Cinema has the power to influence people, in good ways and bad. It has the ability to change perspectives, start conversations around topics that are considered taboo, and create a buzz. Bollywood is a storehouse of a bunch of gems that were either misunderstood, overlooked or didn’t get the appreciation they deserved when they were released. No matter the time or age, the relevance of such movies is forever paramount.
Here’s a list of some Bollywood movies that were way ahead of their time:
My Brother Nikhil
My Brother Nikhil touched upon topics like HIV, AIDS and homosexuality when society still whispered about it. Nikhil’s life changes when he is diagnosed with AIDS. He is thrown out of his house, loses his place in the swimming team, and is isolated from society. The film forces you to learn about/understand facts about a reality many people live in.
It was 1996 when Deepa Mehta made this brilliant movie that explored homosexuality and managed to get it released with little censorship. In the film, sisters-in-law find comfort in each other after being overlooked by their husbands. The movie raised quite a few eyebrows in the then-conservative society so much so it caused riots.
A 64-year-old chef falls in love with a 34-year-old woman and attempts to win her reluctant father’s approval. Age is just a number and marriage doesn’t have a right time is what this gem of a movie taught us.
No Smoking was a disaster at the box office. It was a difficult movie to process. The concept of alienating one’s conscience from one’s body wasn’t something the audiences were prepared for back in 2007. However, be patient with it and No Smoking is a piece of art that offers something new with each viewing. The film is full of hidden analogies.
The film touched upon topics like artistic dissatisfaction and spoke about how many of us are forced to give up on our dreams because of societal expectations. Guru Dutt’s fantastic film shows Gulabo, a sex worker reaching out to him and offering him comfort in the form of appreciation for his work. She embodies everything warm and welcoming that the world couldn’t offer him. In her appreciation, he finds his freedom.
Kya Kehna was about teenage pregnancy, and how families deal with it. The man walks away, guilt-free, while the girl is left to deal with the repercussions. The film was a good insight into this reality, one that wasn’t spoken about openly at the time.
Monsoon Wedding exceptionally addressed the issues of child abuse. Shefali Shah’s character is sexually abused by an uncle (played by Rajat Kapoor) who continues to live with the family.
Another topic that was alien to many was surrogacy. A woman finds out she can’t have a child of her own, so she gets her friend to act as a surrogate mother. Seems normal to you? It wasn’t. While today it’s not a new topic, back in 2002. Meghna Gulzar’s film attempted to normalise a concept that very few families could openly discuss at the time.
Kamal Hassan’s controversial political drama Hey Ram is relevant even now. The SRK-Kamal Hassan starrer shows riots, violence, and hate speech, the movie covers all aspects of communal violence. Unfortunately, it’s still concerns that plague us even today.
The film was an attempt to normalise having a child at 50. Nakul, a 25-year-old man, is shocked to discover that his mother is pregnant. His struggle to come to terms with the news puts his relationship with his girlfriend, Renee, in jeopardy.
The recently released film Badhaai Do starring Rajkummar Rao and Bhumi Pednekar discusses homosexuality and the concept of lavender marriage. Instead of coming out to their families, a gay man and a lesbian enter a marriage of convenience to appease their parents. However, chaos soon ensues when the woman’s girlfriend comes to live with the couple.
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