Cinema is one of the most powerful vehicles for culture, education, propaganda, and lifestyle. Prime Minister Nehru had once stated that “The influence in India of films is greater than newspapers and books combined.”
The unique experience of enjoying a film at the theatres can of course have a positive impact on mental health. The visual stimulation, sound effects, and storytelling combined can evoke a range of emotions that we may otherwise never experience in a span of three hours.
Movies have long been used as educational tools. They have a deep influence on our sense of what is right and wrong. At a younger age, they can serve as a moral compass, much like fairy tales, mythology, or local folklore. Movies express and reinforce what our contemporaries and peers expect out of us.
A powerful tool
The history of cinema shows many examples where leaders use cinema to help achieve their goals.
Hitler and Stalin used movies as propaganda during the second world war to change people’s opinions and outlook.
Similarly, a film can be a vehicle to bring about positive change in society and steer the conversation towards important issues on gender, race, equality, patriotism, war, and humanity.
One may even argue that the main goal of cinematic art is to impact and send a message or make people think.
Films like Buddha in a Traffic Jam are a good example here. They force the common man to think about issues like intellectual terrorism or the concept of Urban Naxals.
Similarly, a film like The Tashkent Files questions or changes our perspective on history, fact, and fiction.
Inspirational food for thought
Films inspire people to chase their dreams and make them think anything is possible. Recent examples include Chak De India or Mary Kom that inspire a whole generation of people to get out there and achieve their dreams.
One of the most powerful films The Pursuit of Happyness is yet another example that has inspired many to think that the world is their oyster and they can find pearls.
In obvious and subtle ways films can inspire an entire generation, help the economy grow, and shape the modern world as we know it.
Fashioning our thoughts
It is not just our thoughts and ideas, cinema is also responsible for creating fashion trends, making new hairstyles popular and introducing new elements of culture into the collective psyche.
A Shahrukh Khan hairdo or a Madhuri Dixit saree from Hum Aapke Hain Koun had droves lining up to mirror the same look. The aspirational power of films can also benefit businesses that can take cues from these trends.
Using cinema as a medium for change
In 2004, the film The Day After Tomorrow was released. It brought the conversation around global warming to the center-stage. A survey conducted later showed that 83 percent of the people who saw the film were somewhat or very concerned about global warming.
Whether we choose to inform, educate or entertain, it is difficult to underestimate the potency of this medium to have an impact. Filmmakers somewhere have a responsibility in the stories they share and how they share them.