Skip to main content

How Hindi cinema promotes unabashed, unapologetic glamorization of gambling

By Bharat Dogra 

There was an intense debate in a recent GST Council meeting on how various forms of gambling should be taxed. However we will be taking a very narrow view if we consider gambling mainly in the context of revenue, as its social impacts are more important.
While there is widespread agreement on checking illegal forms of gambling and strong police action against this is considered desirable, this outlook often changes in the context of legal forms of gambling which is often not just supported officially in the name of earning revenue and boosting tourism, but it is—with its casinos and horse races—often also glamorized. This is surprising as several of the adverse social impacts (including several people getting addicted to gambling and in the process getting ruined) are no less severe in the context of legal forms of gambling. In fact some of the big centers of gambling have experienced a spurt of several criminal activities despite gambling itself being a legal activity here. Despite this, support unfortunately has been forthcoming from several sides for legalizing several illegal forms of gambling. Such support has even been extended sometimes to betting relating to sports events, despite very adverse likely impacts associated with this.
While various forms of gambling have existed in society since ancient times, there has always been a strong social current of opposing this as highly undesirable. But glamorization of gambling, particularly casinos, has led to breaking this resistance.
There have been several reviews of how popular films in the USA and Europe have promoted gambling in both obvious and subtle ways, but this issue has not received much attention in the context of Indian cinema. However here too, in much the same way, we find that several films have promoted gambling by presenting a highly glamorized version of gambling generally and more particularly of casino culture. Another form of gambling which has been often glamorized in Hindi commercial cinema relates to horse racing.
One form that promotion of gambling takes relates to a very popular hero being presented as a very skilled gambler who wins all the time and becomes very rich in this way, entering the world of big riches and glamour. The fact that there is at least as much, probably more, chance of being ruined by gambling is not allowed to disturb this success story of the hero (although this may be mentioned in the context of lesser characters). If someone wins so consistently in real life in gambling, he is likely to be cheating but not so in Hindi cinema. In fact here our hero the constant winner is not a cheater himself but very good at catching those who cheat and can bash them up as well.
What is more the attractive hero is shown in such attractive settings in casinos, in the company of very beautiful dancers and consuming very expensive liquor, being the envy and attraction of everyone for his confidence and success, that several impressionable youth may easily get a strong heady feeling that this indeed is the great life.
In the beginning of a super-hit film ‘The Great Gambler’ Amitabh Bachchan is shown as seeking the blessings from a portrait of his parents before departing for his daily round of gambling! When his sister admonishes him for this, he tells her that after all this is my livelihood and what is wrong in seeking blessings of parents for success in livelihood.
Any guilty feelings having been got rid of at the very beginning, Amitabh reaches a lowly roadside joint where he straightaway starts his winning spree. When one other gambler tries to cheat, Amitabh bashes him immediately. A big gangster who has keenly observed his winning ways then invites him to gamble on his behalf in high circle casino, and in a day our hero is transformed into the world of high glamour and great riches. He keeps winning consistently here too, all the time maintaining his confidence and adjusts easily to the new world of expensive hotels, clubs and swimming pools. But as Hindi films unlike western ones also need to provide some moral escape also for the hero, the story then develops to somehow get him involved in some ‘patriotic’ act as well. Before the story ends, however, the audience has spent a lot of time in casinos not just of India but of other countries as well.
In another film 'Hasinon Ka Devta' there is a much discussed scene in which the hero Sanjay Khan, in a very attractive setting of a casino of course, again and again collects the spoils and when other gamblers try to cheat, he bashes all of them with the strength of a champion wrestler and boxer both combined. In Nehle Pe Dehla, another hit film, again gambling is presented in a very attractive way with most leading characters seen to be involved in this.
In an older film like 'Shri 420', (incidentally a very good film for various reasons), however, the moral issues had to be stronger. Here when the hero played by Raj Kapoor, shown as an honest struggling man, is picked up by a very rich person for his special skills with cards and taken to a club for gambling, his inner voice keeps yearning for a return to honest ways. Here the contrast between the evil represented by the rich world’s gambling (despite all its glitter) and the hero’s earlier struggles for a honest livelihood are much stronger, and the overall ‘message’ of the viewer is likely to be more in favor of the ‘honest’ world as represented by the teacher Vidya ( the heroine played by Nargis), as opposed to Maya, the club dancer ( played by Nadira).
However with the forces of idealism becoming much weaker in Hindi cinema with the passage of time, reflecting the wider trends in Indian society, the tendency for more unabashed, unapologetic glamorization of gambling and casino culture became more pronounced. The gambling here is accompanied by endless smoking and drinking as well, together with cabarets and club dances, and even criminals can be seen lurking all around; yet all this is presented in terms of attractive, glamorous life which appeals much to those seeking sensation and thrills.
The real task from a social point of view is to present the ruin brought out by gambling, most of all by the peculiar addictiveness of gambling, in the lives of many households, so as to serve as a warning. However this task has been increasingly neglected in the pursuit of more and more glamor and sensation by commercial cinema. In the process of glamorization, the sensation, the thrills that attract gamblers are exaggerated even more in the world of movies and TV programs which imitate them. This glamorization must be avoided, and there should be more efforts to tell the story of those who have suffered much from their addictiveness to gambling.
---
The writer has been involved with several social movements. Recent books of the writer include ‘A Day in 2071’, ‘Navjeevan’ and ‘When the Two Streams Met'

Comments

TRENDING

Sorry state of Indian academics: why was I thrown out of Delhi varsity interview room?

