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'By not smoking on screen, I am saving lives'
Shobha Warrier |
March 31, 2003 17:10 IST
As passionate as Kamal Haasan is about films, he is passionate about other issues too.
For instance, his latest passion to create awareness among the public about cancer.
Kamal has made it a point not to smoke in his films for he fears youngsters may start if he did, says Shobha Warrier:
How did you get involved with the Adyar Cancer Institute?
So many hospitals in India are corporatising themselves. Where will the poor go? It is like widening the roads and constructing bridges. Is there a footpath in the city for pedestrians?
Run by a non-governmental, non-profit organisation, the Adyar Cancer Institute is the only one that takes care of the poor by not charging them. It is one of the seven major cancer hospitals in Asia.
My involvement with the disease started after I lost a couple of my friends to cancer. One was just 29 when he died.
In what way are you helping the institute?
Do you know they [the Adyar Cancer Institute] need Rs 20 crores (Rs 200 million) every year? That is because they impart free treatment to the poor. In its 50th year, the institute has launched the Iruvadhu varai Iruvadhu (20 till 20) campaign where they plan to raise Rs 20 crore by selling coupons worth Rs 20.
Do you help the institute financially?
I do. I am also very close to the Institute. A part of my salary from films goes to the institute.
What can one man do? How much can one man help? If 20 corporate houses join together and donate, their problem is solved. But nobody wants to do that.
Other than helping the cancer institute financially, do you take part in any other activities?
I spend time with cancer afflicted children at the hospital. I talk to them, tell them stories and try to make them happy. It bleeds your heart to see babies being administered chemotherapy.
You have heard of men abandoning their wives. If you go to the hospital, you will see abandoned husbands too.
It is not because their wives don't love them. They just have no money to take care of them, their future is bleak, and out of frustration, they run away.
It is not easy to care for a cancer patient.
Do you consider creating awareness about cancer as one of your roles?
It is one of my roles. We are involving newspapers and supermarkets. You can pick up the Rs 20 coupon from any supermarket and donate.
A World Health Organisation study states Indian actors smoke a lot on screen which is a bad influence on the public.
I do not know whether you have noticed but I have not smoked onscreen in the last 15 to 16 years.
I noticed that if 5,000 people watch me, at least 1,000 try to imitate me. I shave my head, they do that. So I felt if I smoked on screen, they also would do that. By not smoking on screen, I am saving at least a hundred lives.
When did this realisation come to you?
After I had my daughters. You realise the evils of smoking when you have small children at home.
Have you noticed the number of women smoking has increased tremendously? Why? Because they want to emulate their fathers. All of them hero worship their fathers. When they ride a Kinetic Honda to office, they feel they are behaving just like their fathers. They also start smoking like their fathers.
I used to smoke when I was young because I wanted to be like my elder brother. He was my hero.
It is our duty to make people aware of the evils of smoking.