Hindi films are a unique and accessible way to learn about Indian and Hindi faith, according to professor of Indian Cultures, Rachel Dwyer.
“What’s interesting with these films is that they are only loosely defined as religious, but have clearly defined Hindu practices,” said Dwyer.
As a professor of Indian Cultures and Cinema at the University of London, Dwyer supervises PhD research on Indian Cinema. Her focus is Hindi Cinema.
One of the films touched on was “PK”, a satirical Indian sci-fi film. It is the highest-grossing Indian film of all time, and received critical acclaim as a Hindi film. “…the plot covers an alien trying to untangle Indian-Muslim relations in contemporary India, and it featured a super-star Aamir Khan in the title role. Aamir Khan is recognized as a social activist.” said Dwyer. “PK” was also directed by one of India’s most successful directors.
The importance of the film was its stance on Hindu-Muslim relations, which remains a relatively sore topic of discussion. “What films like this do is talk about things that people don’t necessarily want to hear about, but in the context of humor and light conversation,” said Dwyer.
These films were presented as an example of how Indian popular culture can show differences in religion from film to film. “These films reflect our country as a whole, as we have an obviously Hindu nationalist government. It is a guide to the history of Indian culture, and the history of how religion impacts India,” explained Dwyer.
After the lecture, David Boyd, majoring in economics, said “I think it’s important to understand the impact these films can have. Relating to my major, it’s important to know that consumers are interested in consuming media from other cultures and countries.”
Dwyer’s other research includes the Asian elephant in India, and its appearances in cinema, religion, and literature. Her written works include: “Picture abhi baaki hai: Bollywood as a guide to modern India,” “Filming the Gods: Religion and Indian Cinema” and “100 Bollywood Films.”
More information on Rachel Dwyer can be found here.
More information on “PK” and Hindu Cinema can be found in Dwyer’s article.
Edited by McKenzie Manning
Featured image by Nithi Clicks via CreativeCommons.org.