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Several scholars of Hindi cinema have argued that significantthematicchanges occurred in commercial films during the mid-1970s. Prasad hasnotedthe decline, after several decades of dominance, of the type of"social"film that he calls the "feudal family romance," and its replacement bya "populist cinema of mobilization" that attempts to address (and,accordingto Prasad, to co-opt) the rising expectations of lower-class groups"agitatingfor the realisation of the new nation's professed democratic andsocialistideals...." (Prasad 1998:118, 138-159). Similarly Kajri Jain notes theshift in leading men from the "soft, romantic" heroes of earlierdecadesto the unquestioned megastar of the 70s and 80s, Amitabh Bachchan,whoselithe and sinewy physique contributed to his effective portrayal, innumerousfilms, of an "energized subaltern," a working class "angry young man"(Jain2001: 11-15). Significantly, the major action hits of 1975, Deewarand Sholay, figure as key texts in both scholars' analyses.1975was also, of course, the year when nearly three decades of CongressPartyrule suffered its most significant challenge. Amid exposes ofwidespreadbureaucratic corruption and a court decision against the PrimeMinister,activist Jayaprakash Narayan called for a "total revolution," andmassivestrikes threatened to cripple the country's nationalisedinfrastructure.Indira Gandhi responded in June by declaring a state of nationalemergency,suspending constitutional liberties and freedom of the press, andjailingthousands of her opponents. This desperate measure would eventuallyfurtherweaken the Congress mandate, leading to Gandhi's massive defeat at thepolls in 1977 and, in the longer term, to the rise of powerfuloppositionparties that often mobilised local, caste- and class-based identities.Though the changes that ensued certainly stopped short of "totalrevolution,"they nevertheless eroded the authority of the elite that had beenrulingthe nation since Independence, and contributed to the politicalawakeningand rising expectations of formerly disenfranchised groups: "scheduled"and "backward castes" and lower-middle-class labourers, artisans, andmerchants.
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