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Let them eat cake

There is this cliché about how people with less money have bigger hearts. Having lived in a working-class neighbourhood I’ve found this cliché was often true. People were quick to help each other out in a time of need, though themselves needy.

Illustration/Amit Bandre
Illustration/Amit Bandre 

Stories that came out of Kashmir during these floods were similar. Stories of those who had lost their own, helping others out. Stories of those who were stranded sharing their meagre resources. Simple stories of humanity and kindness in a time which would challenge everyone’s best selves.

Meanwhile in Mumbai: A sweet tweet went out from Dia Mirza. She exhorted people to donate for Kashmir flood relief. “Come on, do it, feel good” she declared as she announced her target of Rs 5 lakh.

A look at the fundraising website she’s using will show that a few other actors have similarly partnered with an NGO to raise money for relief kits. Abhishek Bachchan and Hrithik Roshan with a target of Rs10 lakh each. Nargis Fakhri had a target of Rs 2 lakh.

How are they doing on their targets, having written personal — if rather similar — appeals and given their name to the cause? At the time of writing this, Dia Mirza’s appeal had generated a little under R2,17,000, Abhishek Bachchan had generated approximately R2,20,000, Hrithik Roshan a little over R7 lakh and Nargis Fakhri, god bless her, had generated R1,700.

There are any number of things to learn from this — although I’m sure some Bollywood news site will mostly take away an understanding of each person’s star power.

But some other numbers first. Each kit costs R5,000. Dia Mirza and Nargis Fakhri were silent on this count. Mr Bachchan, Jr, had funded 20 kits or Rs 1 lakh, Mr Roshan 40 or Rs 2 lakh.

Not to diminish their concern and contribution. Just to put some more numbers before you.

Earlier in the week Mr Roshan was asked in an interview if he was charging Rs 150 crore for an upcoming film. His response was: What I charge is my business. And would you be in a business which does not look like a profitable proposition? I’m justified.” And Mr Roshan is right. He is entitled to ask for what he feels he deserves.

I also read this week about how one of our biggest superstars charges Rs 5 crore an episode for his top-rated television show, which has the added incentive of “moulding some interesting characters.”

Given the numbers they are otherwise used to thinking with, movie stars seem to be coming up with curiously modest figures when it comes to donating. What prevents them from making bigger contributions, thus setting a great example to others or push all the other rich people in their family, sorry, industry? You don’t have to be poor to feel poor I guess.

A fact admirably demonstrated by a group of commercial sex workers from Ahmednagar who raised Rs 10,321 and contributed it to the Chief Minister’s Relief Fund. In relative terms it seems more than Bollywood is bringing to the table. This group of sex workers has, in fact, raised contributions for every catastrophe in the last 25 years. This includes the 1993 serial blasts in Mumbai, 2001 Gujarat earthquake, the 2004 tsunami, drought in Maharashtra and last year they raised one lakh for the Uttarakhand landslide calamity. It is the ultimate cliché of contrasts. But I guess that’s what we rely on Bollywood for — clichés. So they’re just doing their job.

Paromita Vohra is an award-winning Mumbai-based filmmaker, writer and curator working with fiction and non-fiction. Reach her at www.parodevi.com.
The views expressed in this column are the individual’s and don’t represent those of the paper.

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