Cinema is the reflection of the society and we so have so many evidences of Cinema being inspired by real life characters and events. Not very long ago it was believed that films based on specific subjects attracted limited audience but recent films have changed that. Today’s audience is well acquainted with what goes on behind the scenes and enjoys the alternative reality. Today, there is as much curiosity for the real life stories-Black Friday or Mumbai Meri Jaan as for the fantasies.
A few years ago Jagmohan Mundhra may have had to struggle with Bawandar based on the gang-rape of Sanwari Devi by the thakurs or earlier his film Kamala based on The Indian Express story where a journalist actually purchased a tribal girl, Kamala. The incident evoked sharp social and moral debates, raising the ethical issue of human invasion. Mundhra’s hard-hitting film, Kamala played by Deepti Naval focused on the complications this led into the journalist’s personal life played by Marc Zuber and Shabana Azmi. Mundhra’s another movie Provoked was based on the real – life incident of Kiranjit Alhuwalia who burnt her husband to death in 1989 in response to ten years of profound physical, psychological, and sexual abuse.
Yeh Raaste Hain Pyar Ke inspired by the infamous Nanavati case was about a naval officer who, on learning of his wife’s involvement with his best friend, murdered the friend in cold-blood and then surrendered himself to law. The erring wife was played by the beautiful Leela Naidu. The script added an angle of loneliness that drives the wife to another man to justify the affair but the orthodox audience was not placated and all sympathies were for the husband played by Sunil Dutt.
The lesser known films inspired by real people include Sai Paranjpye’s Deesha based on a villager in the interiors of Maharashtra who spent his entire life digging a well because he was convinced that he would find water or Shyam Benegal’s Samar inspired from an incident in Madhya Pradesh following the installation of a water pump in Dalit basti, and the ensuing upper-caste protest.
Pooja Bhatt’s Tamanna about a eunuch and the social pressures he faces in adopting a girl-child was drawn from the life of a tea-stall owner Tikku, living in the Mahim Causeway, Mumbai. Benegal’s Sardari Begum focused on the life of a thumri singer who suffered a fatal head injury during a communal riot while Gadar – Ek Prem Katha is inspired by the life of Butta Singh, a Hindu who married a Muslim girl. Set in post partition the Muslims are sent across border in the wake of new laws and Butta Singh is separated from his wife and child. Determined to win them back, he slips into Pakistan, and eventually becomes a martyr for his love. The film was originally made as Shaheed-e-Mohabbat by Gurudas Mann.
The bigger the name the greater the curiosity the film aroused. Phoolan Devi sued the filmmaker of Bandit Queen, and it required a great number of accusations, negotiations and pre-conditions before the film finally made it to the theatres. Ditto with Vinay Shukla’s Godmother based on the life of Santokben Jadeja, the feared don of Jamnagar. Raj Kumar Santoshi’s Lajja was inspired by the gang-rape and gruesome murder of Siya Dulari, a 40-year-old dalit woman, by members of the upper-caste. Director Raj Kumar Santoshi was so shaken by the incident that he felt he had to make a statement on the oppression of women. As expected, the film’s release was preceded by various court cases, and the first screening disrupted by violent protests.
There are innumerous examples of movies being inspired from real life incidents like Bombay, Mumbai Meri Jaan, Fashion, Page 3 etc. We can also look forward to forth coming movies that have taken inspiration from real life incidents like Aamir Khan’s Peepli Live, Rajkumar Gupta’s No One killed Jessica based on the Jessica Lall murder case.
In the same vein we can also cite examples where common man took inspiration from movies and fought injustice like Lage Raho Munnabhai which propagated Gandhigiri and inspired many people to fight corruption and injustice through non-voilence. Taare Zameen Par a movie on dyslexic children helped in making the people identify with the problem and deal with it like any other illness. 3 Idiots questioned the education system and also opened the eyes of many parents who were forcing their ambitions on their children. The increasing number of student suicides were something that was beyond any parents imagination and control. 3 Idiots helped in making people understand that how burderned our today’s youth feel due to the high educational competion and parental expectations leading them to end their life.
There have also been incidences of negative influence of movies like mass suicides by many lovers after getting inspired from EK Dujhe Ke Liye or the mass eve teasing and ragging experienced in colleges after getting inspired from movies and movie stars. Children especially likes to immitate whatever they see over the TV and movies and end up with tragedies eg: After getting inspired by Shaktimaan many children tried to jump off their balconies or tried to set them ablaze with the whole belief that Shaktimaan will come and save them.
Films have also inspired the fashion trends like after Maine Pyar Kiya you could see the chudidars, sarees and accessories worn by Bhagyashree getting popular and every girl wanting to don one. Similarly the cap worn by Aamir Khan in Dil Hain Ki Manta Nahi or the ‘FRIENDS’ cap worn by Salman and Bhagyashree in MPK were a rage. The purple saree worn by Madhuri in Hum Aapke Hai Kaun or the Chandni Chudidaars worn by Sridevi in Chandni or the mini skirts worn by Urmila in Rangeela or the DDLJ skirts worn by Kajol were something every woman or girl in India wanted to have in her wardrobe. al
Many customs or games we had forgotten in due course of time came into vogue due to Sooraj Badjatya’s movies. Festivals like ‘Karva Chauth’ and games like ‘Antakshari’ ‘Joote Chupana’ or even the ‘Pillow Passing’ games. ‘Chak De India’ brought back the long neglected national game ‘hockey’ to the fore front and made the Government realise how we had ignored the game for long for Cricket.
Cinema has always been a mirror to the society and society has always immitated the good or bad values of cinema. So come what may inspiration in any form will always translate to art and vice versa. Whether Life immitates Art or Art immitates Life its a circle which compliments eachother. Oscar Wilde once quoted “Life imitates art far more than art imitates Life.”