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When stars reach out: How film personalities generated funds for COVID-19- Cinema express

When stars reach out: How film personalities generated funds for COVID-19

The Indian film industry has united in the fight against the coronavirus. In this piece, we look at how film stars facilitated relief efforts across India.

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Published: 23rd May 2020

On March 28, soon after the announcement of the PM-CARES fund, actor Akshay Kumar pledged to donate Rs. 25 crore to the cause. This was followed by several film personalities contributing to relief efforts across India. Concurrently, celebrities took to social media to spread awareness about COVID-19. A series of music videos, short films, digital concerts and other initiatives were announced. Furthermore, actors and filmmakers also reached out to daily wage earners impacted by the shutdown.

In this piece, we look at how film celebrities helped relief efforts through fundraisers and on-ground efforts.

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Earlier in April, actor Sonu Sood offered his 24-room Juhu hotel for medical frontliners in Mumbai. He also launched Shakti Annadanam, a food distribution drive to feed more than 45,000 people on a daily basis. The campaign was aimed at migrant labourers stranded in the city, as well as essential service workers in need of food and ration. To sustain the initiative, Sonu launched a crowdfunding campaign with restaurateur Neeti Goel.

“We started with the idea of feeding 500-700 workers,” Sonu shared, “but as word spread, we started getting calls from a lot of people. At present, we have a team of 140 people delivering food to all areas.” Additionally, Sonu is providing meal kits to over 25,000 migrant workers during Ramzan. He also recently arranged buses for migrant workers to travel back to their homes in Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand.

"My heart pains to see these migrants staying away from their homes walking on streets," Sonu said. “I will continue sending migrants home until the last migrant reunites with his family and loved ones."

Another workforce impacted by the lockdown is the dabbawalas community in Mumbai. Since 1890, the unique service has been delivering lunchboxes to all corners of the city. However, owing to the shutdown of operations due to the pandemic, over 5,000 dabbawalas were deprived of sustenance. To help them out, actor Kunal Kapoor started a fund on his crowdfunding platform Ketto.org. In collaboration with the JHUNSS Foundation, the initiative was aimed to provide ration kits worth Rs. 1000 to the dabbawalas and their families.

“The Dabbawalas are an integral part of Mumbai’s heritage,” Kunal shared. “With the help of The Dabbawala Association, we are identifying needy families and distributing ration kits consisting of essential items to them. Each ration kit will last them for three weeks.”

According to Kunal, Ketto.org has raised over Rs. 23 crore for the coronavirus fight. “Our donor network comprising of over 55 lakh people has allowed us to touch millions of lives. We’re running nearly a thousand campaigns pertaining to the COVID-19 crisis. Online crowdfunding has emerged as a life-saver for countless vulnerable people during the lockdown.”

On March 17, the Producers Guild of India announced a relief fund for daily wage workers in the industry. They were joined in the effort by the Indian Film and Television Producers Council (IFTPC) and the Federation of Western India Cine Employees (FWICE). Contributors included streaming giant Netflix, actors Ajay Devgn and Arjun Kapoor, directors Rohit Shetty and Karan Johar and others.

“Our objective was to support those who were not attached to a project before March 16,” Kulmeet Makkar, CEO of the Producers Guild of India, told us in an interview conducted on April 26 (Kulmeet passed away on May 1 in Dharamshala). “While we expected production houses and broadcasters to pay their workers, there was a large number that was left out.” This translated to roughly 35,000 technicians and spot boys. “Some of the workers have been paid already while others are in the process. Since the money is being distributed via multiple sources, we are yet to get the final data,” Kulmeet said.

In Tollywood, megastar Chiranjeevi has contributed Rs. 1 crore to the welfare of film workers. He has also urged fans to donate blood to hospitals and blood banks. “A lot of people are suffering due to unavailability of blood,” Chiranjeevi said. “The hospitals and blood banks did not have fresh stocks of blood as there are no donors. Thalassemia patients need blood transfusion and hence I request my fans and people to save their lives by donating blood.”

Celebrities have also shown their support to frontline police workers. Mission Suraksha, an initiative launched on April 16, has provided vanity vans to police officers, especially women, on lockdown duty. The three-room vans are equipped with air-conditioning and sanitized restrooms. At present, 15 vans are operational across Mumbai in addition to 11 tents.

“We started as a WhatsApp group,” said Chhitra Subramaniam of Filmmakers For Frontline Care, a collective leading the initiative. “From there, I reached out to every vanity van provider in Mumbai. Because much of the labour had left, finding drivers and attendants was difficult.”

 The vans were eventually provided by proprietor Ketan Rawal, while funding came from Project Mumbai and the Producers Guild of India. A crowdfunding campaign was launched by Project Mumbai on Ketto.org to keep things running. “I’d like to urge people to contribute to Mission Suraksha,” Chhitra said. Please know that the police are not there to stop you but to stop the virus.”

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(With inputs from Murali Krishna CH)

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