India is ruled by two things – Cricket and Bollywood. These are the two things that always manage to create mass hysteria and bind our countrymen together. We laugh together when we win a cricket series 4-0 against Australia, and we cry together when Shah Rukh Khan dies at the end of a movie. But amidst all these glamour and passion, there lies a side we do not really know about Bollywood and cricket. A lot of these celebrities are engaged in some really great social work and endorse social initiatives in their own little way.
After actor Rahul Bose visited the Andamans as part of a rehabilitation programme after the 2004 tsunami, he saw how thousands have become homeless. He was touched and wanted the region’s children to have a future. He founded the non governmental organization (NGO), The Foundation that assists and supports several causes and campaigns that prophesy a ‘world without discrimination’. He launched the Andaman and Nicobar Scholarship Initiative through his NGO, and this scholarship provides for the education of underprivileged children from the Andaman and Nicobar islands.
He is also a Oxfam campaigner, and has actively worked for the relief and rehabilitation of people in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. The actor is also involved with Teach for India movement, Akshara Centre, Breatthrough, Citizens for Justice and Peace and Spastics Society of India among several other initiatives. He is also an ambassador for the American India foundation, the World Youth Peace Movement and Planet Alert, but has always preferred to stay away from the public glare and the limelight for all his charitable work.
Bollywood’s proverbial bad boys – Sanjay Dutt and Salman Khan, who have a big list of notorious activities under their belts, are also not far behind in doing some good work. Sanjay Dutt, who recently got sentenced to 5 years imprisonment in connection to the 1993 Mumbai blasts, runs an NGO called Damage which is mostly managed by his wife, Manyata. It provides financial help to poor, ailing children and adults. His love for children makes him visit orphanages and children wards in hospitals. He also organizes events whose proceeds he provides to projects for children. While working for an NGO called Support, he often invited drug-addicted street children to his home and counseled them to kick off their habit.
On the other hand, Salman Khan, who is known among the industrywallahs as a big-hearted person, runs an NGO called Being Human: Salman Khan Foundation. It has become so popular over the years among the masses, that you can spot 1 out of 5 people on the streets roaming around wearing a ‘Being Human’ tee-shirt. Salman, who likes to paint, has also been selling his paintings to partly fund the NGO. He loves children, and what started off as a charitable trust to aid underprivileged children is now an extremely popular foundation that assists them in the areas of education and healthcare.
We all remember seeing Amitabh Bachchan on television mouthing the lines ‘Do boond zindagi ki’. On 14 April, 2005, the superstar was officially appointed as the UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador, and he has since been actively associated with UNICEF’s famous polio campaign. He has been contributing to India’s pulse polio immunization programme and appeared in a series of television and radio commercials, which the Government of India and UNICEF have been telecasting widely. Due to his humongous popularity and credibility among the masses, he was successful in convincing many parents to immunize their babies.
Veteran Bollywood actor Anupam Kher, who recently starred in the Oscar winning movie ‘Silver Linings Playbook’, founded The Anupam Kher Foundation in 2008. It runs a programme for economically underprivileged children studying in the city’s government schools to learn creative arts. While good quality education is the focus of Anupam Kher’s foundation, it also conducts a healing programme jointly with the Tata Memorial Hospital for critically ill children and adults.
Our glam doll and the Bachchan bahu, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, is more than just a pretty face. The most beautiful woman in the world is also known for her charitable work. She is the brand ambassador for The Eye Bank Association of India’s nationwide campaign to promote eye donation in India, and has also donated her beautiful pair of eyes to them. In 2005, she became a brand ambassador for the Government of India’s Pulse Polio campaign that was established to eradicate polio in India. In November 2004, she initiated the Aishwarya Rai Foundation to help the needy. A few years later in 2009, the actress was roped in as the first Goodwill Ambassador of Smile Train, an international organization that provides free cleft lip and palate surgery to children in need.
Newly married Vidya Balan accepted the rural development minister Jairam Ramesh’s offer to become the brand ambassador for drinking water and sanitation campaign. The Dirty Picture actress visited a village in Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh, where she participated in a campaign to promote children’s education and the empowerment of women. For her attempts to empower women, Balan was awarded The Prabha Khaitan Puraskar 2012 by the Calcutta Chamber of Commerce.
