12 movies that hit home with social causes

24th May 2015
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Art imitates life. How wonderful it is to sit back and be transported to another world for a couple of hours. The world we transport to while watching a feature film can be larger than life, or about the rigmarole of everyday life, or depict the heart wrenching stories of the marginalised and abused sections of society. Let’s look at movies in the last decade that have woven a social message in the fabric of storytelling.

P.K (Rajkumar Hirani, 2014)

The movie’s plot is relatively simple — Aamir Khan plays PK, an alien, who comes to Earth and loses the device that is necessary to take him back to his world. In search of the device, Aamir Khan (PK) comes across very many preachers.

A thought provoking movie that aims to remind the audience that the universal message of God is one and how fraud Godmen have tried to commercialize religions to exploit the common man. Taking a comical and objective stance, the movie delivers the social message that there are many elements in the society who have managed to make man forget that, be it any religion — values are not convoluted, and were never meant to be.

Mardaani (Pradeep Sarkar, 2014)

The movie touches upon various social issues while breaking the stereotypes around women, the protagonist (Rani Mukherjee) is an educated and empowered woman who makes no bones about being in a male dominated field of work, and feels absolutely comfortable.

The movie might not have raked in the moolah, but it was a good attempt at representing very important issues – child trafficking and child sex rackets. With hard hitting facts, the movie packs in a social message about just how vulnerable the kids, especially the ones on the street are, and how quickly they are robbed of their innocence by ruthless procurers.

OMG! Oh My God (Umesh Shukla, 2012)

Every now and then comes a movie that makes us snap out of our little bubble, forego slouching, and smell the coffee. No one expected Akshay Kumar to come out with a movie that would disrupt religious sects.

Using the hilarious backdrop of the protagonist’s (Paresh Rawal) decision to sue God, the movie questions everything that we have come to believe in the past couple of years. It exposes the people who have commercialised God and faith, and play with emotions of simple, many times poor, Indians.

Peepli Live (Anusha Rizvi, Mahmood Farooqui, 2010)

An offbeat movie that puts another pressing problem right in the middle of the plot – farmer suicides, government policies, corruption and vote bank politics. The story is set in the village of Peepli, where Natha and Budhia face the threat of losing their land over an unpaid bank loan. Hoping for some respite, they approach a local politician who makes a mockery of them. He suggests they commit suicide since government policy grants monetary assistance to families of those farmers who commit suicide. Add media madness to it. Everyone jumps in to get a piece of the story, while Natha keeps contemplating the suicide.

Our farmers are the most hardworking and yet the most neglected work force of our country. A farmer doesn’t want his child to be a farmer anymore. What a shame for a country that, at one point, boasted of the green and white revolution. If that’s not all, we’ve now come to dissociate the profession of farming with prosperity. The spike in farmer suicides is proof of their poignant condition. The movie also brings to light the fact that just making new policies and schemes does not warrant alleviation of the current state. Sad but true — while a lot is being said about the condition of the farmers, little is being done.

Well Done Abba! (Shyam Benegal, 2009)

Well Done Abba! won the National Award in ‘social cause’ category in the year 2009. The movie is about a driver, Armaan Ali, who takes leave to go looking for a husband for his daughter. What follows is a series of events that turn his leave into a two-months long experience right from someone stealing his ‘well’ to being arrested.

Wrapping in strong social messages, it is a socio-political satire about a common man’s fight for justice against an all-pervasive corrupt system. Corruption has plagued the entire pyramid of our system and the movie puts it across and how citizens have to jump hoops for what is rightfully theirs. The common man is always left at the mercy of individuals who want their palms greased.

3 idiots (Rajkumar Hirani, 2009)

This blockbuster is a lesson on how to create a commercially viable movie that provokes thought as well. The movie has social message wrapped in different layers.

The movie depicts how our education system is fraught with faults. It also shows how parental pressure can sometimes be extreme, and lead a child to attempt ending his/her life. An extremely important message in the movie is that – all any child needs is an opportunity for good education. This is emulated by the protagonist, Rancho, who is the son of a house help and given the opportunity to study. The movie also raises a very important question – is the purpose of education just to be the launch pad for running off to ‘Corporate America’? Rancho, who comes out top of his class, takes the path less travelled, and shows that there are more ways to give back to society and still earn a respectable living.

