around the actor’s bodies – these are the acceptable norms today. Did they come first or did the youth first adopt them and then the costume designers in the films follow suit?  For decades clothing stores have sold clothes which are imitations of what was worn by the heroine of a particular film. Madhuri Dixit’s purple saree in Hum Aapke Hain Kaun has been the largest selling sari design of all time- according to one fashion wag. You may not like it, the clothes may offend your sensibilities, but they are all –pervasive and you cannot ignore them or bypass them

So we are back to our original question. Are our films highlighting an erosion of moral values or are they just showing us life as it really is?

Have moral values just gone down the drain, or is it just a change in perception of what is right or wrong?

Heroes and villains are no longer two separate entities, have we have learnt to accept the fact that all of us have shades of both within us, and has Bollywood  finally begun to display this reality?

We have no answer to this question – since, as we said earlier, there are no “correct” answers.

But do ponder over this undeniable truth – The Times They’re a-changing – whether for the good or for the bad – you have to decide for yourself.

Further Reading:

Movies with a message – they hope to change the attitudes and perceptions of the audience

Can cinema be used as a medium for social reform?

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