Aaj Ka Roadshow

  • 14/01/2004

Aaj Ka Roadshow Back in the 20th century, when India had villages, there were several popular films that showed villages in a contemporary light. Well, somewhat. While Indian cinema was urban from its very beginning, there were several films of immense popularity that were, in many ways, a statement of the presence of the Indian village. In these films, the protagonist was often a villager or a city-bred male who headed out to the village. For the city folk, these films were reminders. Villainising moneylenders that cheated farmers, calling for land reforms and reminding us that agriculture was at the monsoon's mercy, these films told us that there was an India that lived in the villages. There was the image of a Dilip Kumar racing his horse cart with a motorbus to save his livelihood. Of a Nargis personifying the notion of the mother and the motherland. Of a Manoj Kumar, plough on his shoulder, wearing his patriotism on his sleeve. Of a Sunil Dutt galloping on horseback to avenge himself, defiant in the ravines of Chambal. Of a Raj Kapoor driving a bullock cart, singing songs that one associated intrinsically with cart drivers without ever having met one.

Then, sometime close to the turn of the century, the village disappeared from major popular films. Just like that. It now appears in the mandatory dance number in which the youthful lead couple gyrate in rippling fields along with a dance troupe suitably accessorised for an ethnic romp. The pastoral retreat ends with the dance number, and they return to their courtship in college corridors. The last big banner village-set film to achieve commercial success was Lagaan, and it relied heavily on the drama of a very urban device

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