Cinema and education

You might have seen the Hindi movie, Drishyam, or its original Malayalam version by the same name.

Apart from the fact that the movie has a very terse narrative and direction, one dialogue struck me the most. The female lead in the Hindi version, played superbly by Tabu, wonders how the "fourth-grade fail" cable businessman (played by Ajay Devgn) could be so "smart"! And then she makes a very pertinent observation after a colleague remarks on Ajay Devgn's penchant for watching movies. She simply says that the cinema angle is important in this context.

Theatrics and Tabu's attribution to her industry aside, can cinema actually educate an illiterate? It looks like an over-simplistic solution to India's education woes. But does it deserve any merit? I would hazard a "Yes" for that answer, though the kind of education that I am talking about is quite unlike what is taught in our schools and colleges. Would Ajay Devgn's character have learnt from his school all the things that he learnt from his countless hours of watching movies? That is a definite "No". Our education system doesn't gear us for real-life challenges, not to mention the ones this movie talks about!

The things that I could learn from Hindi cinema are values, traditions, strategy, leadership, communication, problem-solving (of the real kind), patriotism, history, geography and culture, to name a few. Some of them are, of course, dealt with at various stages in schools and colleges, but the focus tends to be on completing the syllabus and securing good grades. At the same time, a viewer can also acquire dangerously different connotations of the same elements that I mentioned above, depending on his/ her state of mind, social context and the atmosphere itself within the theatre. A rape scene, for instance, may have two diametrically opposite stimuli on two people.

Given the strange "uncontrollable" effect on a viewer, is it really possible to use cinema in classroom? I recall watching "Other people's money" with my MBA class as a part of the "Mergers and Acquisitions" subject. It completed the subject by giving it a soul. We were often told that the big deals had more of a human element than some numbers. With our dear Professor discussing the movie intermittently and expertly relating it to what we had learnt in theory, the movie has remained etched in my memory.

Movies with "a moral of the story" like Swades, Lakshya and Taare Zameen Par are easily a great source of inspiration for our children. But specific instances or characters or even dialogues have brought out the teacher in me. One particularly hilarious dialogue from the bad guy played by Prakash Raj in the 2009 hit, "Wanted", is a lesson in leadership (gone wrong). Here's the link to a "lesson plan" I thought of. This is the first of the blog piece from my new blog effort called "Lessons From Cinema".

Keep watching this space for more...


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