The 90’s Bollywood: A metaphor for Post Liberalization ‘Bharat’

As a kid growing up in his formative years in the 1990’s, in an era where satellite TV was a luxury to now where we have set top boxes for DTH, we have indeed come a very long way. The early 1990’s were a time immediately after the liberalization agenda was announced although the full extent of the reform agenda was not doled out until 1994. The Cinema we left behind in the late 1980’s was Ram Lakkhan, Tezab, and Maine Pyaar Kiya were US returned Prem was busy romancing the pretty plain jane girl. This was the time when Khandaan was more vital than Kanoon or Family Prestige more than Law or the powerful are the law.

The 1990’s was welcomed with the brilliant soundtrack of Aashiqui (and Kumar Sanu) and the youthful exuberance of Phool Aur Kaante with Ajay Devgn on two motorcycles in the opening shot.  Then we move on to the anti hero of Jaalaad, Dar and Baazigar. There was a sentiment of moving against the system. These were still residues of the license raj ethos. Then we move on to the mid 1990’s with Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge revolutionizing cinema for the next two decades with their genre of feel good family cinema made for diaspora viewing. The fruits of liberalization were being felt by the middle class as everyone had a VHS player or even a music system plus color TV at home.

The mid 1990’s was also a period of intense underworld gang rivalry. Bhiku Mhatre from Satya was as known as Raj from DDLJ and again Prem from Hum Saath Saath Hain and Hum Aapke hain Kaun. Sanju Baba from Vaastav and Hathyaar was iconic too.  Dil Toh Paagal Hai and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai were films which epitomized the post liberalization generation for whom Branded Attire, Overseas Education and Consumerist Culture were a day to day affair. 

Poverty, Revolution, Struggle, Challenge to the system was very 1980’s- people seemed to embrace affluence and globalization with open arms. This sentiment was sealed with the release of Mohabaatein which was a feel good college romance whose protagonist was a violin teacher Mr. Raj Aryan and his confrontation with the Narayan Shankar- the dean of the school, was glossy escapist cinema glorified. It seemed no one had time to watch cinema that was real. Salman Khan with Pyaar Kiya toh Darna Kya and Judwaa was again cinema that defined Bollywood and Society in the 1990’s- a transitionary neither global nor local, may be more local in flavor….. 

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