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Bollywood – giving back to society


Nutan Sehgal


Charity seems to be the current Bollywood fad. The dream city is in an expansive mood and stars like Shahrukh Khan, Vivek Oberoi, Rani Mukherjee and Preity Zinta have found touching and surprising ways to express their love for the stricken and the not- so-fortunate.


Charity has become the key word in India's film world. The trend was started by southern film stars and quickly picked up by their Mumbai counterparts.

In 1989 Kamal Hassan set up an organisation called Narpani Lyyakkam with the aim of organizing medical camps for tribal people. It claims that in the last 17 years over 10,000 blind people have had their eyesight restored with eye donation from cadavers.

Another southern superstar is not far behind when it comes to charity. Actor and part-time politician Rajnikanth has been donating a percentage of his income to the under-privileged. In 1999, during the Kargil War he also gifted Rs. 25 lakhs to the Indian Army.

India’s wars with China (1965) and Pakistan (1965) brought the best out of the then superstar Sunil Dutt. Old-timers still remember Dutt’s Ajanta Arts which contributed lakhs of rupees during those years to the army and he went to perform with a troupe of artistes in the border areas. Dutt’s charitable streak was well known till his death.

Jackie Shroff, who rose from a slum in Mumbai to become one of the most stylish actors in Bollywood too has followed Sunil Dutt’s path. "I do charity because I can feel the pain of being poor and helpless. I don’t have faith in NGOs. I give direct help to children and elderly. I educate, arrange health check-ups and distribute food for kids."

"I don't want to be cremated with a Mercedez Benz!" - Nana Patekar

Similarily, Nana Patekar, who is closely associated with Leprosy Eradication Programme, donates directly to the victims. Some years ago when Nana did a movie with Rahul Rawail for a reported sum of Rs. 45 lakhs he made the hapless filmmaker sign five cheques---Rs. 5 lakhs for himself and Rs. 10 lakhs each to Mother's Teressa's Sisters of Charity, Baba Amte's Ashram, Medha Patekar's Narmada Bachao Andolan and the chief minister's Earthquake Relief Fund.

When a reporter asked about this all that Nana is reported to have said, "I am not in films to get rich. I don't want to be cremated with a Mercedez Benz!"


However, Shabana Azmi prefers to donate through an NGO. She is closely associated with Nivara Hakk Suraksha Samiti, an NGO that fights for the rights of the slum dwellers in Mumbai and also deals with low cost housing for the poor. Beside, Shabana is also working to spread AIDS awareness.


Yesteryear’s actress Poonam Dhillon runs Maddad Foundation, a charitable establishment which organizes shows to raise funds for charity. The foundation provided 10 boats and nets at a cost of around Rs. 15 lakhs for fishermen in Periakuppam village that was devastated by the tsunami.

Talking of Tsunami the first name that springs to mind is that of Vivek Oberoi, the star  who adopted the entire village of Devanampattinam on the Tamil Nadu coast. Just to prove that it wasn’t a publicity stunt he still goes back to the village to see whether aid is reaching the 3000 families of the village.




Filmmaker Farah Khan too displayed her charitable streak during the making of Main Hoon Na. When someone told her that an Urdu school in Mumbai lacked basic facilities she donated desks, chairs and blackboards that were used as part of the props in the film.

Apart from those who advertise their charity, there are several stars who donate without much publicity. Raveena Tandon, for example, works for the girlchild. She was the Ambassador for the year 2003 for Child Relief and You (CRY). In fact she has been helping raise awareness of the girl child through CRY for some years now.

Similarly after the superhit Black where she played a blind and mute girl, Rani Mukherjee is associated with the Helen Keller Institute of Deaf and Blind. Besides liberal donations she spent her birthday this year with the students of the institute.

The list of stars doing charity is long and growing. Preity Zinta is working for the Clean Mumbai campaign. Anupam Kher is involved with Dil Khush which is a school for special children and Juhi Chawla gives financial aid to A.K. Munshi Yojana an NGO that gives vocational training to mentally challenged children. And Mithun Da’s charitable streak is well known as it has brought succor to the needy for years now.

A number of film stars who are not involved directly in charity, lend their support to shows that are organized to raise funds for charity.

It seems Bollywood has finally come of age and is realizing its responsibilities towards society. Though many may call this collective compassion and benevolence as a way of garnering publicity, the fact is that the generous monetary aid is proving to be a manna from the heavens for a number of deprived people.




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