Bollywood stars aid social causes

2013-11-21 00:00

BOLLYWOOD stars are usually roped in to get involved in many social causes, but their involvement often leads to debate on whether they are really committed to assist, or whether they just want to further their own objectives of maintaining a high profile so that people watch their films.

Involvement in social causes without charging a fee is, of course, very different from the highly lucrative product endorsements that make some movie stars more money than their actual fees from their films. And of course, some stars fulfil their social obligations by making donations to charities, citing their busy schedules as not allowing them the time to attract the attention of millions of people by appearing on TV, in newspapers and magazines, or on radio.

The causes to which stars lend their faces and voices range from promoting health and safety to bettering the life of the underprivileged, sometimes not just in India, but even internationally. The growing status and popularity of Bollywood abroad makes it no surprise that top stars such as Amitabh Bachchan and Priyanka Chopra have been enrolled by UN bodies that promote social causes across the globe.

Chopra has been the national ambassador of the United Nations Children’s Fund, and has also supported Save the Child and Adoption for Education campaigns, as well as projects for women empowerment in villages, which were initiated jointly by the Indian government and Unicef. She has also traversed the country to create health and hygiene awareness among adolescent girls as the Unicef brand ambassador.

Bachchan has campaigned for pulse polio awareness, even getting his daughter-in-law Aishwarya Rai to join in. She has also supported the Eye Bank of India, pledging to donate her eyes in a film promoting it.

In what might be seen as exploitation of what was called the wedding of the decade, when Aishwarya married Abhishek Bachchan, Peta India had the couple appearing in promos to create awareness about the possible extinction of the colourful lovebirds, known to be so close to their mates that they can die if separated.

Among the latest actress to support an unusual social cause is the award-winning Vidya Balan. Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh signed Balan as brand ambassador to promote sanitation in India, which, silly as it may sound, is a huge issue in the country of a billion people.

Then there are those who quietly support non-governmental organisations, people such as Salman Khan, who has his own NGO to support the underprivileged, called Being Human. He has also lent support to organisations promoting the education of girls and has assisted in tree-planting campaigns.

Aamir Khan’s participation in social causes has been a little more controversial. Questions were raised about Aamir’s support for saving the Narmada River and opposing the Gujarat state government over its Sardar Sarovar Dam project. Two of his films, Rang De Basanti and Fanaa, were released at the times of his high-profile involvement in the two campaigns, sparking claims that he was seeking publicity.

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