jiPopular Culture mainly refers to culture which is based on the tastes and preferences of ordinary people rather than educated elites. In India, hindi movies form the major bulwark of the popular culture. Not many movies have depicted natural disasters in Indian Cinema. Even if a natural disaster of any kind is shown in a movie, the event is merely a trigger or catalyst for the whole plot of the movie. The movies in Hollywood have been obsessed with “the end of the world” plot since long and most of their sci-fi movies and superhero movies revolve around saving the world. However, our hindi films are more driven by family dramas and love stories.
Few films like Mother India, Lagaan, Tum Mile or Kai Po Che do have natural disasters in their backdrop. Mother India(1957) shows how a flood and storm strikes the village of protagonist Nargis’s village but she refuses to leave the village and builds her life later and raises her kid. Similarly, in Lagaan(2001) the village is suffering from a very severe drought, because of which villagers are unable to pay “lagaan” to the British Administration. Finally, they strike a deal with the administration that if they are able to win a cricket match against the British team, their “lagaan” will be waived off. A very recent movie Tum Mile (2009) is set in the background of the flooding of Mumbai during monsoons. It is about how a broken up couple reunites when they come across each other during the flooding. Another movie Kai Po Che (2013) was built around the massive Gujarat earthquake which occurred in 2001. The investments of three friends goes sore when the mall collapses in which they had bought a shop. Series of events unfold and their friendship also goes sour.
Natural Disasters never became the whole plot of any movie in Indian Cinema. They were merely limited as triggers of course of events which revolve around melancholy of human relationships, family dramas or love affairs. What caused the disaster, how people coped with the aftermaths of disasters etc. are never given that space in the script of movies which can be given. Hindi movies have massive impact on the public. In 100 years of Indian Cinema, each era was dominated by one major theme. So there was angry young hero of 70s who was dealing with unemployment and poverty and then there was “Rahul” of 90s who was flashy and had all the luxuries of life. Given the series of natural disasters which have occurred in recent times, starting from Gujarat earthquake in 2001 to recent Bihar and Assam Floods in 2017, we can have cinema which depicts the real gruesome stories of natural disasters. Stories can be woven around that what caused these disasters, which will bring out the corrupt stories of administration of places like Uttaranchal or Jammu & Kashmir. The construction was allowed on riverbeds which caused narrowing of the course of rivers. How the victims coped with the disasters, how they built their life all over again or were there some success stories of indigenous people, these plots can be explored by the movie makers. It’s high time that few movies are made which address the elephant in the room i.e. the natural disaster. It should become the “protagonist” of the movie and story should revolve around it. The movies can be commercially successful also since people of affected areas will identify with the story and can flock to theatres to see that how the movie is talking about them. Such movies can also manage funding from the various institutions which are working on DRR as they will also be educative and will create awareness. Although these will be “disaster movies” but I am sure and hopeful that they will not prove to be a “disaster” at the box office!!