Aamir Khan, Akshay Kumar spearhead socially conscious Bollywood cinema wave, through films like Dangal, Padman and Thappad

Aamir Khan, Akshay Kumar spearhead socially conscious Bollywood cinema wave, through films like Dangal, Padman and Thappad

  • From sexual violence to gay marriage to erectile dysfunction, Bollywood films are increasingly shining a light on taboo topics – and proving a success
  • Two superstars, Aamir Khan and Akshay Kumar, have made a significant impact in promoting this trend, both as actors and producers

Films on subjects such as menstrual health, sexual violence, same-sex marriage, erectile dysfunction and open defecation are not what one generally associates with India’s modern-day Bollywood film scene. Recent years, however, have seen a resurgence of socially conscious cinema in India with a slew of films that portray real issues people face and question established societal norms and prejudices.

“From the 1950s to the 1970s, Indian cinema was rooted in the reality and struggles of the ordinary man’s life – fighting poverty, the caste system and class divides,” says screenwriter and director Hitesh Kewalya. “Soon, escapism overtook realism and the next two decades were dominated by meaningless song-and-dance movies.”

Using humour, satire and drama, these new movies delve into human stories that explore modern society and start difficult conversations on subjects that have long been taboo.

“The appeal of these films is that they combine entertainment with social issues and this has struck a chord with audiences,” Kewalya, 39, says. “Not only are these movies finding critical acclaim and attracting top acting talents, many are also achieving box-office success.”