The 1970s in India were a time of social and political unrest. The hopes and aspirations for the nation that had marked the moment of independence in 1947 appeared unfulfilled, and the Indian state seemed to be caught in a crisis of legitimacy. In 1975, the Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared the Emergency and suspended civil liberties. Bollywood cinema reflected these developments and anxieties. The film Deewar (1975) [Wall] introduced the theme of the “Angry Young Man” to India, the figure who took the law into his own hands to avenge personal humiliation and social injustice at the hands of a corrupt political order and uncaring society.
A movement of parallel cinema, or “art films,” that had taken root earlier flourished. Art films were self-consciously opposed to Bollywood in their choice of themes and conventions. Bhumika (1977) [Earth], the story of the struggles of an actress, presented a critique of gender and caste politics, the oppressiveness of family structures, and hypocritical social attitudes. However, the decade also saw a blockbuster teenage romance, Bobby (1973). Much of 1980s Bollywood was uninspired fare. Toward the end of the decade, an exhaustion with formulaic plots centered on violence and revenge led to a revival of romantic stories, with a new emphasis on family, community, and wholesome values.
Text by Professor Rohit Chopra, Department of Communication, SCU