Taare Zameen Par (Aamir Khan, Amole Gupte, Ram Madhvani, 2007)

The movie could have been a documentary, but it was brilliantly made into a feature film. The script is taut and uses all its characters to depict different kinds of people that make our society.

The movie explores the needs of ‘special’ children, and what the society can do for them. It urges viewers (who could be associated with a differently-abled child) to be patient and empathetic towards someone who needs special care. Everyone individual is gifted and how pursuing their inherent interest will only result in excellence.

Rang De Basanti (Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, 2006)

With accolades and critical acclaim it garnered, the movie is one that everyone knows about.

‘Rang De Basanti’ is probably one of the movies with the largest social impact in terms of the reach. The movie did what many had tried earlier and failed at — waking up the sleeping giant: the youth. Our youth realized the power they had in their hands and this realization prompted a youth mass movement which has only grown since then. The 1999, Jessica Lall murder case had been lying in court gathering dust because of the political influence of the accused, Manu Sharma’s father. After the movie’s release, there was an increase in the youth’s ire, and they were inspired and ready to challenge the system. Since true power lies in the hands of the people, the murder case did finally see the guilty being convicted. Another such massive youth activism was seen in the Priyadarshini Mattoo rape and murder case where similar rallies were organised in India.

Chak De India ( Shimit Amin, 2007)

Shahrukh Khan always makes magic when he shifts gears from his usual candy floss romantic hero image. Some media entities did draw a parallel between the protagonist and the famous athlete Mir Ranjan Negi.

The movie portrays the struggles of an athlete whose reputation is tarnished after a defeat in a hockey match is put on his shoulders. He is a victim of bigotry (due to religious discrimination and the collateral damage that partition did to the mindset of people). The movie deals with different social issues during the entire narrative of the movie – religious bigotry, the legacy of the Partition of India, ethnic and regional prejudice, and sexism in contemporary India through field hockey. The women’s team overcomes all the challenges in its way – gender bias, ego hassles and complicated team dynamics. The movie also lays emphasis on the fact that when it comes to a team, you’re only as strong as the weakest link.

Antardwand (Sushil Rajpal, 2007)

The film won the National Film Award for Best Film on social issues at the 2009 National Awards.

It was only after the award that PVR pictures decided to distribute the movie commercially. The movie was based on groom kidnappings that take place in Bihar. Eligible bachelors are abducted by a bride’s family and forcefully married so that they can avoid paying high dowry to the groom’s family. Groom kidnapping cases registered a surge after a period that marked in the exponential rise in cases of women being mistreated by her in-laws and husband because of their ever growing hunger for monetary gifts from the bride’s family after marriage as well. Dowry is an unfortunate part of Indian weddings that has surprisingly carried on in this day and age. Even educated families indulge in this system, putting a price depending on the standing of the family, dowry is often masked as “gifts”.

Dor (Nagesh Kukunoor, 2006)

A beautiful and heart wrenching story about how two very different women from different parts of the world come together because of an incident that ties their destinies together.

The movie touches upon the pitiful condition of widowed women at the hands of some orthodox sections of society in some pockets of rural India, right from forcing women to adopt a certain outfit of a certain colour, to giving up the even the basic luxuries, like sleeping on a bed. These women have zilch control over their lives and all colour is snatched from them, literally and figuratively. Some of these women are also ‘sold’ to powerful men. The movie makes the audience understand these are very ‘real’ problems and that, while we have progressed as a country, there are people who are being stripped of their basic rights, we are nowhere close to feeling accomplished.

My Brother Nikhil (Onir, 2005)

The movie deals with how family and society react when a family member comes out and says he has AIDS. It’s a journey of how his life takes a sudden turn after his declaration, from being a swimmer with a bright future to a social outcast.

The movies lay emphasis on the stigma society has when it comes to AIDS. Self-stigma and societal-stigma have been the real culprits in the lack of acceptance and free flow of information. Families that have a member who has AIDS are often shunned by society with no support groups to go to. While there are organizations working for the cause and providing help in all their capacity, what we need is a social thread that weaves itself around a family that is already going through a tough time.

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