In the last fifty years, cinema has become not only a serious art form but a field of study by itself. Continuous advancement in film technology and high level of conceptualization of the film take viewer to the world outside his day-to-day world providing entertainment, which has made cinema a popular medium of masses.
Indian educationists and sociologists have shown a surprising lack of interest in the film as an educational force and a social challenge. Hardly any academic, systematic scientific studies have been undertaken on the social and psychological impact of the films in India.
There is no data available on the systematic use of the documentary and the feature film in social education programmes in India. However, experiences in Canada, USA, and USSR indicate that documentaries and films have contributed to bringing about a better social order and in building up a national community having common thinking about the nation.
Many social scientists have shared their informal experiences and observation regarding the impact that films have created.
According to Bhola,” Cinema being a composite art has been responsible for popularizing music, dance, painting, and literature among the common people and in India to a very large extent for the popularization of Hindi in Non Hindi speaking south of India (5).
Films have a hypnotic influence on most children and adults. They imitate the heroes and heroines. They indulge in day dreaming and fantasy and when it increases, children become unable to accept the hard realities of life.
Apart from these, films create fear, terror, sorrow and pathos, love and passion, thrill, excitement and stimulation. People suffer from hang over after watching a film. Thus, films have a dynamic influence on people which ultimately affects the society as a whole.
Most films implicitly subscribe to the view that the highest goals in life are power, money, luxury, public adulation and one can use any means to achieve these goals. Thus, most of the films glorify false patterns of life.
There have been few studies on effects of violence and sex in specific films on children and youth. When we want to know the impact of films, one has to look at how stories of cinema affect the actual life of the people.
The main reasons for going to see films have been to learn about the world of ideas and things, to forget and get away to escape, to pass time, to relieve boredom, to impress others. (Jovett and Linton:95).
Having seen a film serves as a means of social integration as it shows that an individual is a part of the mainstream cultural activities of his reference group. Having seen film in first week of its release is a minor form of prestige.
People tend to use scenes from films as analogies to real life situations, or use dialogue from movies as a common means of expression understood by all.
In eighties and early nineties, there had been a decline in the movie going population due to the availability of VCR and Cable Television across all socio-economic groups.
The increasing cost of going to the movies has made movie going a much more elitist activity, whereas, television absorbs the interest of those with lower socio-economic status.
Films as mass media continue to play an important role in leisure pattern of our society. Despite television, many people today go to the theatre to see the films to enjoy the photography and music and sound effects, whenever they have leisure time.
Some enjoy it on television, whereas, some watch it on video at their own convenience, without being under the pressure of following the time schedule of a theatre or television.
Many foreign films are also being shown in theatres as well as on television. Many feel that these films pose a threat to our cultural identity. These films help people to know the culture, values, and people of the world.
As a result, they are able to select their value system with more wisdom and maturity, because cultural openness also contributes to the development of mind.
The films affected television also. The film directors and producers turned to television to produce either mythological like Mahabharata and Ramayan or soap operas like Buniyaad, Rajni, Nukkad, and Swabhimaan.
Tele films were also produced, such as ‘Janam’ and ‘PhirTeri Kahani Yad Aye’, etc. In Indian cinema, the awareness of social relevance was very much there till recently. Gradually, due to various reasons a rampant commercialization overtook this awareness.
As a result, none of the people’s injustices or inequalities or any of the country’s burning problems like population explosion, black marketing, industrial unrest and lack of civic sense received more than a cursory attention from film makers. The film censor board is largely responsible for this.
It has inhibited social and political themes regarding them as an act of blasphemy. If a film maker insists on focusing on social ills, the causes have to be away from politics and authority. This consorial attitude is not only absorbed and initiating but, it is dangerous for a democratic country like India.
Films have been the medium for revolutionists who want to express their revolt. For example, film like ‘Fire’ has depicted the life of the lesbians or a film like ‘Diara’ has well depicted the feelings of eunuch.
The film Tnquilaab’ concluded with the idea of uprooting the existing political system in order to have society free of corruption, exploitation and inequality.
With the availability of TV, cable TV and Video, cinema became a commodity, in middle class homes, Entertainment values became chief attraction in feature film. Apart from feature films, song and dance sequences from them such as ‘Chitrahaar’, ‘Chitramala’ and ‘Rangoli’ became very popular.
Many other types of cinema – quizzes came on Doordarshan and Satellite channels beamed to India, for which also quiz books began to be available in market. Cinema thus became a national craze and obsession on TV.
The great potentialities of the film for education, instruction and training in agriculture, industry and other fields are not yet widely appreciated or exploited in India, where the cinema is generally regarded as an entertainment medium.
Although documentary and educational films are produced in India, their circulation is usually limited to large cities and their nearby towns. Thus, there is a need to fully exploit the formal use of films for education.