Jackie Shroff once said that he followed Ganesha’s principles: he had big, open ears that hear everything, eyes that watch a lot, a trunk that doesn’t speak and a belly full of knowledge that has been absorbed from everywhere.
Jackie has never been known to be a great orator, he is not even comfortable when asked to “say a few words” on stage. But one-on-one, he speaks well although you can tell that this man doesn’t say much; he prefers to listen and learn.
Typically, one doesn’t hear of him expounding on the environment but he does, literally, head for the hills to do some quiet, exemplary work along with a few non-film friends, whenever he is not required for a shoot elsewhere. “My friends have their farms in Mahabaleshwar,” Jackie recently disclosed to me. “And that’s where I go to detoxify and work with them.”
In keeping with his motto of speaking very little and gaining more knowledge, Jackie Shroff has picked up everything there is to know about seeds and agriculture, pesticides, genetically modified crop and so on. One of his endeavours is to raise honeybees in the right environment, “because the big-sized bees that man has genetically engineered cannot get to the pollen.” It is destroying cross-pollination and the environment. Therefore, Jackie nurtures the traditional small bees that can go in and get the nectar out, as nature had originally intended.
For a man who has zero business sense (his claim, not mine), Jackie has done extremely well for himself. His eco-friendly moves too, will pay in the long run, especially as the world is slowly beginning to respect nature once again. Even if he does things with his heart and not his head, he manages to hit pay dirt which is simple proof that goodness does ultimately pay.
Few know that nearly 20 years ago, Jackie had invested a sizeable amount of his earnings as an actor in Sony, when the television industry was in its infancy in India. Once again, he had gone into it with friends. The company that has invested in Sony had seven partners, and the friendship gesture turned into one of the most profitable investments he has ever made — a lifetime of hefty earning is assured to him and his family, and he remains one of the owners of Sony TV in India.
Yet, you won’t hear of any of these stories because the man just doesn’t hard-sell himself or his selfless extra-curricular work.
That way you do hear of Imran, Aamir’s Khan’s nephew, and his eco-conscious ways. His renovated bungalow on Pali Hill (his maternal grandfather, filmmaker Nasir Hussain’s mansion, which Imran has taken over) took longer than two years, and cost more than normal, because the young actor took the trouble to get even his water supply and electricity from eco-friendly sources. You can sit for hours while Imran talks of all that he has done in his bungalow to conserve energy. “You may pay a little more right now for it but in the long run, think of how much energy you save,” the actor points out.
With celebrities becoming brands who sell consumer goods, it is a welcome sight to watch some of them go that extra mile to do something that is of social relevance.
That film stars have all become walking-talking brands cannot be disputed. Actor Vikram (superstar in Chennai, his turn as Raavan in Mani Ratnam’s Tamil version of the film was a big hit unlike the Abhishek Bachchan starrer in Hindi), who was in Mumbai to catch a quick show of David along with the public, is aware of it. Vikram was shooting in Jodhpur for a Rs 150 crore film directed by Shankar (consistently the No. 1 director in Tamil cinema for over a decade) when he decided to fly down to Mumbai before going home. Vikram is dressed simply in a white shirt and jeans, and except for a weakness for sports cars (he has a Porsche and an Audi R8), he doesn’t pick up brands.
“Frankly,” he shrugs, “when people crowd around my car saying, wow, they quickly forget the car once I step out and they see a star. So we are the brands, not what we wear or what we drive around in.”
This trend puts the onus of social responsibility even more on a celebrity today.
Bharathi S. Pradhan is editor, The Film Street Journal