By Dr. Abhay Kumar*  The interview for the post of political science (Guest) was scheduled on Saturday afternoon, September 10, 2022. Given my previous experience, I was not willing to appear for it. But friends persuaded me to go and fight for our rights. I reached the college well before the time. When my turn came and I entered the room. The first question was asked about my experience. I said that I had taught for four semesters at NCWEB. I mentioned that I had taught ”Comparative politics”, “International Relations”, “Comparative Political Thoughts” and “Indian Government and Politics”. I said that as a teacher I had taught all the articles listed in the syllabus of the same Delhi University and the expert could ask anything about any reading or ideas. Friends, the first question asked by a female member, perhaps she is the principal of the college if I am not wrong, to give the full form of NCWEB! The second question asked by a male expert, perhaps he is the political science dep

Musician and follower of Dr Ambedkar? A top voilinist has this rare combination!

Some time back, a human rights defender, Vidya Bhushan Rawat, who frequently writes for Counterview, forwarded to me a video interview with Guru Prabhakar Dhakade, calling him one of India's well known violinists.  Dhakade is based in Nagpur and has devoted his life for the Hindustani classical music. A number of his disciples have now been part of Hindi cinema world in Mumbai, says Rawat. He has performed live in various parts of the country as well as abroad. What however attracted me was Dhakade's assertions in video about Dr BR Ambedkar, India's undisputed Dalit icon. Recorded several years back at his residence and music school in Nagpur, Dhakade not only speaks candidly about issues he faced, but that he is a believer in Dr Ambedkar's philosophy. It is in this context that Dhakade narrates his problems, even as stating that he is determined to achieve his goal. A violinist and a follower of Ambedkar? This was new to me. Rarely do musicians are found to take a

Tokens, symbols or incipient feminists? : First generation women sociologists in India

By IMPRI Team  The online event on the theme ‘Tokens, Symbols or Incipient Feminists? : The first Generation of Women Sociologists in India’ was held as an initiative of Gender Impact Studies Center (GISC), IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi under the #WebPolicyTalk series of The State of Gender Equality – #GenderGaps. Inaugurating the session, Zubiya Moin welcomed the speaker and participants to the program, followed by an introduction to the eminent panelists. Commencing the program, Prof Vibhuti Patel made her opening remarks welcoming Prof Kamla Ganesh, Feminist Sociologists and then greeted Prof Ratna Naidu and the editors of book ‘Reimaging Sociology in India: Feminist Perspective’, Dr Gita Chadha and Dr. Joseph M.T. along with Prof Arvinder Ansari and also welcomed all participants. She set up the stage by making us familiar with women sociologists and their works. Dr Gita Chadha, Editor of the book ‘Reimaging Sociology in India: Feminist Perspective’ After th

Omission of duty by BSF and police: Hindu forcefully kidnapped, taken to Bangladesh

Kirity Roy, Secretary, Banglar Manabadhikar Suraksha Mancha (MASUM), & National Convenor, Programme Against Custodial Torture & Impunity (PACTI) writes to the Chairman, National Human Rights Commission: *** I am writing this to focus on the life and situation of the poor and marginalized villagers living alongside the Indo-Bangladesh border of West Bengal. Through the several complaints we made throughout the years to your good office, it is now evident that the people of this border are living in an acute crisis, not only from a financial perspective but also in terrible distress. The people of the border are devoid of their basic rights and are subjected to immense torture, harassment and restrictions mostly enacted by the Border Security Force personnel, who are supposed to be posted at the international borders with intentions to protect the Indian citizenry. However, on the contrary, incidents of victimizing Indian citizens are being witnessed at large by the BSF. 130 Bhot

Tamil Nadu govt claiming to reform Hindu religion, temples. People deserve better

By NS Venkataraman  For the last several decades, there have been hate campaign against Hinduism in Tamil Nadu in a subtle or not so subtle manner. Initially, it was a hate campaign against brahmins and the brahmins were abused, insulted and physically attacked. Fearing such conditions, many brahmin families left Tamil Nadu to settle down in other states in India or have gone abroad. Now, the brahmin population in Tamil Nadu is at microscopic level, for which these hate campaigners against brahmins were responsible. Later on, emboldened by the scenario of scared brahmin families not resisting and running away, the hate campaigners started focusing on Hindus. For some years, when M.G.Ramachandran and Jayalalitha were the chief ministers of the state, the hate Hindu campaigners were not much heard, as both these chief ministers were staunch believers in Hindu philosophy and have been offering prayers in temples in full public view. However, in the last eighteen months in

