They say what you see is what you learn. While they say films are solely meant for entertainment, it is an industry that is capable of influencing a large number of people. Movies with strong positive messages may be gaining popularity, but there are others featuring scenes of famous actors cast in rowdy roles that are influencing the youth in all the wrong ways too. For example, in recent movies like Gully Boy or Chopsticks (on Netflix) among many others, we see scenes where the protagonist either steals cars or is a big fish in the thievery market.
With unsensitised scenes shot of people stealing cars and selling spare parts shown in a very casual manner in Mumbai’s Dharavi, youngsters can confuse being rowdy or thieving with heroics.
Social worker Ravi Kumar believes that the film fraternity has to be a little more sensitive and responsible. He warns, “The fact of youngsters being influenced by their heroes still happens in rural parts of the country, even though the youth in developed cities may not fall prey to such scenes because of the other entertainment options available to them and the savvy guidance they receive.
But yes, it’s true that many movies associate heroes with rowdy behaviour.” He emphasises that although only be films may only be meant for entertainment, they are sometimes not perceived by viewers in the same manner. “I urge film-makers, actors and the censor board to stop making such movies filled with violence and even if the characters need to portray violence, disclaimers and warnings such as ‘do not try this at home’ should be clearly mentioned. No one needs movies with violence. What we need are ones with insightful messages,” he prescribes.
Meanwhile director Dayal Padmanabhan feels that the film industry is often blamed because they are an easy target. He complains, “Why aren’t we appreciated for the good bits instead of pin-pointing such things? Besides we make movies only to entertain the public. We are storytellers. To us, the character of the lead character doesn’t matter. What matters is how we tell the story. I agree that we do show the negative side, but that also comes with a message. With reference to Gully Boy, the reason he steals is poverty. In the Tamil movie Vada Chennai, it is about how no one can be spared in the eyes of Karma. And KGF is basically a story about a certain person who once lived and behaved in that way. All that film-makers focus on is to make these characters seem real. For the same commitment to authenticity, we need to shoot at appropriate locations as well.”
Nonetheless, the director understands the level of influence films can have. “Youngsters must understand that we only aim at giving them a fun time at cinema halls and you’ll have to imbibe the positive messages and leave behind the negative aspects. This is only done for the holistic satisfaction for a good outcome,” he explains.
Sociologist Dr Sangeetha Amarnath gives an insight into the mindset of actors. “Actors are asked to sink into the character by changing their style and attitude to make it seem realistic. Eventually, fame and appreciation blind them and they start to believe that by holding a machete, they’re actually saving lives. With the only aim of achieving bigger stardom, they accept any roles that come their way,” she puts forth her theory, adding, “We, the public, celebrate these actors and hence youngsters put celebrities on a pedestal and that is where hero worship begins.”
Kannada actor Jeevaa JPJ responds to this with, “As an actor, I’d do any role as it challenges my career. The reason why these roles are portrayed by larger-than-life heroes is only because that’s when the public tends to understand. A random person can’t make an impact and this is why directors use our social status to deliver various messages. This is solely for entertainment. And anyway, by the end of every movie, justice is served and all characters abide by the law.” But he does agree that violence should be limited, that it must be portrayed at a bare minimum or with the right consequences. “We can’t take the law in our hands but the least we can do is create awareness that by taking a machete in hand you end up facing the appropriate punishment,” he concludes.