by Anita Thomas
God and religion have become intrinsic to everything related to humans. Therefore, the film industry has also not been deprived of the divine presence of the almighties.
Films have for decades entertained the masses with their songs, colours and heroes with heroines lingering behind them. Initially, films concentrated on the lives of the many common men- unemployed, exploited, patriotic, poverty stricken or love stricken. Today, they concentrate on the not very common men- NRIs, industrialists, success stories, and even individuals with overt dacoity skills. Among these phases, man and god have coexisted from the start. Gods intervene (at the convenience of the filmmaker) to help the devotees whenever they are in need.
There are many aspects of religion in films that intrigue me. One of them is – more often than not, it is the fairer sex that needs to perform the function of invoking the sleeping gods. There are numerous examples to justify this observation; therefore I do not need to name any. Each time a son meets with an accident or a husband goes to the battle field, the mother or the wife inevitably comes in the presence of god. There are a few instances where the male protagonist is religious, for example, in Gopi, Dilip Kumar plays a naïve village boy who has an unfaltering belief and trust in god. Or in ‘Padosan’, where Sunil Dutt played the role of a self sworn ‘bhrahmachari’. But they are so few in number, that one would not fall short of fingers while counting them.
Also, the omnipresence of god is no more considered in the virtual sense. Spiritual statues along with diyas, flowers, and not to miss the bells, appear out of thin air whenever required. For example, a pleading-in-a-temple shot in a hospital is one of the most common turning points of the films. This shot instantly heals the ailing person and moreover can also raise the dead.
Another aspect is the selective nature of filmmakers when it comes to religion. Hinduism has become the dominant religion in the film industry. Christianity and Islam become the secondary religions unless the film has to propagate secularism in the country. An apt example would be ‘Amar, Akbar, Anthony’. Whereas other religions are almost invisible. Now, if we try to probe into the reasons behind this dominance, the ownership and the target of the film industry will have to be considered. The production houses are primarily owned by the followers of Hindu religion, like the Rajashri Productions, the Yash Chopra production, the Dharma Productions, etc. The audience of the film also determines the religious bend of the films. With 83% of the population following Hinduism, the filmmakers wouldn’t want to concentrate on any other.
Considering these aspects, it is astonishing to see how liberally filmmakers use religion in their films. And it is even more astonishing to see how the audience easily believes and accepts these. The Indian ‘spiritual’ audience is pleased to see mothers and wives praying for their sons and husbands respectively, they readily accept the arbitrary entry of a fully built temple in a hospital to save their heroes and they particularly like it when their own god is being worshipped endlessly on the big screen. Therefore, it is difficult to decide as to who is to be blamed for the use of religion for twists and turns in the films- filmmakers, audience or gods themselves for the impact they have on people wherein common sense and rationality is literally thrown in the back seat.