Many times, Bollywood has been blamed for giving us movies with toxic masculinity and sexism. Calling it the formula of success, today’s Bollywood doesn’t shy away from giving us movies where toxicity is shown as love and toxic characters as romantic leads.
However, there was a time when the industry really produced meaningful and progressive cinema that focused on society’s real issues. Some of the old movies are so progressive that they will put today’s cinema to shame! Let’s go back in time, and look at some of these classics.
In this beautiful movie by Hrishikesh Mukherjee, a young girl – Guddi (played by Jaya Bachchan) – is obsessed with film star Dharmendra. She’s is so infatuated with him that she believes he is a superman who can do no wrong. The movie is focused on obsession with the reel world. This movie beautifully captures the journey of Guddi as she starts to distinguish between the real and the reel world.
2. Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron
Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro is a 1983 satirical black comedy directed by Kundan Shah. This dark satire focuses on the rampant corruption in Indian politics, bureaucracy, news media, and business. With stellar performances by Naseeruddin Shah, Ravi Baswani, Om Puri, Pankaj Kapur, Satish Shah, Satish Kaushik, and Neena Gupta, this movie is a must-watch!
3. Aakhir Kyon?
This 1985 classic stars Smita Patil as Nisha – a docile woman who is happily married to her husband Kabir until she discovers her successful businessman husband, Kabir, has been having an affair with her cousin, Indu. Distraught, Nisha abandons her husband and newborn daughter and leaves for the city, where she finds love in the arms of a sensitive writer, Alok. But Nisha’s past catches up and forces her into a soul-searching decision over whether or not she should return to her family and old life. This powerful and empowering movie questions society’s hypocrisy that urges women to suffer in a toxic marriage and relationships!
Sensitively dealing with the topic of infidelity, Shekhar Kapur’s directorial debut Masoom is definitely a must-watch. With the power packed performances by Naseeruddin Shah & Shabana Azmi, this film is based on American writer Erich Segal’s novel Man, Woman, and Child. The story is about a family and its acceptance of an illegitimate child from an old extramarital affair.
5. Kora Kagaz
Kora Kaagaz incidentally happens to be one of the best films made on the necessity of communication in marriage and how the lack of it can destroy marital life. It also discusses the counter effects of interference, however well-intentioned, from the in-laws, on the personal life of a newly married couple. Kora Kagaz answers the struggle of two intellectual lovers who find it difficult to enjoy marital bliss. The film is a lesson in both love and marriage.
6. Ek Ruka Hua Faisla
This movie is a remake of the Hollywood film 12 Angry Men. It captures the courtroom drama that focuses on discussions to decide whether a teenage boy is guilty in a homicide case or not. This film beautifully captures the psychology of the human mind. It shows how everyone processes information based on their personal experiences and mindset. This thought-provoking movie is a must-watch!
7. Mirch Masala
This movie is set in the early 1940s and it revolves around a brave woman, Sonbai (Smita Patil) who takes a firm stand against an arrogant tax collector. Based on a short story by Chunilal Madia, Mirch Masala focuses on the social issue of oppression – of a subedar on a village in the pre-Independence era; of a village chief on his wife and other young women in the village; of a father on his young daughter; and of the colonial system on a poor nation and its people.
Tracing what could have gone wrong in the protagonists’ marriage, Gulzar’s Ijaazat is a complex love triangle. The movie has handled infidelity with extreme warmth and compassion. And, how could we forget its beautiful breakup song – Mera Kuch Saamaan.
Have you watched any of these movies? Let us know in the comments.