The actor/writer/director/social activist has started The Foundation to eradicate discrimination
Litfest: It may not be known if being in Bhutan made him happy, but what makes one of India’s most respected actors Rahul Bose happy is making others happy.
The actor, writer, director and social activist, who was in the capital for the literary fest, said that doing a job well without hurting anyone with excellence, integrity, and with compassion is what makes him happy. “The other thing that really makes me happy is to make others happy.”
Besides acting and sleeping less, Rahul Bose is equally involved in social causes and founded an NGO called The Foundation, which works towards removing all kinds of discrimination. What and why he does through The Foundation “stems from a love that I have for the world that I used to live in; I wouldn’t say it was totally non discriminatory but it was less than today.”
Rahul Bose recalls growing up in a Bombay that was not as discriminatory as it is now, saying ‘something broke in Bombay in ’92 after the riots. “The cosmopolitan nature of that city I think suffered an irreparable blow at that time and my first instinct was, caste, class and gender – all kinds of discrimination that exists abound in India,” he says. “So I was just looking at creating an NGO that would look at its long term goal of creating a world without discrimination; to try and create that, because it won’t happen in my time.”
The two things that his NGO does, he says, is find children from the poorest pockets of India and give them education in some of the best boarding schools in some other parts of the country. “So there’s a bridge built, they enter, not mainstream, but an idea of India that embraces them.”
The Foundation, he says, chose children from Andaman and Nicobar islands first, then from Kashmir and it would go to Manipur next. The other issue his NGO works with is survivors of child sexual abuse.
“Fifty three percent of children, according to a government estimate, are sexually abused; we find that somebody, who has been sexually abused, exercises a sort of self-discrimination, which we wanted to erase and these are the two things that we do out of the many things that we could do,” he says.
On why he is ‘forever doing other things in other places for other people,’ Rahul Bose’s first response is, ‘I don’t know’ and after a thought, adds, “I just love doing it; no one forced me; no one asked me; no one advised me, nothing. I just started; it’s not that I come from an underprivileged background that I want to; nothing; I just, I don’t know but all I can say is that I’ll never stop doing it.”
And how does he manage to juggle all these roles. “I sleep less,” pat comes the reply, but doesn’t say how many hours he sleeps. Then he adds, “It’s a pleasure; I think a lot of people spend time resting and I don’t.”
But if one really pushes him on, which of these roles he most identifies with.
“I would say actor,” the 46-year-old says. “But we all have different roles in our lives; we can be obedient daughters, spoilt girlfriends, loyal friends and I just look at my life as different aspects of me and they’re all equally precious to me.”
Rahul Bose says just being somebody in a prominent position doesn’t meant you start wanting to do something for others or if it’s natural for actors to attach themselves to causes. “The philanthropic impulse can exist even in somebody very poor, they might not give money, but they might give their love,” he says. “Just because you’re somebody well known doesn’t mean you have do something for society; I spoke to an actress, who told me that, for her, her contribution to society is acting well.”
On using entertainment for education or creating awareness on social issues, the actor says that entertainment can only be done in subliminal message giver. “It can only give you a sense of what is possible but it cant actually do it; there is no escaping the fact that you have to be out there and do the actual work directly,” he says. “I also believe that a lot of cinema, that has a social cause behind it or whatever doesn’t do well because people can see that its trying to be preachy; the function of art is to tell a great story and then the next function is to educate; if at all it must.”
Rahul Bose, who is at times known for his alternate views and also criticised, keeps saying that one has to oscillate between a thick skin and a thin skin in life.
“You have to have your skin very thin and very receptive to the world when you are creating but when you finish and when you are expressing an opinion, your skin has to be thick,” he says.
“But you know, people who want to hate don’t require any reasons; I keep saying that if we knew we were so hated as people in public life, we wouldn’t get up in the morning, it would cripple me,” he says. “It would be like a punch to the solar plexus, you would just not be able to get up; some will love you, some will hate you. You have to take both with a great deal of respectful frivolity.”
By Sonam Pelden