Is B-Town more interested in aping the West when it comes to charity?

Sep 21, 2014, 06:00 IST | Shilpi Sampad

Bollywood celebs, who were recently seen sloshing bucketfuls of ice water, appearing all too eager to turn philanthropists for ALS patients in the US, were hardly forthcoming when it came to lending a helping hand to victims of the J&K floods, a crisis closer home. A case of misplaced priorities? sunday mid-day finds out

Until about a month ago, the world was busy pouring ice buckets over its head and making generous donations to patients of a fatal neurodegenerative disease, courtesy the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. As soon as the social media campaign hit Indian shores, Bollywood celebrities, ever eager to latch onto anything Western, joined it with gusto turning it into a kind of philanthropist fashion statement.

Sidharth Malhotra
Actor Sidharth Malhotra takes the Ice Bucket Challenge, a campaign aimed to raise funds for ALS patients in the US that went viral on social media

Varun Dhawan
Varun Dhawan was nominated by Sidharth Malhotra to take up the Ice Bucket Challenge, but the former steered clear of it. Now, he has joined hands with an NGO attending to J&K flood victims

However, the glamour brigade has not responded with similar zeal to a far bigger tragedy closer home. The Jammu and Kashmir flood ravage has blipped on their radar but intermittently, with most paying lip service to the cause, their contribution being no more than a prayer on Twitter or Facebook. A case of misplaced priorities or, to beg the question, just plain disregard for anything that isn’t high on the glamour quotient?

A volunteer rescues a young woman caught in the flood in Chattabal area of Srinagar
A volunteer rescues a young woman caught in the flood in Chattabal area of Srinagar. Pic/PTI

“You can take up any cause you feel strongly about but you should also support causes in your own country. After all, it’s unfair to categorise the level of people’s suffering. If we are privileged enough and can afford to help those in distress, we must reach out to them, be they nearer home or across the seas,” says actress Soha Ali Khan, disagreeing with the belief that B-Town celebs jump on the bandwagon when it comes to following western trends and causes. “No matter what you do, people always find ways to criticise you. It’s a basic human flaw,” she retorts.

Soha Ali Khan
Soha Ali Khan

A fad too sensational
There are two kinds of people, believes veteran actress, Raveena Tandon — those who try to make a difference to the world and those who make a spectacle of oneself. “Even during my time, there were some actors who genuinely felt for social causes and others, who did things just to be part of a trend. It is sad to see that at times fads get more coverage than people who actually work to make a difference,” she rues.

Raveena Tandon
Raveena Tandon

Recalling a drive by the late Sunil and Nargis Dutt to organise cultural tours for the entertainment of jawans on the border during the 1962 Indo-China War, she says, “Salman (Khan) and I also went to distribute relief material during the Kargil War. But such things do not always make news. I don’t see the media reporting a great deal on who from the industry are working for the Jammu and Kashmir flood victims. Sensationalism is what sells.”

Hrithik Roshan
Hrithik Roshan, too, is involved with a volunteer organisation which is distributing relief material to flood victims.
Pic/Nikesh Gurav

Copy without cause
Sonakshi Sinha does not mince words while admitting that many follow campaigns and issues of the West just to appear “cool”. The astute actress put many of her industry colleagues to shame when she took a stand against the Ice Bucket Challenge by dumping a single piece of ice over her head and raised the issue of water scarcity. “I did it only because I felt that somewhere along the way, the message was lost and people were doing it for the sake of fun. Many households don’t even get that one bucket of water a day and imagine the water wastage with 23 million people across the globe taking up the challenge! We don’t know how many of them donated money to the ALS cause and how many just wanted to be cool or funny on social media,” she shrugs.

Sonakshi Sinha
Sonakshi Sinha

This sensational campaign met with criticism from various quarters as water-scarce regions worldwide gasped at water buckets being sloshed around mindlessly. Then came its desi spin-off, the Rice Bucket Challenge, which found many takers. The idea was simple — donating a bowl of rice to a needy person — and relevant in the Indian context. Actor Ali Fazal says, “We are the victims of a double trade. Yoga becomes famous because the West accepts it and we are accepting credit for Kamasutra because foreigners find it cool. Let’s find our own DNA. We are the West for a large part of the globe too.”

Ali Fazal
Ali Fazal

On the other hand, Gangs of Wasseypur actress, Richa Chadda does not find anything wrong with taking up issues concerning another country, even when they hold the remotest significance for India. “We should be innovative and come up with more ideas that need attention, because the world has shrunk and people can help each other,” she says.

Richa Chadda
Richa Chadda

Riding the wave
Imitation of the West may seem prominent now with the expansion of digital media network, but it is unfair to assume that the film industry was indifferent to home issues, says actress-turned-producer, Dia Mirza. “Just because you don’t see our videos pledging support for flood victims, or cancer patients for that matter, it doesn’t mean that we are not reaching out to people in distress,” argues the former beauty queen, who took up the Ice Bucket Challenge and is also raising funds for J&K flood victims.

Dia Mirza
Dia Mirza, who did the Ice Bucket Challenge, is also raising funds for J&K flood victims

“There are so many issues in India that need to be addressed that as citizens, you feel overwhelmed because no matter how much you do, it is never enough. I know many actors, filmmakers and technicians who are personally involved in distributing relief to flood victims in Kashmir but you don’t know about them as they do not seek publicity,” she adds.

It’s natural for issues to find celeb support if they are marketed well and have a glamour quotient, feels VJ-turned-actor, Purab Kohli, who is involved with a voluntary organisation gearing up for rebuilding activities in Kashmir. “That is seen in case of social groups, which have celebrity brand ambassadors. And ours is a glamour industry, after all. If something is trending, you have got to be part of it,” he asserts.

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