PODCAST: Dr. Salman Akhtar on History of Bollywood Cinema Part-3

Dr. Salman Akhtar

Dr. Salman Akhtar

Dr. Salman Akhtar talks about Bollywood or Hindi cinema’s 100 year old history in this multi-part interview. In Part-3 of our conversation he talks about female sexuality and the angry young phase of Hindi cinema during the 1970s.

“I will tell you a very interesting story about female sexuality in Hindi film,” he says. And he shares the story of a 1973 film called “Prem Parvat.” Directed by Ved Rahi the film starred Hema Malini, Rehang Sultana and Satish Kaul.  His father Jan Nisar Akhtar wrote  Raat Piya Ke Saangh, an erotic song for the film. The song reflects the sexual tension of the film at a critical juncture explains Dr. Akhtar. Initially India’s Film Censor Board objected to the song and questioned his father on why he wrote such an erotic song. It is interesting to hear Mr. Akhtar’s explanation of how he wrote the song and the alternative lines he could have used that was far more erotic. The song was approved by the censors.

A major strand in Hindi cinema was the “angry young man” phase. Javed Akhtar and Salim Khan collaborated under  “Salim-Javed” and wrote the screen play of many of the films in the angry young man genre like “Zanjeer,” “Deewar,” “Don” and other super hit films. Why did these angry young man films resonate with the audience in India? Why did Salim-Javed write such film scripts?  Why was Amitabh Bachchan repeatedly cast as the young angry young man in these films? There was a sense of betrayal by the government to its people explains Dr. Akhtar. These films came during India’s 25th anniversary as an independent nation and it was at a time when the country’s economic growth was sluggish. The socio-political environment in the country was reflected in these film scripts.


In case you missed here is Part-1 of our conversation where Dr.  Akhtar talks about his family and what got him interested in the history of Hindi cinema. Dr. Akhtar is a Psychiatrist and a professor at Thomas Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. He has has written extensively on  psychiatry, psychoanalysis and about poetry and films. And in Part-2 Dr. Akhtar talks about the profound sexual angst in the films from the 1950s and 1960s.

And here is a scene from “Deewar,” one of the angry young man films of Amitabh Bachchan.


Photo courtesy of Dr. Salman Akhtar