Celebrities are worshipped the world over. They are looked at with fascination and proudly imitated. One remembers the Amitabh Bachchan-UNICEF campaign on pulse polio drops and Aishwarya Rai’s eye donation pitch.
Celebrity involvement with social causes can be an official contract (legal and time bound) or collaboration. Usually, it’s collaboration where the celeb actually cares for the cause. There is a third kind of participation when a celeb starts a foundation or decides to support a non-profit organization without official contracts.
Be it the Anna Hazare movement against corruption or the Satyameva Jayate phase, Aamir Khan has been the most successful Khan in forging the brand identity of a social crusader. Salman Khan too has started his foundation, Being Human and supported it in most of his brand associations( for instance, you can donate voluntarily an amount of Rs.5, 10 or 15 to Being Human while booking a flight ticket online on the online booking portal Yatra.com, whose brand ambassador happens to be Salman himself). Being Human foundation, with a clothing and accessories line, gives all sale proceeds to charity. It has organized high profile ramp walks too. Shahrukh Khan too is known for his contribution to AIDS and care of cancer patients, and is behind the creation of a children's ward at the Nanavati hospital in Mumbai, in memory of his late mother.
Rahul Bose has started The Foundation, an NGO dedicated to children and removal of religious and gender discrimination. He is also a go-green campaigner being Oxfam's first Global Ambassador and with a celebrity green blog Planet Alert.
Katrina Kaif actively participates in promotional programmes like ‘Little Darling Programme’ which is meant for care of abandoned toddlers and the prevention of female foeticide. The actress' mother, Sussanne Turquotte, heads a girl child NGO called Relief Projects India in Chennai and Katrina does her bit. Katrina Kaif has also made the brands she promotes tie-up with charitable causes. Another well known Bollywood face, Kajol works with an NGO in education called ‘Shiksha’ which is devoted to educating widows. We can applaud the likes of Nandita Das who completed her Masters in Social Work and advocates issues like violence against women.
There are celebs who take up more controversial causes. Supporting the LGBT community (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender), Celina Jaitley had proposed the abolition of Article 377 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), which criminalized homosexuality. She has also supported PETA.
In India, philanthropy is at an infant stage. But with the youth, being associated with social causes increases film celebrities’ brand impact range, while giving a face to a cause-a social cause can soften the lines of public perception as for instance Salman Khan and Being Human.Even though Salman Khan created a reputation of being the bad-boy of Bollywood with numerous court cases against him, public opinion has shifted in his favour thanks to his philanthropy. The cause also gets noticed in turn.
Whatever may be the incentive, a philanthropic cause is always a benefit to society and no matter how many tantrums these stars throw, we can applaud their efforts to help society.