The cult classic ‘Mother India’ released in 1957. An epic drama starring Nargis and directed by Mehboob Khan, it revolves around the story of a poverty-stricken village woman Radha, who in the absence of her husband, struggles to raise her sons and survive against a cunning money-lender amidst many troubles. Despite her hardships, she sets a goddess-like moral example of an ideal Indian woman. It was the most expensive Hindi film production of the time and earned the highest revenue for any Hindi film as well. It was India’s first official entry for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 1958, where it earned the nomination and lost the award by merely one vote.
‘Roja’ is a Mani Ratnam-directed Tamil romantic thriller, featuring Arvind Swamy and Madhoo in the lead. The film won 3 National Film Awards, including Best Film on National Integration. The film was later re-released for international audiences in light of the growing fear of terrorist attacks across the world. It is the first in Ratnam's trilogy of films that depict human relationships against a background of Indian politics, the others being ‘Bombay’ and ‘Dil Se..’. ‘Dil Se..’ is another romantic war-thriller film by Ratnam, set in the backdrop of insurgency in northeast India. An example of parallel cinema tackling difficult subjects, the film was an overseas box office success and won the Netpac Award at the 1999 Berlin International Film Festival.
Notable socially relevant thought provoking films of the 21st century include ‘Lage Raho Munna Bhai’, which besides being a brilliant comedy drama like its prequel ‘Munna Bhai M.B.B.S.’, had a nationwide social message it strongly put forth. Showcasing the principles of Mahatma Gandhi, it shared the idea of following and practising them in different situations, instead of merely respecting the Father of the Nation in the form of statues, the only prevalent reality in India as far as Gandhism is concerned.
‘Chak De! India’ compelled us to think about Indian women beyond the traditional restrictions of household and customs imposed on them. The 2016 drama ‘Pink’ also dealt with young women and the society’s perception of them in different situations.
Socially relevant films have also been made in regional cinema, particularly down south by renowned Tamil filmmaker K. Balachander, like ‘Arangetram’, ‘Apoorva Raagangal’ and ‘47 Natkal’.