top of page

Is Political Satire Modern Symbolism?

Alifiya Indorewala

Rare is a film not multi-layered. Cinema is often utilized as a window into society, culture, philosophy, and theology. Directors and writers push their passions and ideas into different projects; some of which, at times, leave a subtle message. However, while subtle, sometimes these thoughts can leave an impression, thereby, strengthening the overall integrity of the film. While films like this are often surreal or metaphorical, those that incorporate an allegorical meaning tend to be far more grounded in reality and realism. Nonetheless, both styles of portrayal are potent and brimming with endless amounts of depth to explore.

Symbolism is one of the main techniques used to create the political satire in the films. As is, every story isn't told directly; there are ways wherein the filmmakers present their tales through symbols that may either represent satire, experiences or their perspective of society. Satire is a very old technique that comes from the Greek theatre tradition, the presentation of which has been evolved by different experiences through years. Using satire in various ways (as symbols or through characters) makes a film more impactful on its audience. Films today, tend to be more focused on realism, giving filmmakers the creative freedom to boldly express unconventional ideas in a way, essential to depict our reality.

Satire, as a style of writing runs throughout history. The Greeks wrote satirical plays. The Romans wrote satirical poems. The beginnings of the word "satire" go back to the Middle French satire, meaning "work intended to ridicule vice or folly," and the Latin word satira, meaning "satire, poetic medley." Humour is a method that allows a writer to speak with impunity. Without humour, a writer would open himself/herself to critique. However, it is through satire and its humour that a writer is able to ridicule without repercussion. Ultimately, the satirist’s goal is to expose society’s flaws and to inspire change. That is a change that the cinema has also been aspiring for years and now have established phenomenally. There was a time when people were too scared to rebel against oppression or even address their political views which have changed drastically today, partially due to the great personalities who revolutionized the way the world thinks, but also due to art and writings of eminent personalities which are now transformed into the art of cinema that we see and learn from.

As we talk about this, we should also address how largely our ‘youth’ has been influenced by pop culture – they believe and form opinions from what they see. This is a landmark for cinema as people have started imbibing the writer’s satire and viewing it with an open mind due to the existence of the ‘woke’/ ‘pop’ culture.

Whether you're conservative or liberal, political commentary covers the spectrum of political views. The variety of news outlets broadcasting today cater to both sides of the aisle. While newspapers and the nightly news aim for journalistic integrity and objectivity, sometimes it's easier to swallow the reality of American politics when it's delivered with a little bit of humor.

These days political satire takes many forms: television programs like The Daily Show, cartoons like South Park and The Simpsons, films like Dr. Strangelove and Wag the Dog, and Internet channels like The Onion and Youtube's Autotune the News are notable examples in different mediums. Recent memorable examples include Jon Stewart's and Stephen Colbert's 2010 'Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear', Tina Fey's impression of Sarah Palin on Saturday Night Live (2008), and the 2015 Charlie Hebdo controversy in Paris, France.

These satires succeed when mixing the realities of political debate with a grain of humor. Whether in an illustration or television comedy show, political satirists enlighten our understanding of a debate by warping the reality ever so slightly. They can reveal the insanity underlying a political controversy and show us the banality of political discourse. In cases when they're not all that insightful, they're just plain funny.

Satire has influenced India in many ways. Being a form of comedic political commentary, it integrates two elements: caricature and allusion. Caricatures parody a public figure by warping their appearance. This can include animalistic qualities or other exaggerated features. The second important element of a political cartoon is an allusion, or a reference to a real-world situation or context. It's important that caricaturists hint at the meaning of their cartoon without making an overt connection. Political satire can be a tricky form because it aims at a fine line between journalism and humor.

Let's look at some films that have achieved this with a great success-

Jaane bhi do yaaro, directed by Kundan Shah’s , an exceptionally entertaining satire, is a near-perfect film. Its genre of black comedy was a rarity of the era. Despite that, the movie had clear relatable and engaging points that led to its cult status. The theme is something people can identify with. It is not the everyday harassment by small players for petty gains. It is about the much deeper, much worse culture of quid pro quo stemming from the collusion of unethical players. These selfish acts committed for personal gains create a web of deceit and inept governance that only benefits individuals. There is little thought left for public good. At its very core, the film is a realistic portrayal of such rampant corruption. But it is not prescriptive. It does not offer a solution.

Well, there are many such other films in Bollywood that have been pioneering their way of showing corruption, inequality, discrimination against caste -one recent example to the addressing the casteism issue would be Article 15 , and various other dark areas that our system and culture inherits.


89 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

One of the oldest marketing adage is the notion that “sex sells”. While this seems to be a contemporary idea, it dates back one hundred and fifty years, starting with Pearl Tobacco in the 1870s, the f

Art has its way of being a part of our lives. It has taken centuries for our evolution and it started with the Handicraft Industry. We made everything from useful items around us through our art and

Since the beginning of written history, music has been a crucial element of human civilization. It has been the means to portray, convey and express feelings and emotions that were otherwise hard to p

bottom of page