Past Event

Evolution of the Hindi film hero

November 20, 2019 | 18:30 - 20:30
  • Edmond J. Safra Theatre, King's College London, Strand, London, WC2R 2LS


Following on from our celebration of Gandhi Jayanti at Guildhall on 2 October with a discussion on whether Gandhian values still apply in today’s world, our next event is somewhat of a different take on the Mahatma.

Sanjay Suri, author and Europe Correspondent for CNBC TV-18 argues in his new book that Gandhi has had an outsized influence on the portrayal of the “Hero” in Hindi cinema. Well-known films released between 1948 and 1959 show the ubiquity of this spirit of renunciation among the lead male characters of the era, very much the product of Gandhi’s celibacy and austerity. His heroic retreat from wealth and sexuality was written into the cinema and then elaborately filmed shot by shot. Suri draws on numerous examples – from Mother India to Do Bigha Zameen; Shree 420 to Pyaasa; Sahib, Bibi aur Ghulam to Guide; and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge to Lage Raho Munnabhai – to show how cinema was made within well-defined moral fences that were built with dos and don’ts about sex and money.

The average Hindi film protagonist in earlier decades was a lower-middle class, upper-caste, Hindu male. He was upwardly mobile, yet had the ability to spurn wealth. He romanced the heroine, but placed a high value on celibacy. But he says that in the 1990s and 2000s, as economic growth increased, and India became more outward-looking and strident on the global stage, Gandhi’s austerity fell out of fashion, and the way Indian cinema dealt with money and sex changed completely.

Whether you’re a Hindi cinema fan, a student of history, or curious about the evolution of the Hero in cinema, this will be an interesting evening with journalist and author Sanjay Suri.

Following his talk will be a discussion with eminent personalities from media and film to discuss the evolution of the Hindi film hero, including:

  • Sangeeta Datta, well-known writer/director, independent filmmaker and cultural commentator; Director, Baithak UK
  • Mira Kaushik OBE, one of the leading lights in South Asian Dance in the UK; Director, Akademi

Sanjay Suri is a journalist with CNBC TV18 and also writes for Livemint, Moneycontrol and Firstpost. He’s based in London and been at the forefront of some of hard-hitting recent reporting, including on Vijay Mallya and Mehul Choksi tax evasion cases. He’s an accomplished author, having written several books including Brideless in Wembley, 1984: The Anti-Sikh Riots And After and A Gandhian Affair: India’s Curious Portrayal of Love in Cinema.

"You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty."

– Mahatma Gandhi