All the bad lessons movies teach us

Published: November 5, 2010

Do films like Dabangg promote the values we want to see in society?

Amidst a plethora of job applications, I decided to take a break and treat myself to a no-brainer movie.

It was not much of an endeavor to pick a Bollywood movie for the purpose. I found myself playing Dabangg on my DVD and what a treat it was.

Despite taking a break of a couple of years from Bollywood, to my utter amusement, I discovered that Bollywood movies have not changed much.

The story line of most movies is the same, where a man is either a gangster or a corrupt official with his own sense of justice and his own way of accomplishing it. It brought back memories of Gangster, Khal Nayak and the like. The winning formula of such stories is to base it on the life of a gangster or rebel with no sense of respect for law. This gains brownie points among the fan-followers of such reel heroes, who are not only from the uneducated but also the educated class, who then copy the attitude and persona these reel-heroes portray in the screen in real life situations.

Corruption, justice and gaalis – now that’s entertainment

It has always intrigued me as to how these movies are supposed to positively influence our masses and after watching Dabangg I could not resist the urge to pen my thoughts. One of the most disturbing aspects was the foul language used in the movie. Does this mass media ‘cinema’ want to show that abusive language is somehow cool? But the worst was yet to come. I wonder as to how they even come up with such bizarre plots where the “hero” is a bad guy in this movie.

Chulbul Pandey (Salman Khan) is shown as a corrupt policeman, satisfying his conscience with his own sense of justice. If any readers had the misfortune to go through this torture, they would not have missed especially one baloney scene where Pandey pardons a criminal just because he has a girlfriend. So much for art and quality entertainment.

Why does it matter after all?

Bollywood movies have a huge market in Pakistan and majority of our people depend on these movies for entertainment. However, such gibberish movies are quite unhealthy for our society; let me try to clarify why.

To quote one example, tobacco sales have been proven to have shot up after people watched war movies showing physically fit men smoking cigarettes while making crucial decisions.  Many a time, producers and directors also put the use of drugs into their movies to make them enjoyable or “cool.” It didn’t matter that they were corrupting and manipulating the masses without even knowing it-or did they?

Similarly, by showing that somehow rebels and criminals are “cool” as long as they satisfy certain standards of “good,” the cinema is indirectly promoting and encouraging the mafia culture. The entire picture is flawed to begin with, because it preaches that as the system has failed to provide for everyone, unjust means of attaining your goals as long as they serve your ends is “cool”. Instead of correcting the overall system, one can join them and then serve his ‘own’ sense of justice by hook or crook. Is this the message we want to give out to our people?

Setting such examples is unhealthy socially, economically and politically. Small mafia groups and drug lords have strong roots in many parts of Pakistan and the situation becomes worse when the media portrays such acts as “cool” and such people to be heroes.

Lights, camera… socialization

There is no denying that poverty, illiteracy and unemployment should be factored into this discourse, but cinema has long hidden in the shadows and needs to acknowledge its share of blame. Such movies have a destructive impact on our society, especially when the majority of the audience consists of illiterate and young people, who are highly impressionable. These people are highly influenced by this mass media and try to imitate such acts in real life. Such movies influence impressionable minds, as people act and dress as they see and are incapable of separating the wheat from the chaff.

Movies have now been around for more than a century and they will continue to impact us and future generations. The purpose of cinema should be to entertain, educate and benefit its audience, rather than defining universal wrongs as okay. People watch movies to break from the monotony of their routine life and it should have a good influence on them.  It can aid visual learning by imparting education and quality entertainment by depicting the realities of life and showing the evils of society to make people understand life better.


Aismab Asif

A graduate of LUMS and Cardiff University who is interested in the social, political and cultural environment of Pakistan.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.