Semiotics of Corruption: Reflection by Bollywood

Does the popular cinema as revealed by Bollywood generates the societal attributes or does the characteristics and the elements of society are reflected by Bollywood? The answer lies in the interesting cycle of reel and real itself, which has no beginning or end. Any event UK Teatime results, which grips a part of nation, is replicated by the medium of a movie in no time. By the medium of this paper I have attempted to compare, contrast and comment on the semiotics of the bollywood cinema through some movies which captured the imagination of the nation in a colossal manner. How the communication in these movies was coded and then how the audience decoded that message is particularly interesting as for each of us the perception of the external stimuli is different. Probably, that also highlights the differences in the intellectual capacity by which we all view and consume the movie in different mannerism. There is a definite language which express this medium of movie and that hints the culture as well as practices of a nation .

I have made an endeavor to be able to emphasize some of semiotics post 1995, through the medium of movies, when India was on a verge of considerable progress, made possible by loosening government regulations, especially in the area of foreign trade. Many restrictions on private companies were lifted, and new areas were opened to private capital. Then as we progressed, the economic liberalization boomed and we as a nation were on the path of progress, which continued through the mentioned decade, and presently it is predicted by Goldman Sachs that Indian economy will surpass most of the nations by 2020. These reflections have been showcased by most of the Indian movies in recent past, but the corruption which is the backbone of this paper resulted in a greater extend as well. Was that a by-product of the technological and the liberalization revolutions or was it the result of the greater need to be successful over night and be akin to the power businessperson exudes in the movie,

flaunting all the wealth from the word go. Were the movies also culprit in triggering that existing need of those few, who wanted to be as rich and successful, by the means of short cuts, as what they experienced in the consumption of these movies? Probably, both society and movies reflect each other, but the scope of this paper will not analyze this effect. This question was hoisted, as it was necessary to create the ground of the subject, which this paper is set out to deal. The screenplay, dialogues, costumes, situations, costumes, etc. all hints at a certain cultural process and we as a viewer consume it. Movies are also cultural products ‘designed’ with an audience and are profit oriented as a main objective. As the topic suggests, the paper will aim towards the exploration of the ways the in which corruption has been incorporated in today’s cinema and hence states the scope of this paper.

The octogenarian spirit

In 1996 arrived the movie ‘Indian’ that explored the horror of bureaucracy, corruption and bribery in modern India and its effect on society. The movie demonstrates the evils in the society, which is the society itself. The series of confrontations through the movie between the principled, though murderous father and the corrupt son form the crux of the movie. The characters are actually representing the two sides of the debate on corruption; the modern view of rationalizing it and the view held by our freedom fighters. An old man decides to take the law in his own hand to wrestle corruption, which hints towards the incapability of most of today’s youth who have actually accepted corruption as the past and parcel of contemporary world. They would not battle for the ideology of righteousness, but choose the marriage of convenience with the fraudulent side. The director has shown this dilemma for an old man who is the idealist thought and ironically his very own young son who progresses the realistic thought. In addition, the semiotics also indicates the uneasiness of the freedom fighter generation, on the prevalent corruption in contemporary world, who got the nation freed from the British.

Here corruption could also be viewed as a factor of suppression and in line with the rebel nature of protagonist, who revolted against the British in a violent manner. In all probability, that is the only way he has always known. In his young days, during British revolution, he shed a lot of blood and when the corruption engulfed and made the nation a slave in present, he revolted all over again in almost equivalent manner. The causes of his violent reactions of present are ingrained in his past, which the director probably wanted to put forth in the defense of the protagonist as that is the only way he knows to fetch out the nation against oppression by slavery in the past or the corruption in present. The movie attempts to reflect on these mal-practices in a simplistic manner.

The news we hear all the time that a medical establishment refuses to give the body of the person expired if their family falls short of some money, or the clinic refuses to begin the treatment unless the concerned party pays up the advance etc. are so much in line and in-sync with the coded message of the movie. When Kasthoori, his daughter is grievously hurt in a house-fire the doctor wants him to file a police report or pay him Rs.500/-; at the police station – the Inspector wants Rs.250/- or a report from the Village Administration Officer; who in turn wants Rs.150/- so that he can initiate preparations for the report. This delay results in his daughter’s death. How would one react on losing their close one for not bribing the officials at time? This is a mass sentiment and the worst fear for the under privileged population today is being captured and indicated.

His son, Chandru, meanwhile has also turned corrupt and shockingly becomes an accomplice to the death of entire bus full of children. We see, read and hear the bribing culture floating in nearly all government circles, permits being no exception. The illegal provision of sanctioning these official papers by the means of bribe is so evident in our country. The repercussions are no less than frightening, with the collapse of bridge, deaths of road and other infrastructure in no time, the sanctioning of money from the tube wells, which never exist in reality and so on and so forth. The list is endless and the movie symbolically picks out one of these evils and ironically makes the son as the culprit, which ends in a thrilling climax in which he has to kill his son.

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