Monday, November 30, 2009

Salman: I'm blessed

On World AIDS Day, Salman Khan writes on the films he did to spread awareness about AIDS and HIV....

Salman Khan writes

In 2004, Revathi wanted to make her directorial debut in Hindi and was looking for actors for Phir Milenge.

It was about an HIV positive person looking for a job. She went to a lot of stars to cast them for the film, but they all refused the part because they felt it might go against their image. So she approached me. The part appealed to me and the film itself had a meaning, an urgent message, and could do a lot of good in spreading awareness about HIV. Although the film was critically acclaimed, I still feel that it didn’t reach enough people. It could’ve been different if the treatment was in the local language.

Shilpa Shetty was actually the one who asked me to do the film. She was playing the role of the person living with HIV. It was a bold step on her part and made me realise that if a big actress like her could take this step, then so could I.

The premise of the film was about a person living with HIV looking for work. We wanted to show that one can live a normal life even after having contracted HIV and that life doesn’t have to change, if you don’t want it to. We must understand that HIV cannot be transmitted by hugging, living or working together. It tried to explore that once a person has been tested positive, it was possible to live a healthy life if one took all the necessary medication. They shouldn’t care what the world sees or perceives about them, instead should realise that they’ve got a second chance in life and should enjoy it responsibly and live it healthily.

It was the first time that an Indian film had been made on this topic, and that two mainstream actors who were doing well in their respective careers had taken this step. It was a very sweet film and I think it touched the hearts of a lot of people. I know it touched my family too.

My mother and I could see people’s impression about the virus and the people infected with it change after they had watched the movie. I think sometimes people need to be shaken up to face some harsh realities. But we also tried to make them understand that HIV, once contracted, can be treated. The message was for the youth to be aware and responsible for their actions. Every action has an equal and opposite reaction, so they must be aware and understand these issues.

In case people have unprotected sex, the next morning they panic but still don’t get themselves tested for HIV. People don’t donate blood because they are scared they will be tested for HIV. It’s not the virus that scares them, it’s the stigma attached to HIV.

There was another film the following year, My Brother Nikhil, but I don’t think many people watched it because it was a small-scale one. That’s why I think there have to be more hard-hitting films that reach out to more people and scares them, or at least makes them think about these things. But I also don’t think Bollywood is ready to make more serious films about this topic like Milk or Brokeback Mountain. Homosexuality, at least according to our cinema currently, is becoming a bit of a joke. But one needs to look at its flipside now and treat it with humour as well as sensitivity and seriousness. We need people to get into the issue and treat the subject with respect.

My trust, the Being Human Foundation, is an inspiration from my parents. It works to help people who need aid. Currently, we have not asked for monetary help from anyone. I only take money from my close friends and family and meet all the other funding requirements on my own. I am in the process of setting up a website for the trust and the idea is to make money for charity from the website. We’ll be selling things like bracelets signed by me, my paintings, sketches, clothes I’ve worn in my films. We’ll put it all for sale and the proceeds will go towards the charity. It’s a good feeling to see a child smile soon after being close to not living. I have been blessed by God who has given me so much, I don’t just want to lend my face to a cause; I want to be there and support it in as many ways I can. I want to teach people that the biggest gift in the world you can give to anyone is to be human.

Tags : Bollywood, Salman Khan, aids