Dr. Priya Khanna Chadha*
Indian cinema is the largest film industry in the world. It has touched every aspect of our life, including the teacher-student bonding. Indian movies have portrayed different shades of teacher-student relationship. The key role of a teacher is mentoring, and from that perspective there are quite a lot of examples that bear testimony to the fact that the world of cinema is no exception to the relationship between a teacher and a student. Different images of teachers as a reformer, guide and friend, in different movies have been a reflection of the socio-economic, political and cultural changes that took place over the years. This paper is an attempt to explore the different shades of a teacher-student relationship which the Indian cinema has portrayed, from the past till today. The paper has further shed light on the portrayal of women teachers in Indian movies.
Indian cinema is dominated by Hindi movies of Bollywood. Cinema has touched every aspect of our life, including teacher-student bonding. The vital mentoring role of a teacher is the focus of a lot of movies, bearing testimony to the fact that the world of cinema is aware of the teacher-student relationship. The big screen has shown various avatars of the teacher, sometimes strict, sometimes a friend and sometimes a disciplinarian.
Over the years there has been a change in the portrayal of teachers. The way the image of teachers was reflected in the 1950s is completely different from today. In order to get a brief overview of this, Indian cinema can be broadly divided into four phases.
Figure 1. Different Phases of Indian Cinema
Figure 1 shows the image of a teacher during the four phases of Indian cinema. The first phase (1940s -early 1960s) is acknowledged as the “Golden Era” which rendered the teacher as a simple idealist. Well- acclaimed movies of this era are Jagriti, Do Aankhen Barah Haath.
The second phase (1960s-early 1980s) was termed as the “Romantic Era”. The movies of this era, Mera Naam Joker and Parichay, delineated the young romantic image of teachers.
The third phase (late 1980s and early 2000)recognized as “the Commercial Era” pictured highly dramatic, romantic and fun loving teachers in movies like Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Main Hoon Na.
Contemporary phase (2000 onwards) introduced teachers who touched social and contemporary issues of upper class such as Taare Zameen Par, Black, Aarakshan and Do Duni Chaar
Changing face of teacher in Indian cinema
The depiction of teacher in Bollywood evolved with each decade, reflecting social cultural framework of the country and the preferences of the masses. Figure 2 below shows the vicious cycle and how it affects the image of a teacher in Indian movies.
Figure 2. The vicious cycle in India affecting the image of a teacher in movies
The teacher in the early decades was shown as a reformist, an idealist, who tried to impart cultural ethos to newly independent citizens of India. The status of a teacher was next to God in the previous decades as witnessed in the song of a movie – Baiju Bawra (1952) – ‘Guru gyan se paudhe jo hari gun gau’. Long songs in the movies were like story telling for instance ‘Ichak Daana Bichak Daana’ in Shri 420 (1955) and Abhi Bhattacharya giving a glimpse of Indian heritage through a song ‘Aao Bachcho Tumhe Dikhaye Jhanki Hindustan ki’ in Jaagriti (1954)while John Chacha of Boot Polish (1954) teaches self-respect to child beggars.
During the beginning ofthe 1960s, the value system in the society changed, leading to a modification in the image of teachers in movies as well. Mera Naam Joker (1970) was one of the first few films that depicted the image of a female teacher, as sex symbol and showcased a teenage boy`s infatuation with his teacher. During that era, only, Parichay (1972)was released with Jeetendra shown as an ordinary person with a lot of determination to transforms the lives of rebel children. Idealism, which was considered an integral part of a teacher’s personality, faded away with time and the same was reflected in the movies of that period. The teacher in Agneepath (1990) faces the rage of villagers. However, Sir (1993) portrayed the image of a teacher who is fun loving and more of a friend to his students and goes beyond his mere responsibility as a subject teacher. Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (1998) introduced the teacher with the make-over. The movie redefined the image of a teacher and showed the middle age college professor in western light, wearing short skirts, young at heart and a liking for the principal.
In 2000, the portrayal of teachers became more dramatic. In 2000, the portrayal of teachers became more dramatic. The generation rift among teachers between teaching with ideologies and teaching beyond classrooms was well depicted in Mohabbatein (2000).In Munna bhai MBBS (2003), the teacher is portrayed as insensitive. Additionally, Main Hoon Na (2004) introduced the glamorous side of a teacher. The image of Sushmita Sen in chiffon saris and sensuous blouses redefined the way the student looked at the teacher.
Later years of 2000 introduced teachers as path breakers. This phase bought to the light the fact that movies on the teachers could be meaningful as well as commercially successful. The guru-shishya relationship and bonding was beautifully portrayed in Black (2005). The movie is a sensitive and inspiring tale of an eccentric, alcoholic teacher who with confidence and determination brought light into the life of a deaf, dumb and blind girl. The role of a compassionate teacher during the formative years has been beautifully portrayed in Taare Zameen Par (2007).The movie prodded each child to dream beyond the ordinary and how love and compassion of a teacher could help the dyslexic child to showcase his latent talent, a problem that his own parents could not identify. Chak De India (2007) portrayed the image of a strong coach.With a lot of grit and determination he imparted values of perseverance, hard work, team spirit and patriotism among girls belonging to different social backgrounds.
In 3 Idiots (2009), the image and role of a strict and ambitious dean delved into the minds of those who force their children to run after grades and degrees which may force the child to end his life. Movies like Paathshala (2009) and Aarakshan (2011) have portrayed the honest and realistic form of teacher. These movies have shown how an honest teacher can reform the educational system without compromising on moral values and principles. Do Doni Chaar (2012) recited the naked truth of life’s challenges of underpaid middle class school teacher who maintains integrity and honesty by working overtime to cope with the double rate of inflation.
Gender stereotype in Indian movies
Bollywood has been very partial while portraying female teachers. They have depicted women as objects of desire, blatantly ignoring other potentials of women. The seed of this quest was initially sown in Mera Naam Joker and its most recent materialization was depicted in ‘Main Hoon Na’ and ‘Desi Boyz’. The latest study conducted by the United Nations revealed that Indian films top the list of showing women as sex objects whereas women in roles of engineers, scientists etc are scored very low.
Analyzing various eras, Indian movies are the mirrors of our traditions and social paradigms. Hindi cinema in its journey has beautifully captured the image of the teacher, albeit in different shades such as a mentor, a guide, a friend, as artful or as entertaining. In all these cases, there is a scope to learn and comprehend. The Indian cinema needs to be sensitized on gender issues as it has remained male centric. The portrayal of gender is not only a matter of concern about how femininity is presented, but it also includes the presentation of masculinity in the movies.
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