In the West they have a Johnny Depp, who’ll read a book, fall in love with it and then lend his star power to the adaptation, himself pushing the script around and at times financing the writing of it. You have a George Clooney who’ll take up a small role in a ‘Gravity’ knowing that lending his star power to it will push the film to great heights. You have a Brad Pitt who has himself produced a large number of films together with David Fincher based on great scripts and books and you have a Julia Roberts who’ll do ‘Erin Brockovich’ for free just so a film like it gets made and she does this right after three successive billion dollar spinners so her power is lent to this little film.

And in India we had Aamir Khan. And the unfortunate thing has been that we only had an Aamir Khan. There has unfortunately been no star who realizes that a star’s job isn’t as much about acting, as it is about lending his power to good content and stories to make them come alive. Right from ‘Lagaan’, to ‘Taare Zameen Par’, to ‘Rang De Basanti’, to ‘3 idiots’, these films have left an indelible mark on society in the form of deeply moving people into even making changes in their lives, either by leaving a mundane job, or treating kids with dyslexia differently, to actually taking their vote seriously or even getting into politics. And then for the past 5 years we have had absolutely nothing from him that moves anyone or makes any mark. We’ve had ‘Talaash’ which seemed more like him trying to do an Indian ‘Sixth Sense’ and ‘Dhoom 3’, a film which no one says they loved or that moved them and yet is the highest grossing film of all time, supposedly.

Which brings us to a thought; what really is a Star’s role in films?

Is it to just act? Is it to just pull audiences in for the first day? Is it to just be the face of a film? Or is it actually to lend her/his power to a good story and also push people to sample wine when they’re used to country liquor, to refine their tastes, to push their ideas of cinema further, for as Spidey would say ‘With great power comes great responsibility.’

‘Talaash’ aimed to push India back into the same regressive thinking that ‘Satyamev Jayate’ tried to pull it out of and even as a script it didn’t work, a fact that is clear, no matter how much the trade pundits shout from the rooftops about figures, in the fact that no one I’ve met says that they loved the film, or were really moved by the film as a whole. This, unfortunately, admit it or not, is the barometer for a film, not its earnings. For the goodwill of how much his films have moved people has been Aamir’s currency till now. Now suddenly it seems to be becoming about numbers and rankings, much as he seems to not admit it.

If one were to just go over to his blog & and read the reviews for ‘Taare Zameen Par’ and how many thousands of people were moved to what extent, one would find it equally surprising that the man has stopped pushing the envelope as far as the depth of content goes. Even a ‘Dhobi Ghat’ which I watched five times, but wasn’t universally accepted with as much gusto, at least can surely be said to have pushed people to watch something and taste something they weren’t used to, neither in the kind of resolution to its stories, nor in the speed and flavor and mood of the film. And yet so many people who’d otherwise never have watched a film like Dhobi Ghat, right from Rickshaw-walas, to sex workers would have ended up watching and sampling a much more sensitive form of cinema thanks to Aamir Khan’s star power. And this I feel, is the responsibility of a big star. Of course, keep your numbers game up if you must, but don’t lose sight of this facet of your power. Be the shaman who brings people nuggets of truth and beauty from realms that they can’t access, be the medium between this beautiful silver screen world of sensitivity and the real world of harshness and starkness, for in being this conduit, is where your force is truly and aptly utilized.

One can only hope that PK and the films post this will have us see Aamir taking more risks and less calculated safe bets. In fact, Kiran Rao seems to have taken up this journey by lending her power to a film like ‘Ship of Theseus’ and helping to push it out into the world.

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