I work in movies because I love them. Like really, really love them. I’m nuts about movies, I watch them all the time, and when I’m not watching them or making them, I talk about them with my friends. I’m a great believer in the power of cinema. The ability to transport audiences to another place, another time, and make them care about characters they have no real connection with. Obviously, that power can be used in different ways. You can make a dark, depressing ‘social commentary’ kind of film which is seen by 14 people (this happens from time to time), or you can make a brainless, pointless entertaining film which earns huge amounts of money (this also happens sometimes).
The thing is, movies are powerful. They can raise issues. They can be talking points for everyone. After Chak De... released, suddenly everyone was concerned about the plight of Indian hockey players (but only for a few months. Then IPL kicked off and we were back to cricket). After Taare Zameen Par, everyone started talking about our education system. I’d accompanied Aamir when he attended a seminar on education shortly after the film released. There were teachers and school administrators from around the country. One teacher stood up and asked him “It’s all very well that you’ve made this film, but what are you actually going to do to improve our education system?”. My uncle said he wasn’t going to do anything. He said “I’m a filmmaker. My job is to make movies. I spent a year making this film, because I felt that this is something that people should be thinking about. What are YOU going to do to improve our education system?”
Granted, most people in the film industry aren’t particularly interested in making films with a message, or even with any meaning. But that’s ok. It doesn’t say anywhere that they have to. What I would consider to be an ideal situation would be one where we can make entertaining films which also make people think. Let’s be honest, no one wants to buy a ticket, sit in the theater with a tub of popcorn and watch a public service film. We go to the movies first and foremost to have fun. But when we watch a film which we thoroughly enjoy, and which we talk about for days afterwards... that’s special. That’s a good movie. That’s a movie which can actually have an impact on society.
You know how everyone says that cinema is a universal language? Ok, if you didn’t, you know it now. Movies can reach out across language and cultural barriers. People around the world watch the same films, laugh at the same moments and cry at the same moments. It’s beautiful. More than any other medium of communication, I think movies become a common ground for people. At the end of the day, whether a movie has a message or not, whether it raises an issue or not... It’s becoming a part of our global culture. Bringing us all a little closer together.