What does 100 years of Indian cinema mean to us? I’ll say it means that we are celebrating a century of popular culture. One cannot probably imagine what Indian society would be like without the presence of cinema.
Every part of our life -- be it the way we dress up, speak or comb our hair -- has a certain reflection of films we watch. This phenomenon is not restricted just to Bollywood or its Hindi-speaking populace. It’s spread across the country. That’s what’s so great about Indian cinema. It has not only been mirroring us, but also shaping us.
As someone who writes for a living, I’ve noticed how cinema influences a language. The Hindustani parlance, if you may, has gone through remarkable changes over the years all thanks to Hindi films. The phrases people use in their daily life are hugely borrowed from what released in the cinema halls. It’s almost funny how words subconsciously percolate into your personality just because they were heard in a film. It’s as if the writers decide not only an actor’s dialogues, but also the public’s! We influence the way the audience speaks.
This marriage between cinema and language can be traced back to the 1930s, when talkies were blooming and songs were introduced with visuals. But what is worth noting is that the lyricists were smart enough to write simple songs with profound expressions. There was mundane wisdom in their lyrics. Take Ek bangala bane nyara or Har fikr ko dhue mein or Zindagi kaisi hai paheli or Ek din mit jayega maati ke mol…All these songs were deeply philosophical and avoided the religious discourse. A majority of our population was illiterate then and yet could relate to these songs.
Due to these lyrical achievements by faceless songwriters, Hindi cinema could transcend the lingual barrier and enter the national psyche. I come across elderly people from the South who can’t speak Hindi, but fondly sing these songs from an era they refer to as classic. Even in the Parliament, we often see our politicians using lines from ghazals to make a point.
This practice only strengthens our age-old oral tradition and is not a new trend. What Indian cinema has done is continue the rhythm with songs from all genres. Of course, there will be a clash in opinion with respect to what is acceptable and what’s not. But then, an item number is surviving alongside a Sufi track today because the right to express oneself remains uncompromised. To me, that’s something to be proud of.
-- As told to Shakti Shetty