This Week Review: cinema of the 1970s

Asian cinema of the 1970s catered to the rising middle class fantasies and struggles. In the Bollywood cinema of India this was epitomized by the films of Bollywood superhero Amitabh Bachchan. These films portrayed adventurous plots with car chase trying to imitate Hollywood films like The French Connection, presented music with Disco beats and also presented the young middle class man as an “angry young man”. The women on the other hand were shown as ones who have adopted western values and outfits especially by heroines like Parveen Babi (who was featured on the cover of Time magazine for a story on Bollywood’s success) and Zeenat Aman. However towards the very end of the 1970s, especially after the steep rise in land prices in urban areas and the decline in employment security, the heroines were seen more often as saree-women striving to have a prosperous middle-class family especially heroines like Jaya Prada and Hema Malini. In this way, the cinema of Asian region becomes a sociological statement of the social-economic times of the region and its people. In Malayalam cinema, Adoor Gopalakrishnan made Swayamvaram in 1972, which got wide critical acclaim. This was followed by the film Nirmalyam by M. T. Vasudevan Nair in 1973.

Another Asian touchstone beginning in the early 1970s was traditional Hong Kong martial arts film which sparked a greater interest in Chinese martial arts to the West. Martial arts film reached the peak of its popularity largely in part due to its greatest icon, Bruce Lee. His films elevated the genre to a new level and sparked a greater interest in martial arts in the West. Lee became famous for playing Kato in the TV series The Green Hornet during the 1960s yet it was when he returned to Hong Kong and starred in three films that shot him to stardom all over Asia, The Big Boss (1971), Fist of Fury (1972) and Return of the Dragon (1972). Yet he achieved global stardom in his last completed film and the first Kung fu film to be produced by a Hollywood studio, Enter the Dragon (1973). It is the best known and considered by many to be the definitive martial arts film.