With characters sticking on our minds and the songs staying in our hearts, Bollywood has turned repetitive scripts into a sub-culture of obsessive cinema from which there has been no escape. More by design than default, songs convey what the script cannot, in reflecting the overt and covert anxieties and aspirations of both characters and viewers. The combined effect of these two parallel strands created cinematic possibilities of carrying forward the moral overtone of post-Independence reconstruction of society on Gandhian principles of simplicity and celibacy. In his frame by frame decadal analysis of popular films, Sanjay Suri sets out to establish that their dominant idiom gets reinforced through moral obligations of the hero, reflected in his retreat from wealth and desire. In this intriguing analysis, cinema emerges as the creative paradox that triggers desire in the guise of austerity.
A Gandhian Affair is as much exhilarating as entertaining in revealing a contrived method of film-making that cinematically projects the cultural necessity of rejecting desire. As viewers continue to identify with it, storytellers churn out much of the same stuff again and again. With slight deviation, however, desire in song and surrender in script makes our cinema stand out in its texture. Suri’s contention is it couldn’t have been any other way, and there are any number of examples—from Mother India to Naya Daur and from Ram aur Shyam to Lage Raho Munna Bhai—to show how cinema defined its boundaries for and in a conservative society. Yet, the linear juxtaposition is not without its share of ambiguity! While the heroine resting her head in the lap of a man she was close to had outraged audiences, prompting change in the ending of Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam, the most sexual song, Aaj sajan mohe ang laga re, janam safal ho jaye, was curiously accepted by all.