Want to be an Impact Guru? These 6 films will inspire you!

By: Rukmini Chopra

Published On: May 09, 2018

I was on the edge of my seat. Every nerve of mine was focussed on a young Mohan Bhargava (Shah Rukh Khan) who left a lucrative career with NASA to bring electricity to his village. 

But at this point in the film, the motor just wasn’t working. Mohan was trying his best but in vain. I dug into my popcorn nervously as the tension continued to build. What now? And suddenly, there were cheers from the crowd as the motor zoomed, lighting up a bulb in a dim house within the city of Charanpur. 

Mohan was smiling and so was I. 

Like Swades, there have been many other Bollywood films that have showcased social issues and shed light on characters (fictional and real) that have done their bit to bring about a change. Departing from its notorious reputation for silly plots, slapstick comedy and hours of songs and dance, these movies have paved a way for what cinema can do to make people socially aware and encourage them to think of pertinent social issues. 

There have been some movies that have left an impact on the audience, owing to their powerful storylines or depictions of real incidents. Some of the most popular ones include films such as Padman (starring Akshay Kumar and Radhika Apte) that addressed the stigma around menstruation and Toilet Ek Prem Katha starring (Akshay Kumar and Bhumi Pednekar) that shed light on the lack of toilets in our country and how it poses a huge problem for women in villages, who are forced to travel miles and defecate in open fields.

While these commercial films managed to grab eyeballs, there have been certain lesser known ones that have had inspiring reel and real-life based inspiring characters. 

If you are looking to take charge and make a difference but don’t know where to begin, here are 6 films that can inspire you: 

Manjhi: The Mountain Man

Based on a true story, this inspiring film is about a man who  carved a path 9.1 metres (30 ft) wide and 110 metres (360 ft) long through a hill 7.6 metres (25 ft) using nothing but a hammer and chisel.

Dashrath Manjhi aka ‘The Mountain Man’ (played by Nawazuddin Siddiqui, was a poor labourer in a village in Gaya, Bihar, who carved a path through the mountain, after his pregnant wife slipped and fell, while climbing the mountain, and eventually died giving birth to a girl. It took Manjhi 22 years to carve the said path. 

Mango Girls

This Indian documentary by Kunal Sharma, sheds light on the widespread dowry system in India and how a village in Bihar is tackling it with a unique method.

Producer Robert Carr was shocked to learn about dowry deaths in Indian villages and how women are harassed, tortured, held for ransom and killed if they refuse to give dowry. Kunal, a friend of Robert’s, discovered a village in Bihar that hadn’t seen dowry deaths in more than 200 years and the same pleasantly surprised him. 

As a result, he decided to make a documentary on these villagers, titled Mango Girls. The film features Dharhara, a small village in Bihar, in which a mango tree is planted,every time a girl is born. The villagers here have been instrumental in protecting the girl child as well as creating a sustainable economy and a healthy environment for the people to live in. 

Chillar Party

This film shows the beauty of helping others in the most heartwarming way. 

Chillar Party features a group of kids who plan a campaign to save their friend’s (car washer) stray dog from being thrown out of the society upon orders by a welfare minister, that wants all stray dogs in societies to be killed for the safety of Mumbaikars. 

The minister asks the kids to get a NOC with significant signatures for the dog to be saved. The gang aka ‘chillar party’ successfully gets the NOC and saves their beloved creature. Chillar Party is a feel-good-film all the way that inspires one to do good, even if it’s in a simple way.

The Revolutionary Optimists

This documentary features two 12-year olds , Sikha and Salim, born into one of Kolkata’s poorest slums, who have no access to clean drinking water. Two other children, one of which is being forced into child marriage and the other whose only option is to work at a brickyard to support her sick mother, are shown in the documentary as well. It traces the journey of these kids through three years. 

They come across Amlan Ganguly, a lawyer turned changemaker, who encourages these children to get educated and build a better life for themselves. The documentary highlights the childrens’ battle against poverty, the hardships they face and the campaign they run that results in dramatic transformations of their neighborhoods. The 2013 documentary film is directed by Maren Grainger-Monsen and Nicole Newnham.


This 1977 film starring Smita Patil and Girish Karnad was inspired by the late Verghese Kurien’s pioneering milk cooperative movement. It shows Dr. Rao (played by Karnad), joining hands with a social worker, and beating the odds such as casteism and politics, to build a milk cooperative in a village in Anand,  Gujarat. 

The film depicts Dr. Rao as a pioneer of a social change, a man who provided qualitative milk to the poor people in Anand, for their betterment. 

Born into brothels

This Oscar-winning documentary features the work of an NGO called 100 cameras, that teaches photography to children hailing from underprivileged backgrounds. Zana Briski, a New York based photographer started photographing prostitutes in the red light district of Calcutta, as a part of a project in 1998. Because of the same, she came across children of these prostitutes and engaged with them on a regular basis. 

She discovered their love for the camera and how some of them enjoyed photography. As a result, she started taking workshops for these children and other underprivileged kids. Along the course of the workshops, these children became skilled photographers and created their own images with the point-and-shoot cameras. 

The initiative gave rise to the NGO that encouraged poor children to tell their stories through photography. Today, 100 cameras has its reach in Cuba, Thailand, USA aside from India. 


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