India is a country plagued by several issues due to its huge population and lack of resources. Since cinema is a reflection of life, it is obvious that some of these issues are portrayed in certain Indian films. The films may be completely fictional or inspired from real events. Here is a list of ten Bollywood movies which are based on poverty, the life of lower classes, and the social issues associated with these things.
1. Manjhi - The Mountain Man
Manjhi is a film that depicts the life of a real person named Dashrath Manjhi who is known for single-handedly building a road through a mountain in Gehlaur village after his wife dies trying to climb the mountain. Unable to take her to a hospital in time, Manjhi watches her die. The film depicted extreme poverty in Indian villages and how they have to work hard to earn every penny. It also shows how these people lack even the basic necessities of life. Directed by Mohit Moond, the film starred
Nawazuddin Siddiqui and
Ashutosh Gowariker’s film, Swades, starred
Shah Rukh Khan,
Gayatri Joshi, Makrand Deshpande, etc. The film was based on the concept of brain drain in India. The protagonist, Mohan, is an employee at NASA in the USA. He returns to India to seek his childhood caretaker, Kaveri Amma, and take her to America to live with him. In the village of Charanpur, Mohan witnesses the poor conditions of the citizens and grows to form a bond with his countrymen. He also participates in campaigns for education, electricity, and other social issues. Swades depicts many social problems prevalent in Indian villages.
Citylights in a 2014 film about a man named
Deepak Singh who travels to Mumbai with his wife and daughter to escape a life of poverty and hopelessness. In Mumbai, he has to face several adverse situations as he is unable to find a foothold in the city. The film showcases the struggles of people who are too poor to afford a life of security in a city. The people of the lower class have to risk their lives and families all the time to earn a little amount of money. The film stars Rajkummar Rao and Patralekha.
The film, Peepli Live, was a satire based on the serious issue of farmer suicides that have increased so much in India. The response of the media and the politicians towards these incidents also forms a big part of the film. It is needless to say that farmer suicides have become a major problem in India due to the poor conditions of farming and their exploitation by banks and dealers. Very often, these poor farmers lose their land as they are unable to repay their debt. The film stars
Omkar Das Manikpuri, Nawazuddin Siddiqui,
Naseeruddin Shah, etc.
Traffic Signal is a 2007 film starring
Konkona Sen Sharma,
Neetu Chandra, etc. It has been directed by
Madhur Bhandarkar. The film is centered round a traffic signal in the city of Mumbai. The lives of several people are intertwined as they all try to earn money at the signal. The film depicts the life of street-dwellers in big cities like beggars, street-children, con artists, eunuchs, and hawkers, who earn their livelihood at the traffic signals. Bhandarkar portrays the reality of such a life through his film. The film was quite appreciated and won a National Award.
Masaan is a very powerful movie about poverty and social classes. It follows two parallel stories. One is based on Devi whom the society shuns after she is discovered in a hotel room with her boyfriend. Following that, she has to work hard to earn money and pay off a blackmailing cop. The second story follows Deepak and Shaalu. Deepak belongs to the backward caste of Doms who burn dead bodies at crematorium. His love with an upper caste girl and their social differences are highlighted in the film. Masaan stars
Shweta Tripathi, and
Ashutosh Gowariker’s Lagaan is a pre-independence story of British oppression over poor villagers of India. The desperate condition of the Indians is strongly contrasted against the affluent lifestyle of the British people who are thriving on Indian riches and labor. Set in the village of Champaner, Lagaan highlights the plight of poor farmers who are forced to pay hefty taxes to the British government even though they have no crops due to a prolonged drought. Lagaan starred
Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Raghuvir Yadav, etc.
Nil Battey Sannata
A heart-warming story of strength, Nil Battey Sannata is based on the life of a mother-daughter duo with different approaches towards life. The mother, Chanda, is a hardworking maid who tries her best to give her daughter a good life and education in spite of their poverty and limited means. The daughter, Apu, takes a casual attitude towards life and holds the belief that the daughter of a maid can be nothing better than a maid herself. The story depicts how Chanda motivates Apu to take her education seriously and rise from their pitiful state. The movie starred
Swara Bhaskar, Ratna Pathak Shah,
Sanjay Suri, etc.
Stanley Ka Dabba
Amole Gupte, this film is based on an orphan boy who is beaten and physically abused by his uncle. He has to work at a restaurant to make ends meet and tries his best to hide his sorrowful life from his friends by making up elaborate stories at school. Stanley Ka Dabba was well-appreciated critically as it showed the reality of orphans who have to take responsibility for themselves at such a tender age. It also showed the positive attitude that a child bears which can make him enjoy the happy moments in life. The movie’s cast included
Rahul Singh, Amole Gupte, etc.
This film is the story of Iqbal, a deaf and mute guy, who dreams of being a cricketer and playing for India. Iqbal’s father is a farmer and does not support his dreams as they cannot afford to forget their poverty and have high ambitions. However, Iqbal works very hard and overcomes all obstacles and social stigma to prove his talent and find a place for himself in the Indian cricket team. The film starred
Shweta Basu Prasad, Naseeruddin Shah,
Girish Karnad, etc. The movie teaches us that we do not require money to have dreams.