Thursday, May 04, 2006

Bollywood and Indian Economy

What is common between these films?

Garam Hawa (1940); Naya Daur (1957); Upkaar (1967); Namak Haram (1973); Jane Bhi Do Yaaron (1983); Damini (1993); Gupt (1997); Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani (2000); Rang de Basanti (2006)

As you might have guessed, each of these films portray the socio-economic realities of India in their times or have a relevant policy back-drop in them. Naya Daur has the backdrop of the Industrial Policy Resolution; Namak Haram captures the policy Contract Labour (Regulation and Abolition Act), 1970; Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron stems from the Urban Land Ceiling and Regulation Act, 1976; Damini is about the frustration with the judicial system and Rang de Basanti, well, about the "system" itself. I always wondered if there was a documentary feature that captured the portrayal of political economy in Bollywood movies through the last 50 years.

It took a couple of economists to do that.

When I first saw "Indian Economic Transition through Bollywood Eyes" I was bemused especially by the portrayal of the business-man in the last half-century. Overall, the documentary is not a great one but is definitely novel in its effort. Amir Ullah Khan and Bibek Debroy's Indian Economic Transition through Bollywood Eyes: Hindi films and how they have reflected changes in India’s political economy makes for very interesting reading on the same subject. It offers a different perspective on the attitudes and Acts in India through the last 50 years. I wish somebody would make a really good documentary on this theme.

Cross-posted on the Indian Economy blog.

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