The social media becomes a vehicle for stars and their CSR, writes K. Jeshi

Recently, actor Trisha posted a selfie and tweeted “My no-makup selfie 2 raise cancer awareness.#nomakeupselfie Post urs now.” She urged her fans to join her in the drive. Shruti Haasan posted on Twitter saying, “Great to be a part of the P&G Shiksha movement here at Hyderabad. #PGShiksha.” She supports Shiksha that raises funds for the education of underprivileged children across the country. Then there is actor Ganesh Venkatraman who tweeted about the awareness campaign he is associated with – on Thalassemia.

A growing number of actors now spread the word for a cause they support on the social media with videos and tweets on anything ranging from blood donation and organ donation, to cancer awareness and education for the needy. “Filmstars are respected, loved and have a huge fan following. They use their celebrity status for a social cause and bring about a change,” says Ganesh.

Opening a dialogue

Ganesh used the social media to speak about his film Pallikoodam Pogamaley that dealt with students committing suicides after failing in exams. “The film’s director Jayaseelan approached me to play the role in the film, where I create awareness on the issue amongst students. It was a great opportunity to endorse a cause. I discuss this on Twitter and tell youngsters that failure in exams is not the end of life. I also promote albums such as Green Hand that urges people to plant more trees.”

Women empowerment, reaching out to the physically challenged, speaking up against poverty and child labour are some of the issues that have caught the attention of the young actors.

John Lawrence, director of the award-winning short film Olli Arisi, spreads awareness through videos about the importance of wearing helmets, and saving accident victims. “It was actor Surya’s campaign to promote helmet awareness that inspired me. When Abdul Kalam has a unique hair cut, no one follows it. But, when a film star sports a new hairstyle, it becomes a huge hit. The star power always draws people. And their online presence is an advantage,” he says.

Cinematographer C.J. Rajkumar agrees and cites the example of the HIV awareness campaign and the Blue Cross one that had a huge impact because of star power. “When actor Amala tells her fans to protect street dogs, they simply do what she says. It brings about an attitude change. When Kamal Hassan initiated campaigns for blood donation and organ donation, it reached not just his fans, but also other actors such as Vijay and Surya, who followed suit.”

Some actors upload bytes, the recent one being Kamal Haasan’s campaign on voting rights. They also retweet requests for blood donation for surgeries. It gets a good response as fans respond immediately.

Star power

Film maker T.R. Vijayanand draws attention to actor Vivekh’s tree sapling drive that has gained popularity online. He also speaks of his own 25-minute film titled Gnamali that is about street dogs. “We have approached actor Amala to promote the film on social media in a big way,” he says.

When a film star campaigns for cancer awareness, the fans go online to learn more, says Ganesh Prasath who works with Studio 9 Productions. “The fans are up-to-date on the social issues the stars promote.” he says.

Film maker Ganesh Kumar Mohan says “Earlier, film personalities like Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan, and Bagyaraj appeared on television urging people to pay income tax on time and exercise their vote. Now younger actors are doing it on Twitter and Facebook.”

B. Sankaranarayanan, who runs www.cablesankaronline.com, says using star power to further a good cause is a welcome move. His page Kettaal Kidaikkum on Facebook makes the common man aware of his rights. It has a membership of over 10,000. “Social media gives even ordinary people plenty of opportunities to create awareness. We use the platform to discuss issues right from making drinking water mandatory at shopping malls and restaurants and abolishing additional fee collected at food courts to raising our voice against higher MRP rates and poor services of mobile companies. But, when actors come forward to use this space, the reach is phenomenal.”

However, he warns, “It shouldn’t end up becoming an image building exercise.”

Cable Sankar runs the facebook page Kettal Kidaikkum.