I feel that the core dynamics of relationships have always remained the same. It is only now that we’re able to communicate them better to the extent of actually being able to have a partnership that suits us best. Historically, the opportunity to choose the kind of relationship one wants has always been in the hands of men — giving women equal footing is a recent phenomenon, but even in the most liberal countries there’s a very long way to go before both genders are considered as equal. Has the internet contributed to this change? Absolutely — it is ultimately the final refuge for discussing policy with an unbiased mindset and starting movements to improve the human condition, which is why there are so many villainous external forces trying to muddy the waters of the internet.
Have movies contributed to this shift? Most definitely — because cinema has a profound impact on society. In fact, it is one of the strongest mediums to propagate a liberal agenda and necessitate requisite societal changes. I can think of three instances in my life when cinema changed the way I thought and behaved. The very first occasion occurred when I was 12. As a child growing up in a predominantly Hindu society, surrounded by friends from conservative families in the ’90s, I had a blinkered view of same-sex couples, until I watched Jonathan Demme’s Philadelphia (1993) on the telly. The film started a discussion in my home about how homosexuality is completely natural. Fast-forward to two decades later — my best friend is gay and even to this day it is the most fulfilling relationship I have ever had.
The second instance took place when I was in my mid-twenties and had just suffered a tremendous heartbreak. I happened to watch two movies that left me with very conflicted thoughts about the notion of romantic relationships. The first was Leos Carax’s Mauvais Sang (1986), which was a surreal, pessimistic film on how young people in any society are being forced to only have romantic relationships that come with an emotional attachment, going against the human tendency of having sex without needing commitment. The other film was Spike Jonzes’ Her (2013), about longing for an emotional connection and making that more necessary to experience than a sexual one in the larger scheme of things. Watching both these films opened up a Pandora’s box of thought waves for me, where I ended up discussing the themes with many, many people from various backgrounds, and came out with what ultimately is a healthy and well-informed mindset; and also with the courage to deal with my next matter of the heart.
The third instance was when I watched Mike Mills’ Beginners (2010) — which is about the unspoken emotional gap between a father and a son, the chasm of which is felt in the most relatable of Indian families. As much as I love my father, I never had the opportunity to fully open up to him. But this film gave me the chance to think about all the moments I had missed in my life, and to build a bridge in place of the fortress and moat full of crocodiles.
The strange thing is, ultimately, these are simple values and lessons that should be normalised in any society, and yet we constantly need these movie moments to make us understand and learn. I long for the day when these ‘issue-based’ films no longer make any impact owing to the fact that issues are not existing anymore.
A bona-fide cinema geek who started off as a film critic, Mihir Fadnavis has now crossed over to the other side to make movies with Phantom Films.
Read part 6 here