Any discussion on films and its impact on the society confronts a vital question ‘does cinema have any impact on the society’. There are two schools of thought on this issue – one line of thinking believe that films can never affect or reform the society or the events taking place within it, but the other believes that the medium does have a direct or indirect impact on social streams, even though it may not be immediately perceptible. A good film does more than entertain or fill seats at the cinema. It has the power to change hearts and minds – and sometimes society more widely.
Films are great. They capture the imagination of the viewer and educate about issues one may not know much about. But the best thing about films is that they tell you a story. Sometimes it can be hard to really understand what discrimination, poverty or suffering are like when it doesn’t affect you personally. Films can immerse you in others’ lives for a few hours and help you empathise with people you’ve never met.
Directors make attempts to project social themes in a creative way, and many movies have stroked this process of evolution and have been appreciated for the efforts. Cinema is unique in a way that it a highly accessible medium and cuts across the strata in the society. In a 1963 report for the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization looking at Indian Cinema and Culture, the author (Baldoon Dhingra) quoted a speech by Prime Minister Nehru who stated, “…the influence in India of films is greater than newspapers and books combined.” Even at this early stage in cinema, the Indian film-market catered for over 25 million people a week- considered to be just a ‘fringe’ of the population.
In our society there are many practices and traditions which are based on ignorance and which have obstructed the progress of our society. Various social issues have done enormous harm to our society. Cinema films can do a lot to eradicate or change people’s perceptions about these issues and evils. A gamut of issues got representation in Indian cinema-from freedom to unemployment, from poverty to exploitation, from dowry to women’s emancipation, from social conflict to national integration, from education to fantasy oriented entertainment. With the transformation of the society, the issues confronting it keep on changing and so also the themes adopted for film making. Adopting the relevant themes can help the transformation of our society. The cinema can be used as an instrument to help people get rid of obscurantism and also to guide them along the right path. It can help in removing ignorance from our society. Not only this, several much needed social reforms can be introduced and brought about with the help of the cinema. The cinema exercises a great influence on the mind of the people. It has a great educative value. It can achieve splendid results in the field of expansion of education.
In conclusions, the primary role of cinema in society is to provide entertainment, impart education and teach positive values. It can project ideas and themes that are nationally desirable thereby helping in healthy growth of a nation. It should aim to portray social issues (though not commercially viable to them) to strengthen pro-social behavior which can eventually lead to social harmony. In addition, it is equally important to check undesirable, unhealthy and dangerous ideas getting promoted. Films can motivate you, inspire you to live a bit differently and even transform your beliefs. So next time you’re going to settle down to a film with friends or family, why not watch one of these incredible films about social change.