Violence in Hindi Films and Television Serials

As a follow up to our finding that there is high prevalence of torture and other forms of violence in society, this study was planned to understand how they are reflected in the media and how the media in turn influence people, particularly children. The study involved an analytical review of violence depicted in films and TV serials. The landmark or trend - setter films of 1970s and 1980s, and several films of the 1990s are included in the review. For the TV serials, the ongoing serials of 1999 were watched and reviewed.

A random study of the television programmes across the channels found that violence, both physical and psychological are there in plenty on the small screen. These include threats, slapping, screaming, shouting, assaulting, expletives, pushing, clobbering, stabbing, mental torture,eerie sounds and threatening music. In fact these categories of violence accounted for over 50 % of the total actions shown in these serials.Much of the violence is explicit and graphic. Some depictions of violence include torture in police lock up or verbal violence. Social dramas also have a large quantity of violence. In one day’s programme across the channels, 178 acts of violence were found in one form or the other.

A survey of 108 children (with an average age of 9.9 years) from Delhiwas conducted. They belonged equally to the lower income, middle income and upper-middle income groups. There were equal number of boys and girls. All of them spent at least one hour every day (many spent more), watching TV. The survey investigated research questions such as (1) What is the impact of legitimisation of police violence? (2)Does the average child see both violence and torture on screen and its manifestation in real life as a routine method of solving problems? (3) Does the audience that watches police brutality begin to accept brutality as a vital part of the police’s functions, and as the only solution to larger-than-life problems? (4) Do children not having a caring social and family environment, seek role models offering compensation through power and aggression? Some of the findings of the survey are as follows:

  • The action serials Seahawk (53%) and Hindusthani (36%) topped the chart of favourite serials amongst the children. Bhanwar and the controversial Shaktimaan are also popular.
  • 50% of the boys preferred action/violent and 11% preferred

romantic films. 39% of the girls preferred comedies, 30% romances and 19% action films. When distributed over income groups the data showed that 72% of the lower income group boys like violent films compared to 67% from the other two groups.

  • 42% of the children reacted negatively to the character of a policeman, 28% positively, and 30% were indifferent.
  • When they saw policemen beating someone up in a serial, 22% of the boys felt happy, 31% felt uncomfortable and 19% were scared by such scenes.
  • Twenty-eight percent of the boys felt happy when the cop was beating the bad guys, but felt bad when he was thrashing the innocent.
  • In the lower income group, the percentage of boys and girls who either felt bad or were scared by such scenes was much higher than their counterparts in the other two income groups. This was perhaps because they can relate police torture to experiences in their everyday environment, while middle and upper income group children view torture from a much safer position in society

The study also produced a small documentary film giving clippings of the violence from various films with commentary.

Supported by: Centre for Victims of Torture, Nepal and Anusandhan Trust