Emerging dimensions of India’s foreign policy in the context of global politics

By IMPRI Team  The three-day course took place recently, providing participants with an understanding of the development of Indian foreign policy, the complexity of geopolitics, and its flexibility to adjust to and even shape global outcomes. Many distinguished academics, senior scholars, former Indian diplomats, and journalists who are skilled observers and commentators of India’s foreign policy will serve as instructors for this course. Day 1 The three-day immersive online certificate training on “Emerging Dimensions of India’s Foreign Policy and Global Politics”, an initiative by the Center for International Relations and Strategic Studies (CIRSS) at IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute (IMPRI), began on July 14th, 2022 at 5:00 PM (IST) on Zoom platform. Dr Souravie Ghimiray served as the emcee throughout the 3 days of the event and welcomed the distinguished speakers of Day 1. The esteemed panel on Day 1 consisted of, Dr Soumita Basu, Associate Professor, Department of Intern

Demographic parameters of India@75: resource allocation, political representation

By IMPRI Team  As per UN Population Prospects 2022, India is going to be the most populous country in the world. In this regard, IMPRI Impact and Policy Research Institute, New Delhi with #IMPRI Center for Human Dignity and Development (CHDD) , organized a panel discussion, #WebPolicyTalk, as part of the series The State of Population Development- #PopulationAnd Development on India@75: Most Populous Country? The moderator of the event was Mr Devender Singh, Global Studies Programme, University of Freiburg and a Visiting Senior Fellow at IMPRI. The panellists for the event were Prof P.M Kulkarni, Demographer, Retired Professor of Population Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University(JNU) , New Delhi; Dr U.V Somayajulu, Co-Founder, CEO and Executive Director, Sigma Research and Consulting ; Dr Sonia George, General Secretary, Self Employed Women’s Association (SEWA), Kerala; Prof K.S James, Director and Senior Professor, International Institute for Population Sciences (IIPS), Mumbai. Th

Bhagawat Gita shows the way for the attitude to life and desirable goal of life

By NS Venkataraman*  When a mother delivers a human body, this body has no identity. Then, parents, relatives, friends consult each other and discuss the alternate appropriate names and arrive at a suitable name for this human body and this body is known and identified by this name. This human body, which steadily grow just like animals, plants and others and after experiencing the pleasures and pains of worldly life alternately for several years, perish one day, for the body to be burnt or buried. This body, bearing a name as it’s identity, comes in to the world and goes away from the world and the name that is the identity for the body also goes away along with the body. This is the scenario for several thousands of years that have gone by. The question: One question that does not seem to be still “convincingly explained” in a way that will appeal to the brain in the human body, is as to whether this human body only consists of flesh, bone and blood with well

Implementing misleading govt order to pollute Hyderabad's 100 year old reservoirs

Senior activists* represent to the Telangana Governor on GO Ms 69 dated 12.4.2022 issued by the Municipal Administration and Urban Development (MA&UD), Government of Telangana: ‘...restrictions imposed under para 3 of said GO Ms 111 dated 8.3.1996 are removed...’: *** Ref: GO Ms 111 dated 8.3.1996: ‘To prohibit polluting industries, major hotels, residential colonies or other establishments that generate pollution in the catchment of the lakes upto 10kms from full tank level as per list in Annexure-I...’ We come to your office with grievance that GO Ms 69 dated 12.4.2022 issued by Government of Telangana not only contains false information issued ‘By Order and in the name of the Governor of Telangana’ , without any scientific or expert reports, but also that implementation of the said GO is detrimental and can be catastrophic to the Hyderabad city as two 100 year old reservoirs Osman Sagar and Himayath Sagar were constructed as dams on river Moosa and river Esa, with the first and

Tattoos and intimidating gestures can't always win cricket matches for India

By Sudhansu R Das  Team India waited with baited breath for the outcome of the Pakistan vs Afghanistan match. Speculation was on about India’s return to the game if Pakistan loses to Afghanistan until Pakistan’s tailender, Naseem hit two massive sixes to win the match for Pakistan. Unfortunately, Afghanistan lost the match after being in a strong position till the last over of the game; two full touch balls in the final over turned the match into Pakistan side. The Afghanistan team would never forget this blunder and shock for a long time. India’s team management should introspect and take tough decision keeping in view of the tough match situation in the world cup matches. India lost two crucial matches in the Asia Cup. It could not defend a big total of 176 against Pakistan due to mediocre bowling attack, sloppy fielding and unimaginative captainship. It failed against Sri Lanka in similar fashion; it could not defend another respectable T 20 total of 171 runs. It was a pat