Updated: Aug 3
The mere word Bollywood brings a smile on our faces. The exotic locations, weddings, beautiful costumes, makeup and what not. All of these describe Bollywood and its impact on everyone’s life. Bollywood primarily incorporates a great deal of genres, and all of them do reasonable jobs at the box office. But the one genre this article will address is the 'Political Cinema'. Political cinema basically is a genre that portrays current or historical events or social conditions in a partisan way in order to inform or to agitate the spectator.
In a country mired by scams, corruption and exploitative politics; the genre is constantly relevant. Gone are the days when movies were meant only for entertainment. And those who want to unfurl political oriented content have realised that one of the most powerful mediums where the visual elements and political message interact is cinema. A generation which is pretty much all the time oblivious to the surroundings; political cinema has become the only source for many of us in understanding our own country's politics and historical political events. The filmmakers of today know this reality and have systematically attempted to create political interest among the youngsters. In popular box office hits like - Rajneeti and Yuva, the popular narrative that has dominated the influx of political messages is intrinsically linked to the youth. According to a survey of The Centre for The Study of Developing; " eight out of ten teenagers believe films to be veracious." It means a majority of youngsters do believe movies to be true to life and depend upon them for knowing our political and social history. Now there are two questions that prick my mind; First, when there is so much dependency regarding the understanding of political history on the cinema, who guarantees the legitimacy of these films? and second, why at the very first place, young lads rely on cinema for their country's own history?
Answering the authentic framework of the political oriented films; the word 'authentic' generally means "real or genuine" and not counterfeit, as applied to dramatic narrative feature films. The notion that representation of a person or a culture in a fictional film (a made up story) should be 'authentic' is a paradox. As said by Walter Benjamin, " humanity's ability to produce facsimiles of artwork inevitably eroded the distinction between the genuine and the imitation, further obscuring our access to the real things." After all, works of fiction may draw from real life but in the end they are mere movies. And 'movies' mean manipulation, plain and simple. Still a majority of youngsters find themselves believing that movies have become a medium we most commonly associate with factual accuracy. Because most people will never actually know, or even meet, the men and women who led them. Therefore, the generation is inevitably reliant upon mediated constructions, i.e. films, to achieve some meaningful knowledge of history without realising that in this environment of media manipulation, authenticity is impossible because everything is a state- managed illusion.
Now coming down to the second question; why at the very first place, teenagers rely on cinema for their country's own history? The explanation of this one is quite obvious. Because the content in our school textbooks is reformed and reshaped. The model textbooks published in India i.e. NCERTs by the Council for adoption by school systems have generated controversies over the years.The controversies revolve around allegations of a "saffronized" rewriting of Indian history. Allegations of historical revisionism with a Hindu nationalist agenda arose several times: from 1977 to 1980 under the Janata Party government, and again from 1998 to 2004 and from 2014 to 2019. The books were said to be "anti-Indian and anti-national" in content and "prejudicial to the study of history." The main issues seemed to be that they were not sufficiently critical of certain Muslim invaders during the medieval period. In 2012, the organisation was accused of attempting to embarrass the government by including 'offensive' cartoons in its textbooks, as a consequence we know that history taught in school curriculums is very much propaganda driven as the historical narrative taught in schools must comply with social engineering. Therefore, NCERT is not autonomous. It is mostly controlled by the government. According to a report of senior historian Harbans Mukhiya (2015)," NCERT teaches only 1/8th of Indian history and culture, and even then, 80% of it is biassed." Much of this reworking or I should say 'distortion' of history was done during Indira Gandhi's regime. Such reworkings are common all over the world. British children learn very little about the atrocities of colonial rule and American children learn very little about how white Europeans are not originally inhabitants of America. Likewise, most of the school books have no traces of the Indo-sino war, where India had a shameful defeat. We know that history always has a contemporary relevance and therefore keeps evolving as it conceptualises, contextualises and historicism in order to explain certain aspects of either the recent past or provides a historical understanding of current trends and developments, but here there is utter contempt of history and its facts; all that matters is how brazenly illiterate politicians can dictate to academics and how comfortable the academics are with diktats.
Courtesy: ED Times
My Name is Priyanka and I am a first year political science student at Hindu College, University of Delhi. I enjoy reading, writing, and conducting research. Politics and cinema are two things that I am usually drawn to, so this article is a subtle blend of the two. I hope the reader enjoys it.