By Meera
Superstar, Ilayathalapathy, Suriya, Big B and King Khan!, superstar Rajinikanth, Ilayathalapathy Vij


Superstar Rajinikanth appeared in an ad campaign in the 1980’s. It was to create awareness of the deadly virus called Poliomyelitis which is an acute, viral, infectious disease. The epidemic cripples a child sometimes leading to ultimate ugly ending. Even with a vaccine in hand, getting children immunized in India was a nightmare. That is where people like our Thalaivar did their part. They stepped on the gas speaking in favor of the vaccine and urging people to protect their children by simply taking the immunization shot.

But he was not alone in this drive. India has poor sanitation, public health is a joke and even eminent personalities like Bill Gates doubted that we would ever get rid of this potentially devastating virus. Even when some communities perceived the imminent danger against vaccination, it was their ignorance that made them stay away. When some communities felt that it would leave their women infertile, Big B and King Khan were featured in an advertisement, in which Shah Rukh Khan attests that his children are administered with this vaccine. When the ad features Indian Idols like Big B and Shahrukh Khan, it sent more people to the vaccination camps. With their help and the tireless work of countless organizations like Rotary and several healthcare professionals India has finally kicked polio out of the country.

While this is a time to rejoice, it is also a time to reflect on the power and pull these stars played in making this campaign triumphant. We can render a heartfelt salute to them but it is also time to acknowledge the vital role our Tamil actors play in sculpting and reforming the society.

Ulaga Nayagan Kamal Haasan runs a Petralthan Pillaiya campaign which attends to not just the literary and medicinal needs of vulnerable children but also instills them with confidence and care needed to lead a fulfilled life. Ilayathalapathy Vijay through his Makkal Iyakkam has organized several social welfare activities. While fans are chided for pouring milk, bursting crackers and in general exhibiting fanatical behavior, Vijay has turned his fan club to the society. He has joined hands with other stars and appeared in the Herova? Zerova? campaign that focuses on child poverty, labor and lack of education. Suriya through his Agaram Foundation makes education a mandatory and accessible goal in the lives of children. He is bestowed with numerous accolades and the furor and dedication he brings to this initiative along with his family (his brother Karthi and father Sivakumar are part and parcel of this) is praiseworthy. Several other actors and actresses have used their box office pull to conduct various other philanthropic services which are equally worthy.

From protesting against social injustice to political paranoia, Tamil stars have always been in the forefront. Though several are flaked for absence, opposition, for the most part they have paid their dues to society in numerous laudable ways. As the World Health Organization credits India for dropping out from the list of countries that host polio, we should honor our stars for using their time in the limelight to transform society. Stars, fans and star campaigns are not always derogatory but are important tools that have to be used at the right time to bring about monumental results. Hence, proved.


Written by Meera | @meeraramanathan

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