While society has always had its issues in every phase of evolution, things have never been as bad as they are today.
Gone are the days when women could walk on the streets without the fear of being molested or raped and people stood up to the wrongdoings without fearing any backlash.
Rapes, molestation, fraud and corruption have become the order of the day in today's society. Glorification of rampant materialism clubbed with a pervasive lack of ethics has robbed our society of the simplicity that was once unique to it.
An 18th century-intellectual, Ernst Fischer, had rightly said, "In a decaying society, art, if it is truthful, must also reflect decay. And unless it wants to break faith with its social function, art must show the world as changeable. And help to change it."
And Cinema is one form of art which has always held a mirror to society. Though associated with glamour and glitz, the Indian film industry has given us films like Acchoot Kanya (untouchability) and Sagina Mahato (dealing with the Labour movement of 1942-43) early on in its journey.
The medium has come a long way since then and continues to reflect the contemporary social issues that plague the society. With films like Phir Milenge, Yeh Mera India and Peepli Live it has pushed viewers to address the issues of social bias, farmer suicides and HIV.
Here is a look at films through which Cinema has asserted itself as a vehicle for reflection and social change.
Acchoot Kanya (1936): The film starring Ashok Kumar and Devika Rani dealt with the issue of untouchability. Known as one of the reformist period-films, it revolves around the love story of a harijan (Devika Rani) girl and a brahmin boy (played by Ashok Kumar) in a village.
Sagina Mahato (1970): Based on the true story of the labour movement of 1942-43, it tells the story of trade union leader Sagina Mahato, his fight for the rights of labourers and his courage to stand up to the tyrannical British authorities.
Damini (1993): The film starring Meenakshi Sheshadri, Rishi Kapoor and Sunny Deol in lead roles, tells the story of a woman's grit and courage who fights familial and societal pressures to get justice for a girl who is gang-raped and left to die by her brother-in-law and his friends. Apart from being critically acclaimed, the film went on become a box office hit.
Kya Kehna (2000): This Priety Zinta-starrer dealt with the sensitive issue of pre-marital pregnancy and society's attitude towards it. Directed by Kundan Shah, the film challenged the society, which tends to sweep uncomfortable issues under the carpet, to take a hard look at the problems the society faces today.
Daman (2001): Directed by Kalpana Lajmi, the film deals with the issue of marital violence and rape. Daman tells the story of a poor girl Durga (Raveena Tondon) who is married into a wealthy family and suffers physical and mental abuse at the hands of her husband.
Matrubhoomi (2003): The tagline of the film "A nation without women" says it all. The film written and directed by Manish Jha delves deeper into the issues of female foeticide, infanticide and skewed sex ratio, which have its consequences on societal attitudes. The film also looks at the problems of future dystopia, bride buying and fraternal polyandry.
Page 3 (2005): Directed by Madhur Bhandarkar, the film deals with cutthroat competition in today's world and the compromises people have to make in order to realise their dreams. It also highlights the frivolity that permeates the world of the rich and influential.
Sringaram (2007): A Tamil period drama, the film focuses on the plight of devdasis. Set in the 1920s, it depicts the life of a devdasi and her status in society. Directed by Saharada Ramanathan, the film won three national awards at the 53rd National Film Awards and also received international critical acclaim for choosing to portray a sensitive subject like this.
Yeh Mera India (2009): The film is about lifestyle in Mumbai with a special focus on the several layers of biases, be it communal, religious, gender, social or economic, that prevail in the society.
BA Pass (2013): Adapted from Mohan Sikka's The Railway Aunty, the film exposes the darkness that lurks under the genteel exterior of the middle class life in Delhi. It tells a story of an orphan boy who is lured by a scheming next door neighbour and is drawn into male prostitution.