Films and Society


Dr. Ravi P. Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service

The American film industry is known as Hollywood. Its films, actors, directors are famous all over the world. Hindi films from India are also are appreciated in many countries. Some of its songs for example Aawara Hoon (Being a vagabond) were sung world wide. Copying from the well known American name, the Hindi film industry became known as Bollywood.

There are other language films being produced in India — Bengali, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi etc but none of them can compete with the Hindi films in popularity and money making. However the Bengali film Pather Panchali by Satyajit Raywas a beautiful film that won many awards including the Cannesfilm award for the best feature film in 1956.  It may be mentioned that  just like actors from different countries who aspire to be part of Hollywood films, Indian language counterparts try to jump into acting in Bollywood (Hindi) films.

There are some great films — in fact, classics that were made in USA. One was    My Fair Lady (1964) starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison based on the play Pygmalion. Another unforgettable film was Sound of Music (1965) starring Julie Hepburn. Some of the other well known film personalities of Hollywood are Sean Connery (who died recently), Brad Pitt, Robert de Niro and others. Among female stars, Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Lawrence are popular but perhaps none as popular as Marilyn Monroe (1926-62), who was not only known as  an actress but also as   blonde bombshell.

About half a century back, some Indian film directors and actors occupied an enviable position in society. Some memorable male actors were Dilip Kumar, Dev Anandand Raj Kapoorwhose song Awaara Hoon   became a hit in Russia and some mid eastern countries like Iran. Once I spoke to an Iranian friend to know the factor behind the popularity of Hindi films (without subtitles), in his country. His answer was that many Hindi words were Persian in origin, so understanding the songs and dialogues was not very difficult for Iranian (Persian) people.

Female actors, such as Suraiya, Nargis, Meena Kumari, Madhubala held their own against the male actors of that period. Incidentally all these were Muslim women although the names of some of them were non-Muslim. One non-Muslim popular actress of that period was Vyjayantimala. If I may mention, these artistes were so popular among ordinary citizens, that some girls took on these names; my own younger sister was named Nargis, despite being a Hindu.

Today’s generation enjoys actors such as Amitabh Bachan and Shah Rukh Khan.Both endorse many products and are visible on the social media. The latter is supposed to be the richest actor in the world. Hindi films are popular  even in Pakistan which is our neighbour but with whom India does not enjoy good political and economic relationships. Some popular female stars of today are Hema Malini, Kangana Ranaut, Sridevi (who died two years ago) and others.

Why am I referring to these film industries and some noted actors both male and female? Some of them enter politics and play an important role in society. Their films also bring in substantial foreign exchange which is of a great benefit to India. Many young men and women who are unable to get employment through regular channels find Bollywood a promising avenue. We also see films and film personalities shaping people’s attitudes and lifestyles. There is  no religious divide in the film industry unlike,  as occasionally witnessed, in ordinary society. Is this not a desirable attribute of a secular society like India? These films are not only entertaining, but generally promote kindness, toleration and a more humane society.

After the recent religious murders in a cathedral in Nice France, we have witnessed large number of protests against the French President Emmanuel Macron in several countries. Fortunately, very few demonstrators have occurred in India. The President has stated that while he respects the views of Muslims regarding not showing cartoons of Prophet Muhammad, violence that has erupted, cannot be accepted.

Films are popular all over the world even in these days of TV and social media. While some films do show violence, they also promote healthy attitudes and harmony as indicated above. They also generate employment opportunities for large number of people as artists, directors, technicians and song writers. Let us applaud Hollywood, Bollywood and other film industries.


Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University. His new book, A Garland of Ideas—Gandhian, Religious, Educational, Environmental was published recently in Delhi.


This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 9 Nov 2020.

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