Indian cinema has been an important means of mass communication. It has been a means of both education and entertainment. Like literature, it is the reflection of society and it also influences society in several different ways. Thus, it will not be wrong to say that cinema is like a mirror reflecting the hopes, aspirations, frustrations and contradictions of the society which leads to an attachment of social responsibility to it. From the 30s, right through the 60s, Indian cinema had developed by focussing on different aspects of Indian life. It has not only presented but tackled many sensitive issues ranging from freedom of expression to unemployment, from dowry to women emancipation, from poverty to exploitation and so on. It is worthwhile to mention some of the Indian films that have created great impact on the society through their messages. Indian cinema talked about he upliftment of untouchables in ‘Acchut Kanya’ (1936); fought against marriage of young girls with old persons (Duniya Na Mane, 1937); raised the issue of dowry in “Dahej” (1950).
However, over the years, cinema has lost its educative and social aspects. Presiding over a seminar organised on “cinema and its social responsibility” as part of the Dasara Film Festival, film maker Baraguru Ramachandrappa said that it is difficult to find socially responsible films in mainstream because they have forgotten their responsibility towards the society. Film producers and financiers are merely concerned with the commercial value of the films and thus pack the films with the ingredients like sex, violence, item number etc. Such scenes create a great impact on the minds of children who are unable to distinguish between what is right and wrong for them. Apart from this, women in cinema are portrayed as an object of entertainment. But the story has its other side too. With the passage of time, there were movies which had positive influence on the society. Movies like ‘Rang De Basanti’ encouraged people to take up things in their own hands, Taare Zameen Par’ and ‘Three Idiots’ helped parents accept their children as they are and the movie like ‘Arakshan’ was based on the policy of caste-based reservations in Indian Government jobs and educational institutions. These movies show that Indian cinema has the ability to inform and educate apart from entertaining. Hence, this ability of Indian cinema must be ensured by laying down guidelines for the people involved in its making and there must be provision of stringent action against those who violate them.
The deviation of Indian cinema from its social responsibility is a matter of great concern. The growing tendency of the film industry to exploit sex and violence must be firmly curbed, because in developing countries like India, the cinema has a major role to play due to the high percentage of poverty and illiteracy. Hence for film makers it is important to understand that they too have social responsibility and they must not forget their duty towards society in their craze for making profits using all popular techniques. To conclude, we may say that the cinema has the power to influence the people in several ways. It has changed the society and social trends and has rather introduced new fashions in the society. Films can go a long way towards arousing the national consciousness and also utilising the energies of the youth in social reconstruction and nation-building.