Bollywood movies have never shied away from openly talking about social issues and attacking social stereotypes and stigma. These movies weren’t considered a part of mainstream cinema in the past and were termed art films. But now, such films are not just considered mainstream but also enjoy commercial success. These brave cinematic representations are examples of what a powerful impact art and movies can have in our lives. Let’s have a look at some of the best Bollywood movies on social issues that played an important role in bringing about a positive change in society.
1. Mother India
In post-independent India, a widowed mother raises her two children amidst all the societal troubles that hedge her way. Struck with poverty and tormented by a ruthless moneylender, she fights through it all with sheer strength of mind.
2. Taare Zameen Par
It’s a beautiful yet heartbreaking story of a teacher who realizes that his student has dyslexia and offers him a helping hand when everyone else refuses to understand him.
3. Article 15
The movie is based on Article 15 of the Constitution of India, which prohibits discrimination on the grounds of sex, religion, race, caste, or place of birth. Given how sensitive the topic was, the movie did a great job at portraying it.
“No means No!” This clarion call spread like wildfire after this movie was released. A retired lawyer steps forward to help a girl who has been molested by an influential man when the accused tries to get her case rigged. The movie throws light on the importance of consent in a way that we have never seen before.
5. Prem Rog
Manorama loses her husband at a very young age and is helped by Devdhar, her childhood friend, to start a new and fresh life. The movie talked about widow remarriage in a time where few dared to talk about it.
This movie is a poignant saga of the struggles of every middle-class youth in India. Issues such as parental toxicity and domestic violence are treated with dexterity in this movie.
Arth is more than just a movie about infidelity and an extra-marital affair. It is about the individual and societal perception of the same that takes this movie a notch higher and makes it the gem of a film that it is.
Extremely beautiful performances and a fresh take on the plight of widows in India, this movie is a must-watch. More than anything else, this movie celebrates the friendship of two women who are drawn to each other by fate.
This was the first Indian movie to be produced collectively by thousands of dairy farmers who financed this wonderful movie based around the White Revolution in India. The movie was lauded for its themes of rural empowerment, and above all the excellent performances.
Dr. Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras, a reputed professor is subjected to the humiliation of a sting operation being carried out to determine his sexual orientation. He later forms a bond with the journalist who covers his story. This movie is as poignant as it is socially awakening.
11. Nil Battey Sannata
The daughter of a high school drop out domestic help refuses to continue her studies owing to their financial condition. Her mother in order to tutor and motivate her decides to join her school as a student. The movie deals with the issue of female literacy and education in a beautiful manner.
12. Hindi Medium
In this social drama/comedy, a couple leaves no stone unturned in order to get their daughter educated in a reputed English-medium school.
Mohan, a man working for NASA returns to India in search of his old nanny, Kaveri Amma. He finds himself in a remote village, rich in culture but devoid of the comforts of modern life. Although inclined towards going back to America again, he finds himself drawn towards his motherland in order to do something good for it. Talk about brain drain, traditional versus modern life, customs, religion, education, etc, everything has been talked about in a new light in this movie.
14. Peepli Live
This dark comedy is a unique take on the issue of farmers’ suicide and the media attention surrounding it.
Be it casteism, the stigma surrounding pre-marital sexual relations, or other prejudices of the society, the characters in the movie constantly struggle to get past all of it and live a respectable life.
16. My Brother Nikhil
When this movie was first released, people weren’t ready for such concrete and important thoughts being thrown their way. Be it the stigma around HIV/AIDS or closeted gay relationships, this movie deals with all of it so beautifully.
Based on a real story, the movie is about the journey of a man who goes above and beyond to provide low-cost, hygienic sanitary pads to women in villages. In a society that is still puddled with so many prejudices, myths, and ignorant assumptions about the menstrual cycle, this movie is a ray of hope.
The movie explores the themes of crime, repentance, and rehabilitation in a brilliant way. A doctor falls in love with a female prison inmate and decided to get married to her.
19. Toilet: Ek Prem Katha
Another gem of a movie that talks about a very important social issue, the lack of proper toilets in households across the country. A man’s wife decides to divorce him as his house doesn’t have a washroom, even in this day and age. The man then goes above and beyond to build a public toilet in their village.
20. Udta Punjab
The issue of substance abuse is not only a concern in Punjab but also all over the country. This movie, cruising through the lives of four characters, a famous musician, a migrant farmer, a social reformer, and a policeman, gets to the roots of the crippling problem of drug abuse.
21. Shubh Mangal Zyada Saavdhan
The stigma surrounding homosexuality and same-sex marriages has been critiqued in the most comic and entertaining way possible in this wonderful movie.
This biographical film is the story of an acid attack survivor, Laxmi Agarwal, and her brave quest to rehabilitate and provide justice to countless other survivors of such brutal attacks.
Is a slap enough to demand a divorce? Of course, it is. The movie, if not anything else, made one thing clear, never compromise for violence and toxicity no matter what the magnitude of the situation is.
24. Bandit Queen
A woman belonging to a lower caste is sexually abused and tortured by men of the higher class. Based on the true-life story of Phoolan Devi, the movie follows her journey as she became a gang leader and killed all the men who had abused her in an awe-inducing act of revenge.
25. Rang De Basanti
A group of young friends, the future of the nation, find themselves filled with a newfound sense of patriotism when they participate in the making of a film based on the Indian freedom struggle. This fervour gives them the power to rebel against the oppressive powers of the present world. This movie is a masterpiece.
With hundreds of movies centered around social issues, it is difficult to pick just a few. All of these movies are gems. Which of these best Bollywood movies on social issues is your absolute favourite? Do let us know in the comments section.