Zero-budget farming and movements to re-discover the spirituality of agriculture have an unlikely hero in actor and writer-director Srinivasan, who harvested his two-and-a-half acre paddy field on the outskirts of Kochi on Monday, with cheering local farmers and camera-wielding newsmen in tow.

It was action all the way in the sunny fields as Srinivasan grabbed paddy stalks, sickle in hand, as those around him shouted instructions. The cheers as he harvested the first stalks were loud enough to drown the whirr of a harvesting machine that slowly made its way into the golden fields from its eastern end.

Subhash Palekar, the guru of zero-budget farming, would have been proud of the moment. “Agriculture,” said Mr. Srinivasan, “is not for profit. It is our sustenance.”

Mr. Srinivasan said he had no intention to sell the paddy but would distribute the rice free of cost to those who needed it. Those who did not want it free could even buy it for a price, he said in a lighter vein, hinting at people disliking doles these days.

He was speaking to a group of eager schoolchildren, farmers, people’s representatives and ordinary men and women, who had gathered just to douse their curiosity about what was happening around a celebrity in the paddy field. One even asked whether it was a shoot for a film. Mr. Srinivasan lamented how we had hundreds of acres of rubber plantations but very little time and space for cultivating vegetables and paddy.

He told the gathering how, while living long years in the heart of Chennai as a film personality, he missed the glorious days of his rural home. “I did not then realise how precious agriculture was,” he said about his years of growing up at home. There were vegetables grown in the backyard. “I tended and watered them,” he said, a hint of nostalgia in his voice.

It was this sense of loss that prompted him to sell his flat in Chennai to buy a plot of land in Kandanadu, he said. He said he had invested wisely in a venture that is in need of urgent attention from all. It is imperative that we grow our own vegetables and paddy, he told the crowd.

Organic and eco-friendly agriculture is a must for us to move forward in a healthy environment, he said, adding that the two-and-a-half-acre paddy field was cultivated without application of synthetic fertilisers or pesticides. The Jyoti variety of seeds were sourced from Kerala Seed Development Authority.

Bharat, Aswin and Jayakumar, class VII students from MGM School, Kandanadu, said they were happy to be part of the occasion. They were right in front of the cameras waving the bunch of paddy stalks Mr. Srinivasan distributed and spoke enthusiastically about the Eco-Friendly Club at school.

The Club, they said, took up vegetable cultivation in the school.

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