Beyond the Facade of Cinema

Mekhala, Cuttack

Cinema which started over a hundred years ago as a medium of entertainment has today become ingrained in the warp and weft of everyday lives of people the world over.It serves as a chronicle of history, recording the socio- cultural context of the times. As people cross geographical boundaries, they take with them their culture, tradition, dress, folklore, cuisine and cinema, which mingles with the local cinema to create a cosmopolitan sense of awareness. Cinema also helps fuel the aspirations of the youth who wish to pursue a career in the performing arts/ glamour industry and its related fields.

The youth today has more opportunities to join the workforce leading to more disposable income. This means more money to spend on lifestyle enhancement products including frequent visits to the new age multiplexes to enjoy cinema. Technology has made it easier to access movies via online and mobile portals. So cinema has a widespread audience world over, whether urban or rural. Growing access to world cinema enhances cultural awareness and appreciation among its audience. It is the easiest and cheapest way to experience another culture. This opens up new avenues, ideas, options in terms of direction of work/ study/ travel, etc, further fueling growth of the related industries.

Cinema, especially in the west, is a very good tool for studying fashion history as its documents clothing culture of its time with the contextual aspect attached to it. Movies made today that are set in a particular time period do complete justice to those times with well researched and executed fashion, interiors, habits and socio- cultural behaviours. Movies like Mongol, Seven years in Tibet, etc. give us a peek into otherwise inaccessible geographical and social cultures. Movies like Pride and Prejudice, Elizabeth, Shakespeare in Love, Girl with a Pearl Earring, etc. serve as a visual journal of clothing styles of the times. It serves as a tool to study history, art and craft and people. This helps understand how history has shaped fashion.

Cultural practices and contemporary issues also make inroads into cinema with movies like China Blue, The Stoning of Soraya M, etc. that put forth problems of a particular community before the rest of the world. It takes courage on the part of the filmmaker to go ahead with these projects. These help inform the youth so they appreciate their life more and hopefully try to work towards eradication of these problems and betterment of the community and individuals.

Easy access to American movies in China and India, especially with the dubbed versions being available, has increased the youth audience. Clothing styles from the movies is the first thing the youth wishes to ape, in their quest for improved lifestyle and social acceptability. This has led to a sprawling clothing business where international fashion has a major presence, in both original and fake markets. Names like Louis Vuitton, Prada, Armani and Dior have a presence in the vocabulary of the youth today. So these fashion giants borrow elements of the local culture to create products that find a market in these countries and the customer gets a brand name with design sensibility that matches his/ her own. Thus, it is a win win situation for both. Further, this also fuels the economy of the country and brings in foreign investments.

Closer home in India, cinema is equivalent to religion and forms the undercurrent of everyday lives of the population, including the youth. Movie actors have a star or icon status and everything they do trickles down into the popular culture of the country, be it Dev Anand’s puff hairdo, Rajesh Khanna’s belts, Sadhana’s fringe, and more recently Sonam Kapoor’s quirky style, Saif Ali Khan’s dapper styles, etc. Youth today epitomizes movie stars and wishes to walk in their footsteps by following their hair, dress, accessories, and even their names ! Movie stars are popular choices for endorsements because the people’s choices are often governed by the star who is endorsing the product rather than the product itself. Devotion, sometimes to the extent of fanaticism is also one of the effects of cinema on youth, especially in India.

Cinema also influences travel and study choices today. The 1980’s and 1990’s saw a lot of Indian films being shot across Germany, Switzerland and other parts of Europe, especially by Yash Chopra. This increased tourism to these countries to the extent that the government there awarded Yah Chopra. The 2000’s saw a spate of Indian movies being filmed in Australia and New Zealand, bringing the natural locales of these countries to the living rooms of millions of Indians. This fueled migration of Indian youth to these countries in pursuit of better education, holiday and lives. The Government facilitated the immigration by providing waivers for the film crew for visa, accommodation, etc., as well as relaxed processes of immigration for migrants. Cinema thus, also influences the tourism and education industry.

The myriad faces and effects of cinema have been discussed. As everything else, cinema could be both good or bad, depending on how we use it and what we learn from it. I believe it improves our awareness of other cultures, races, people and develop tolerance towards other people’s perspective and not judge everything in just black and white or right and wrong.

Writer’s Bio

Author has requested anonymity & will publish the articles with a pen name “Mekhala”.

Originally published at