There’s a long list of subjects that our nation is touchy towards, so much so that I don’t even know where to begin. To address these issues, let alone dealing with them, there has to be awareness, which is where films come in. It is only of late perhaps, that filmmakers have realised the power they hold in bringing about change. A good film, coupled with the nation’s favourite stars can educate the crowd like no other pravachan, advertisement or documentary can.
Among the pile of the atrociously redundant romantic comedies, Bollywood does churn out films addressing social concerns. Although with a lot of snags (*ahem* CBFC). From lesser spoken issues like erectile dysfunction in Shubh Mangal Saavdhaan, to the reinforcing of the Swachh Bharat campaign in Akshay Kumar’s Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, Bollywood does try. Acknowledging these brave attempts of filmmakers to rise above the ordinary once in a while and say something outrageous, we look at those who did so, and succeeded.
Can’t call Udta Punjab (2016) the only film addressing drugs, but perhaps one of the few addressing drugs as an issue. The film starred an ensemble cast of Shahid Kapoor, Kareena Kapoor Khan, Alia Bhatt, and Diljit Dosanjh. It addressed the concerns of drug abuse by the youth population in Punjab and the various conspiracies surrounding it. The makers of this film were braced before meeting the then CBFC chief Pahlaj Nihalani in the theatre hall, as it had many scenes objectionable by the sanskar endorser. The film was asked to make a total of 89 cuts by the CBFC, however, Bombay High Court acknowledged the importance of the film, and let it through with a clean chit, and just one cut from the screenplay. The bold film went on to win many awards in various categories. A few others of the kind were Saif Ali Khan’s Go Goa Gone (2013), and even Kalki Koechlin’s Shaitan (2011) but they failed to reach wider audiences.
Sex and all that comes with it
You even read this subtitle in a negative light, didn’t you? You must be expecting names of emotionally jarring films in this list, right? Well, not all films here are that sad though. Ayushmann Khurrana’s Shubh Mangal Saavdhan is making a lot of noise over erectile dysfunction – without really saying it. The film actually passed and got a U/A certificate and is receiving decent reviews. The film’s producer Aanand L Rai deems it as his responsibility to bring forward such issues. “I come from a typical middle-class family,” he says. “My audience and I are both middle class. We’ve always seen the middle class as conservative but that has changed.” Rai believes that audiences have now overcome the fear that western influences, especially their more open attitude towards sex, will dilute Indian culture and morality. “We have our own identity,” he says. “We aren’t afraid.”
Another Ayushmann Khurrana film that makes the list is Vicky Donor (2012). Although comically, the film is actually trying to say there is nothing wrong about sperm donation, as it helps a couple get the greatest gift they can, a child. Of course, the film was overlooked as another comedy film, but things like that need to be said. The Deol brothers too are onto something similar. Their upcoming film Poster Boys tells the story of three men whose lives change after being humiliated and ostracised upon appearing on a vasectomy poster.
Another film that deserves a mention here is one that is perhaps forgotten. Akshay Kumar and John Abraham formed the Desi Boyz (2011) who turn into male escorts upon losing their jobs. The film boldly went out of their way to actually suggest that providing sexual pleasure to someone (who may or may not get it otherwise) also is a noble deed. Although their characters don’t indulge in sex, only stripping, the message is still received.
If you recently watched Lipstick Under My Burkha, you’ll know the film wreaked havoc among anyone who disagrees with feminism. And that’s what the film intended. The film had everything a backward man would be appalled with. And that was the plan. Ratna Pathak Shah and Konkana Sen Sharma along with a few newbies took the box office by storm upon finally being cleared. The film showed women abusing cigarettes, sex, and everything that’s unconventional for a woman. The film was praised by many eminent people and was adored by the crowds for its bold scenes.
These are the films which actually stepped out of their way to say the unspeakable and succeeded. For us, these films might be just another film that was kinda serious and all, but their contribution silently, in its own way, mattered a lot.