Bollywood movies have been long known for their outlandish dance numbers and unrealistic plot twists, but in recent times Hindi cinema has been churning out movies with a deeper meaning than “love your parents” (no shade to Kabhi Kushi Kabhie Gham) that actually comment on relevant, relatable societal issues. While the classics have a charm of their own, the transformation of the Indian film industry is hopefully reflective of a burning desire for change within the Indian people — a change that can be facilitated by the discussion sparked by this new generation of “woke” Bollywood movies.
Take Amitabh Bachchan’s most recent, Pink, for example. Pink dared to comment on India’s toxic culture of slut-shaming and general disdain for a woman’s right to her own sexuality. Having quite possibly the most respected Bollywood actor in one of the lead roles contributed to the acceptance of its message, but the film’s relative commercial success hints at a desire among the Indian population to change their treatment of women as well.
Recently in India, citizens have been noticing their society’s systematic mistreatment of rape victims and have taken to the streets to protest this discrimination, specifically after the rape of a 23-year-old college student. Unfortunately, the government has not responded positively to its citizens’ concerns, as prime minister Narendra Modi instead approached the issue of rape with complete ignorance, shelving legislative plans to construct 660 rape crisis centers across India.
Along with the issue of rape, this new wave of woke Bollywood movies has sparked discussion over the Indian government’s blind eye toward and even perpetuation of Punjab’s drug problem through the film Udta Punjab. This movie aimed to address the extent that the heroin epidemic affects the Punjabi population by depicting its very real, crippling impact on the youth of the state from a plethora of socioeconomic levels.
However, despite the fact that about 60 percent of illicit drugs in India are trafficked in Punjab, drug reform was not featured as a major platform for any of the main political candidates during the state’s most recent election as the government plays a direct role in the continuation of the issue for their own profit. In fact, politicians were even suspected of distributing drugs to villages in order to bribe them for votes, showing that while Indian society may be progressing toward recognition of the issue, Indian legislation has another opinion.
The people of India should not be disheartened by their government’s neglect, but instead, use this ignorance to fan their flame and continue to protest for change in their society. Bollywood movies are an important vehicle for the public’s advocacy for social change because of the large audiences they reach and the discussion they inspire, but they are only the beginning of what will hopefully be a revolution for the common people of India against the ignorance of their administration.