Our Bollywood hunk John Abraham is not all about brawn and butt. He loves animals and has supportedPeople for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) in numerous campaigns. He is also involved with Habitat for Humanity, an annual Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project. A volunteer for many years, the actor has helped raise funds for low-income people in India to build safe, decent and affordable homes.
There are other tinsel town bigwigs who sure know how to do their bit to make a difference in the world – like Priyanka Chopra, Shabana Azmi, Nandita Das, Abhay Deol who are attached with some cause or the other. They are headstrong and strongly support their causes. You might snigger and pass a judgment that all this is being done for publicity or PR, but you cannot ignore the fact, that this is actually changing the lives of many, and it is actually bringing smile on many faces.
In 2010, Priyanka Chopra was appointed as the UNICEF national ambassador to support Indian children and their right to go to school, by pledging her support to the ‘Awaaz Do’ campaign. The former Miss India has actively spoken about child rights and has helped create awareness about the same. Shabana Azmi is one actor (she prefers not being called actress) whose social work over the years, is pretty known among us. Her NGO Mijwan is an attempt to help underprivileged children secure their future.
Mijwan is a village in UP, where the actress has set up a school, college, computer centre and a sewing and chikankari centre. All children in Mijwan and surrounding villages go to the Kaifi Azmi School with no dropout rate, and celebrated fashion designers Manish Malhotra and Anita Dongre get their chikankari work done in Mijwan. Today, the Mijwan Welfare Society organizes several fund-raising activities; one such event was the Mijwan celebrity fashion show. In 1998, the United Nations Population Fundappointed her as its Goodwill Ambassador for India.
Veteran actress Deepti Naval runs an NGO, the Vinod Pandit Education Trust for the Girl Child, named after her fiancé who died of cancer in 2002, to educate underprivileged children. We know the scandalous side, the glamorous side, the pretty side of these biggies, but we never really look into this side, where they, like any other normal people, strive to make the Earth a better place to live in. Did you know that Dia Mirza has been actively involved with the Andhra Pradesh government to spread HIV awareness and prevent female foeticide? This pretty actress also supports social organizations such as Cancer Patients Aid Association, Spastics Society of India, PETA and CRY.
You probably know how Jade Goody took potshots at our long legged beauty Shilpa Shetty in the famous UK reality television show Big Brother. It made headlines and became a national issue. What you probably don’t know is the fact that Shilpa donated her Big Brother winning amount to AIDS awareness campaigns in India. She has also been involved with PETA and Act Against Bullying, an anti-bullying charity, which endeavors to motivate young victims with practical solutions.
Cricketers are not far behind either. Australian cricketer Steve Waugh, who says meeting Mother Teresa in 1996 in Calcutta, changed his life, is doing great social work post retirement. He founded The Steve Waugh Foundation in Australia, and he travels at least four times a year to India to visit Udayan in Calcutta, which looks after children afflicted by leprosy.
In 2012, young Indian cricketer Irfan Pathan, as an UNICEF brand ambassador launched a website to support adolescent girls, along with actress Priyanka Chopra. The website – www.d2c.in (called The Cheer-O-Meter), was an extension of India Premier League (IPL) team Delhi Daredevils’ Dare to Care campaign for adolescent girls. The campaign aimed to promote education and equal opportunities for girls.
Master blaster Sachin Tendulkar says he always looked up to his father, Ramesh Tendulkar, in trying to understand his social responsibilities. He pays for the education of 200 underprivileged children every year through Apnalaya, a Mumbai-based NGO associated with his mother-in-law, Annabel Mehta. Apart from income tax in crores, Sachin helps several organizations looking after the disabled such as deaf and dumb people. Recently, a request from Sachin on Twitter raised a whopping 1.025 crores for the Crusade against Cancer foundation.
There are many other celebs who are doing a good job – some are vocal about it, while some are doing it quietly away from the limelight. One might argue that they do it for publicity and footage, but we should also keep this in mind, that they are not obligated to do it. Rather, they do it because they feel strongly about it. Keeping the cynicism and high-browed allegations aside, I guess we can finally learn a lesson or two, rather than pointing a finger, which is comparatively the easier thing to do.
They are doing their bit. Are you?
This post first appeared in Halabol, where I contribute as a Guest Blogger.