Cinema and society are interrelated; this affiliation extends further than the boundaries of entertainment and diversion. One of the most vibrant, admired and influential film industries in the world is the Hindi Film Industry, popularly recognised as Bollywood. It is known for its diversity and uniqueness, the journey of Hindi cinema from the early 19th century to the present times is a fascinating story of Indian culture, history and tradition. Regardless of its diverse ethos, popular fan following and a well established film industry; Hindi films have often been accused of being unrealistic and escapist.
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In the following thesis, I have proposed that recent Hindi films have undergone a transition and have started to challenge stereotypes and conventions. With the help of relevant case studies I have tried to authenticate the assumption that social, political and economical changes have facilitated the rise of a new kind of cinema that represents Hindi cinema as serious cinema. Through this study I have also suggested that recent films are beginning to discuss various processes that occur at a more local and sub-national level with bigger processes that occur at national and transnational levels.
Evidently the magical and colourful world of Bollywood still has a lot to offer. INTRODUCTION ‘‘The cinema is widely considered a microcosm of the social, political, economic, and cultural life of a nation. It is the contested site where meanings are negotiated, traditions made and remade, identities affirmed or rejected. ’’ Sumita S. Chakravarty Indian cinema has been one of the world’s largest film industries, entertaining its wide audience with over 800 films each year. In the path of its century long history it has transformed the myths, traditions and the legends of India into the modernity of the motion pictures.
Indian cinema is diverse in its production bases, regionalism and language. It has always been a popular, commercial cinema of immense cultural importance both within India and outside. Initiatives such as the exhibition of motion picture in playgrounds and public halls by photographers such as Save Dada in 1890s; Dhundiraj Govind Phalke’s production of the very first indigenous feature film Raja Harishchandra in 1913; the establishment of cinema houses and production companies such as Ephinstone Bioscope Company by Jamshedjee Madan
and the production of the first Indian talkie Alam Ara in 1931 are some of the very first endeavours that helped in establishing a strong foundation for Indian cinema. Indian films have persistently made their presence felt in the global film market however despite of its global popularity and a well established industry, time and again mainstream Hindi cinema has been accused of being non-realistic and escapist, on some occasions it has also been considered as non-serious cinema.
In the recent decades, there have been surprising notions and trends that have developed regarding Indian cinema. Before we discuss these notions and trends, we first need to acquire an accurate idea of the kind of cinema that will represent an aspect of Indian cinema in this thesis. It is a known fact that India produces over 800 films each year, however the fact remains that there are various film-producing centres in India, that produce films in different languages for their local audiences and it is these film producing centres that contribute to this total figure.
The most prominent regional industries are the Tamil film industry (based in Chennai); the Kannada film industry (based in Bangalore); the Marathi film industry (based in Mumbai and surrounding cities); the Bhojpuri film industry (based in eastern Indian states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh); the Punjabi film industry (based in Punjab); the Bengali film industry (based in Kolkata) and the Hindi film industry, popularly known as Bollywood primarily based in the financial capital of India, Mumbai.
I shall be focusing on the Hindi film industry to understand the various changes initiated by recent Hindi films that present it as an advocate of serious cinema and are trying to challenge established conventions and norms. Recent films such as Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi (2005), Omkara (2006), Gulaal (2009) and Ishiqiya (2010) have experimented with popular themes and conventions. These films to an extent are striving for a more realistic depiction of India in cinema, hence brining something new for the audience.
I also aim to study the influence of culture, politics and society on mainstream Hindi cinema in recent years, and in order to have a better understanding of these alterations, the critical analysis of case studies that have the nationalist, socio-cultural, political and feminist themes shall be helpful. In the first chapter I shall investigate and analyse the current situation of the Hindi cinema and explore recent developments in mainstream cinema that presents it as a representative of serious cinema. We shall also investigate the factors that have facilitated these transitions.
The next three chapters are case studies that aim at exploring how certain notions such as that of nationalism, sub-nationalism and regionalism have changed in the last decade. In these chapters we shall also investigate changing trends such as the changing imagery of the hero and villain, and comprehend issues that have helped in negotiating alterations such as representation of women in recent cinema. In the conclusion I shall highlight the various transitions, the contributing factors and try to establish the future of mainstream Hindi cinema as serious cinema based on the studies of prominent theorists.