Bollywood’s take on corruption differs across various time zones. Just as the society has evolved, so has the approach taken by Bollywood on depicting and tackling corruption changed over the past few decades.
In the black and white era of Gandhian simplicity, it was often more about the bad guys being urban gentlemen and the good guys being rural urchins. Movies like ‘Do Bigha Zameen’ (1953), ‘Jagte Raho’ (1956) and ‘Parakh’ (1960) readily come to one’s mind.
We have also had movies where the lead cast suffered in dignified silence. The audience was often left with a feeling of disgust towards all those who were shown as corrupt. Movies like ‘Satyakam’ (1969) left us with a fond hope that things would somehow improve in the future.
Then came the angry-young-man phase. Here, we had the revenge theme. Muscular power ruled and the law of the land took a back seat. The hero, whether single-handedly or along with his buddies, went about killing the corrupt ones with gay abandon. Movies like ‘Deewar’ (1975), ‘Ardha Satya’ (1983), ‘Andha Kanoon’ (1983), ‘Shool’ (1999), ‘Rang De Basanti’ (2006) and ‘Rajneeti’, (2010) typified the violent kind of response to the scourge of corruption.
Yet another genre in the corruption-related movies churned out by our Dream Merchants is that of comedy. The script presents corrupt practices laced with a liberal dose of humour. The underlying message is serious, but the packaging is satirical. Over time, this mode appears to be becoming more popular.
Here are some of the movies which have successfully attempted to comment upon the issue of corruption in a humorous manner.
Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron
A great spoof on the unholy nexus between politicians, builders and media people, with great performances by Naseeruddin Shah and Ravi Baswani.The climax scene which is a rip-roaring mix up of vignettes from Mahabharata and Mughal-e-Azam is a must watch for all cinema lovers. In an irony of fate, both the main protagonists end up going to jail for a crime they merely reported but never committed.
Lage Raho, Munna Bhai
By re-packaging the teachings of Mahatma Gandhi and interpreting them to suit the present context, the movie gave an effective anti-dote to corrupt practices. Property sharks, blind faith, dating do’s and don’ts, depression arising out of failure – all get treated head-on by the ultimate virtue – truthfulness.
Khosla Ka Ghosla
How property sharks operate and how a simple family can tackle such issues was brought home in a light-hearted manner in this movie. As a side benefit, the incident of property grabbing brings all the family members emotionally closer to each other.
Welcome to Sajjanpur
Shyam Benegal is renowned for having exposed oppression and corruption of different kinds in his earlier works during the ‘parallel cinema’ wave. ‘Ankur’ (1974), ‘Nishant’ (1975), ‘Manthan’ (1976) and ‘Bhumika’ (1977) etc left us stirred and shaken up in the earlier years. All these were very intense and serious movies. In the recent past, he has effectively used satire to convey a similar message. A remarkable transformation!
In ‘Welcome to Sajjanpur’, romance blossoms against the backdrop of corrupt politicians and hapless administrators. How the honest ones get to win in the end gives out a clear message as to how the ordinary citizen can indeed make a difference.
Well Done, Abba
How do you handle rampant corruption which makes a mockery of the benefit schemes rolled out by the government? A father-daughter duo, after having failed to get a well dug up with the aid of government funds, report to the police that their non-existent well has been ‘stolen’! What ensues is sheer hilarity. Upcoming state assembly elections ensure the complaint gets heard and acted upon.
Do Dooni Chaar
The movie was basically a hilarious take on the ambition of an ordinary middle class family to somehow upgrade to a four-wheeler. In a crucial episode, the hero, a teacher with modest means, endears himself to us by refusing to accept a bribe to declare an otherwise failing student successful.
Chala Musaddi Office Office
What does a person do when an inefficient and corrupt system declares him dead on government records?! An amusing story of how the hapless person goes about knocking the doors of justice to get his pension and identity restored.
The nexus between crime and politics was etched out rather well in this movie. To fix mundane problems in a locality – power, water, roads, sewage, et al – a ghost decides to contest an election!
One admires Bollywood for several facets of its collective character. Other than the ability to handle a serious issue like corruption in a lighter vein, it also has the capacity to laugh at itself. Movies like ‘Rang Birangi’ and ‘Om Shanti Om’ are proof enough.
Bollywood is also secular. It does not matter which religion you believe in – meritocracy rules. Look at the credits of any movie and you would notice the diversity of faiths amongst those who have contributed towards making the movie.
Taking Corruption Head-on!
In most of these movies, the basic premise seems to be that an ordinary citizen can also make a difference to the system. If he/she refuses to pay for services which are his/her right, a change can start happening. Also, there is a strong need to clean up our political system. On this hope, we continue to live!