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What are GST, demonetisation, Swachh Bharat doing in films? Inspiring stories, that’s what!

The Bollywood film Toilet: Ek Prem Katha spread the spirit of Swachh Bharat more effectively than any sarkari campaign could. Other government policies are also finding their space on the silver screen. We ask industry insiders to analyse the trend.

bollywood Updated: Nov 27, 2017 16:20 IST
Juhi Chakraborty
Juhi Chakraborty
A still from the film Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, whose plot was aligned with the message of the Swachh Bharat campaign.

Politics has frequently been the subject of films in India — that includes mainstream Bollywood films — but an interesting new trend is the way specific government policies, e.g. GST, Swachh Bharat Abhiyan, demonetisation etc, are now finding their moment on the silver screen.

The film Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, a love story starring Akshay Kumar and Bhumi Pednekar, spread the spirit of Swachh Bharat perhaps more effectively than any government campaign could. Tamil star Vijay’s action thriller Mersal (meaning ‘shocking’) has a reference to GST (Goods and Services Tax). Earlier this year, the Bengali movie Shunyota (meaning ‘emptiness’), directed by Suvendu Ghosh, was based on the impact of demonetisation, a subject that also inspired the Malayalam film Puthan Panam (meaning ‘new money’), starring Mammootty.

A still from Vijay’s Tamil film Mersal, which has a reference to GST (Goods and Services Tax).
‘Indirectly, through films, I am trying to convey a message along with entertaining the public’ — Shree Narayan Singh, filmmaker

Filmmaker Shree Narayan Singh, who helmed Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, feels that it is important to make such films as they help people to understand the policies better. “Of course, it is important as there has to be a general awareness among people as a whole. Indirectly, through films, I am trying to convey a message along with entertaining the public,” says the filmmaker.

After directing Toilet: Ek Prem Katha, filmmaker Shree Narayan Singh is gearing up to helm Batti Gul Meter Chalu, which is about the escalating electricity tariffs in the country. ( Ganesh Lad/ Fotocorp )

Singh is also on board to direct Batti Gul Meter Chalu, a film about a common man’s fight against power distribution companies, an issue plaguing every moderate income household in the country today. The movie will see actor Shahid Kapoor in the lead role. “The aim is that rather than being preachy, I want to create a general consciousness and help the common man to understand the dark reality of what one faces from service providers,” Singh says.

Actor Pankaj Tripathi, who starred in the recent release Newton, a film about conducting polls in a Naxalite-dominated tribal area in Chattisgarh, believes that directors should not shy away from showing the good, the bad, and the ugly side of the government, because cinema is more than just a means of entertainment and movies must raise questions on current affairs. “I support the making of such films,” says Tripathi. “Ultimately, cinema should reflect society. Through films, we can talk about social reforms; we can make satires on the system.”

Bollywood actor Pankaj Tripathi , who has starred in Newton, believes that it is important for cinema to reflect society and talk about government policies. ( Waseem Gashroo/HT Photo )
‘Ultimately, cinema should reflect society. Through films, we can talk about social reforms; we can make satires on the system’ — Pankaj Tripathi, actor

Tripathi further says that it is the responsibility of films to question government policies. “If films are made in support of government policies, like we saw with Toilet : Ek Prem Katha, it is great; and if [a film] is against some policy, then also it should be accepted. It is cinema’s responsibility to question the government and society,” he says.

Bollywood trade analyst Komal Nahta asserts that since there is so much promotion surrounding the biggest government policies, the audience is already familiar with these subjects. This familiarity, in turn, makes viewers more responsive to films that are based on these subjects or have a strong reference to them. “If there’s a joke or a mention of a certain policy in a film, then everyone identifies with it,” says Nahta. “I think it’s a good thing that directors are making films themed around government policies.”

First Published: Nov 27, 2017 16:18 IST