The presence of Bollywood in the life of every Indian is an undeniable force. Irrespective of whether you’re a regular movie watcher or not, as long as you’re in India, there is no escape from the chart busters on the radio, the Khans on every other billboard and commercial, the unending outflow of scandals in news channels and so on.

A presence as strong as that is also, rightfully perhaps, often put under scrutiny. What responsibilities do movie makers have when it comes to the message their art sends out? How much artistic liberty can they have whilst trying to respect every bit of culture in the nation to avoid a controversy? Are actors and actresses the right kind of role models for kids? The questions are never ending. The answers, maybe not as objective as one would like.

In terms of the art produced on celluloid, India is a mixed bag. On one hand, commercial cinema aims at big box office numbers and often achieves it whereas on the other, underrated regional movies for example impress a few critics and go unnoticed by majority of the audience. The question this brings us to is, what level of artistic intellect or capacity to understand and properly interpret a well-crafted piece of art is expected out of the audience?

Kabir Singh, which had recently raised many eyebrows due to its misogynistic and questionable approach towards love, can be a relevant example about the on going debate regarding the capacity of bollywood’s audience to grasp concepts and see them as what they are. The debate became about Indian population’s ability to separate art from reality. Even though the contents of the movie were questionable from a moral standpoint, the discussion took an interesting turn as people started arguing about how the glorification of such behavior can mold the audiences’ mind and encourage such acts in real life. The point being made is valid. But, in a country where on one hand we fight for artistic liberty and ending censorship with the argument that the audience is intellectual enough to grasp the concept of art and it need not be censored, how does that, by the same note, not nullify the ongoing argument? The depiction of the character in the movie is still not justified ,but is there or can there be any objectivity to how much or what percentage of the population can be trusted with the true essence of the artwork? Is there a constant need to babysit and guide every interpretation? In that case, the audience loses its right to complain about not being served stories about ‘real life’ and get flying cars and unrealistic hero-villain fights instead. If that is not the case, the worry about how a piece of art might affect where we stand as a society should be eradicated as a whole.

It truly is an interesting time for cinema in India as we hang between justified fanbases of say Salman Khan who famously advertises the aggressive, alpha male, macho image on one hand and constantly questioned followers of movies that touch on some horrifying realities without the charm and glamour of a commercial hit on the other.