HYDERABAD: Hyderabad-based youngsters, Amitesh, 20, and his sister Asawari Kulkarni, 19, are sitting poolside at the Club, Mumbai on a November afternoon chatting with Anshula and Janhvi Kapoor, sisters of actor Arjun Kapoor. Suddenly, a man comes up behind them, puts his arms around the two and says, “Hello.” They turn around, both gasp, then Amitesh gets up and says, “Hi Varun (Dhawan)” and hugs him.
They sit around and Bollywood star Varun says, “It’s so nice to meet you. When I go for promotional events, it is impossible to have a conversation with the fans.”
Then the siblings give a framed photo of Balaji. Varun looks at it and says, “Thank you so much. We have a small temple in the house and I’ll place it there.” Later they play a game of paintball. And Amitesh says, “I couldn’t remember what Varun was saying. I was so much in shock. This is the first celebrity we were meeting. And also the first time we got on a flight and saw Mumbai.”
So how did the Kulkarnis meet Varun? Through a charity called Fankind run by Anshula. So you log on to the web site (www.fankind.org), and contribute money to a charity favoured by Varun called the Manavlok Foundation which works to help farmers in Maharashtra.
The fans, including the Kulkarnis, responded. Around Rs 9 lakh was collected over 45 days. And it was used to help set up drip irrigation projects in drought-prone areas.
“There is a major water crisis in Maharashtra,” says Varun. “And the worst-affected are the farmers. I am elated to know that we have raised sufficient funds to support Manavlok.”
As for the selection of the winner, the entries are downloaded and put on a website called random.org. “It is like a giant fishbowl and one name is randomly picked,” says Anshula. “It has no bearing on how much money you have donated.”
And Anshula is very happy with the contributions from the South. “We got good donations from Kerala and Karnataka,” she says.
“People from South India are very generous. If they know that their donation is going to genuinely help a child get much-needed heart surgery or a good education, they are willing to give.”
The celebrities who have been involved so far have been Alia Bhatt, Sonakshi Sinha, Karan Johar and now it is the turn of Ananya Pandey. Thus far, Fankind has collected Rs 14 lakh.
Asked how she got interested in charity, Anshula says, “Whatever kindness I have learned it is due to my mother (Mona Kapoor who died in 2012). She said, ‘You don’t grow in isolation. You grow along with the community around you’.”
Once there was a stray dog near their house who needed surgery. “Mom said to go out and get the funds for it,” says Anshula. “So, I went to PETA (People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals), took a bunch of calendars and T-shirts and began selling these to families and friends. The money wasn’t enough and my mom put up the rest. But the lesson was that if you want to do something you go and do something. You don’t wait helplessly for somebody to do it for you.”