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From Black & White to Rainbows: Influence of Bollywood on Indian Society

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at MUJ chapter.

When I hear the word Bollywood, the first image that appears before my eyes is the aura of our veteran actors and actresses, followed by the dramatic themes, groovy music, and the Indian serenity of the 1900s.

Bollywood has been an enormous source of entertainment for the public. Dadasaheb Phalke is regarded as the Father of Indian Cinema. In 1913, Raja Harishchandra, India’s first feature film paved the way for what was followed by, the boundless success of Bollywood. Earlier themes of Indian cinema were set to explore the intricacies of the life of a common man in colonized India. Other recurring themes were history and mythology.

The film industry witnessed a shift post-independence. In the 1950s, the uprise of new Indian filmmakers introduced us to their remarkable storytelling techniques and how poetry could be weaved into visual art. A decade later, action versus romance, each with elements of comedy and music became a sellable genre. Cut to the 1980s and early 1990s, Bollywood films were ruling the box office with their relatable and youthful characters, vibrant costumes, and captivating music. From the late 1990s to the 2000s, Indian cinema began to experiment across genres, releasing films that touched upon all the roads to an Indian heart. There was action, romance, patriotism, family drama, and comedy.

Films are an integral part of everyday life for the Indian public. Not only as a source of entertainment but also as a media of representation. In today’s age, Bollywood has made several attempts to target taboos plaguing our society. There has been a consistent effort to move the public focus to problems that tend to remain unaddressed. These films not only raise awareness about these issues but also challenge the precipitating factors. Social issues, such as access to education, discrimination, patriarchy, gender and sexuality, domestic violence, and poverty among others have been acknowledged through them. In doing so, these films have also promoted Indian culture and values to the world which are leading to the current reforms in modern India.

Bollywood has been a mirror to the state of the audience and our society at large at any given moment. Issues that seep through the layers of our country have been a constant concern in the eyes of filmmakers. Conversations and amendments that are provoked through these films often go undetermined. Spanning decades, Bollywood has attempted to adapt to the transformations India witnessed as a developing country. Indian films are a reflection of their audience.

The influence of Bollywood on Indian society goes a mile beyond the mere transition to colors. Regardless of the innumerable transitions Indian filmmaking has undergone, one thing that remains unchanged is how Bollywood continues to be a reflection of Indian society and culture.

Riya Mitra is currently a clinical psychology postgraduate student. She loves to read and research in the realms of mood disorders, learning disabilities, trauma and grief in young adults and the socio-cognitive approach to psychology. She is passionate about mental health advancement and inspiring a change in the manner we perceive mental illness and psychological intervention.