Veteran filmmaker Shyam Benegal believes that films today are completely different from what they were 25 years ago; they are driven by different concerns. “Rapid urbanisation and the growing middle classes are largely responsible for this difference. Naturally, the problems that come in the wake of urbanisation dominate our films now rather than the problems of the countryside. Even when films are set in rural India like ‘Dabaang’ and ‘Singham’, they focus on problems of crime and corruption, with which urban audiences are familiar, and which make for a popular genre of cinema.”
Benegal opines that even those films that make no attempt to depict reality are, in a sense, still reflective of society. “Personally, I do not like to watch films which do not engage the mind and where the entertainment comes at the cost of credibility. Of course, everybody has the right to make their kind of films. However, the truth is that even so-called entertaining fare always has to have some credibility that makes them seem believable. Then there is the manner in which sex is handled,” he avers.
“For instance, in ‘Delhi Belly’, sex has been handled with a frankness that goes far more directly than anything we have seen so far. A couple is seen making love under a sheet, their positions suggesting cunnilingus. Twenty years ago, as filmmakers we could not even think of showing such an act, especially in a prudish male chauvinistic country like India.
“But the scene was accepted today without much fuss, which indicates that sexual taboos and social hypocrisies are slowly disappearing. Words which could never be uttered in polite company and which belonged to the street and stayed there, are being used in films, again indicating changes in urban society. Films, whatever be their commercial nature, reflect changing social attitudes in different ways.” Benegal, as always, hits the nail.