7 Bollywood celebrities that work for a cause, not the applause

A (short) list of Bollywood celebrities who actually have been working consistently on issues they care passionately about.


Bollywood’s generosity, unlike its Hollywood equivalent, has always been perceived as PR overdrive. Most stars suddenly realise that street urchins need to be saved just a few days before their movie releases. Some produce t-shirts in the hope that human rights will be guaranteed, some have go on to make claims about donating 90% of their earnings already, some tweet weekly messages like ‘As artists and celebrities, we believe in using our reach to help others through drawing attention to the needs of the day’ and similar.

Yet, not everyone is seized by an ability to look beyond themselves and their movies. Like John Abraham said in an interview for Daily Mail, “you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t,” widespread skepticism about  Bollywood’s timed obsessions for social transformation paints the entire community in a single colour.

We went about looking for Bollywood celebrities who actually have been working consistently on issues they care passionately about. And yes, we found a (short) list. This isn’t an exhaustive one as we are still filtering through PR engines, but here is a starter on Bollywood celebrities who are looking good and doing even better.

Shabana Azmi

This yesteryear actress is well known for her social activism; she has raised her voice and expressed concern on a variety of issues. In 1989, she undertook a four-day march for communal harmony from New Delhi to Meerut along with Swami Agnivesh and Asghar Ali Engineer. Her focus over the years though has remained in the areas of child and women’s rights. She has fought for the stigma and injustice of those associated with AIDS.

Shabana Azmi
Pic – SFU Public Affairs and Media Relations | Flickr

She has also advocated the cause of slum dwellers, displaced Kashmiri Pandit migrants, and victims of the earthquake at Latur (Maharashtra) in the past. Shabana Azmi has been  the Goodwill Ambassador of the UNPF as well as for the HIV/AIDS programmes for SAARC region.

Rahul Bose

The unconventional actor has done commendable work beyond cinema. The founder of the Group of Groups, a parent organisation of about 51 charitable organisations and NGO clusters in Mumbai, has been involved in various social causes. He was one of the first celebrities from Indian Bollywood space to become the Oxfam Global ambassador in 2007. He also founded another NGO named the Foundation that focuses on providing education for children from lower economic backgrounds in Andaman and Nicobar Islands.

Rahul Bose
Pic – Bollywood Hungama | Wikimedia Commons

He is associated with several other organisations like Akshara Centre, Breakthrough, Citizens of Justice and Peace, and the Teach for India movement. He has been extremely vocal for his support for his support for the Narmada Bachao Andolan.

Nandita Das

Nandita Das dons many hats apart from her career in acting, directing, she is also a writer and has always believed and worked for greater good of society, right from her choice of films to her living style. She co-founded Leapfrog, an advertising organization geared towards making socially conscious ad films. She has been giving philanthropy talks around the world about the impact of her films and the need for powerful social movements in India.

Nandita Das
Pic – Wikimedia Commons

A graduate in Social Work from Delhi School of social work she also campaigned for child survival, against AIDS, and violence against women. She was appointed as the chairperson of the Children’s Film Society of India in 2009. Recently, as the face of the campaign ‘Dark is Beautiful’ she has been raising her voice against discrimination based on skin colour.

Gul Panag

Gul is known to be offbeat, be it her choice of movies, her interest in travel or her  uninterrupted support for causes like gender equality, addiction awareness, education, employment and disaster management. Gul is part of  the Col. Shamsher Singh Foundation and Gul 4 Change. She is been part of several projects such as  Shraddha, a school that rehabilitates young autistic adults for numerous years, Shop For Change Fair Trade – a concern which promotes fair trade opportunities for poor farmers such as the cotton farmers of Telengana, Vidarbha and Kutch, and Green Comandos – a citizen action initiative to save the environment.

Gul Panag
Pic – Renie Ravin | Wikimedia Commons

Gul recently established association with Sulabh International on World Health Day to work together to promote public health through sanitation. She has also worked on collecting used computers to install at village schools and begin basic computer literacy for the poor. She is actively studying, promoting and installing practical solar and rain harvesting systems.

Milind Soman

Milind Soman
Pic – Vijay Sonar | Flickr

The versatile model, actor and a producer has been the motivation and big hand behind the Pinkathon, the 10 KM marathons that are held in several cities only for women, to educate and promote women fitness and create awareness about breast cancer.

Nafisa Ali

Nafisa Ali
Pic – Bollywood Hungama | Wikimedia Commons

Former Miss India, a national swimming champ and actress, she has supported numerous causes including founding the Orissa Cyclone Relief Fund, reconstructing houses in 48 villages of Gujarat, which were destroyed in the 2001 earthquake, starting a care home named ‘Ashraya’ for those affected by HIV/AIDS, exposing various government scams, heading the Human Rights Commission, Delhi, and leading various women’s associations.

John Abraham

John Abraham – Bollywood Hungama | Wikimedia Commons

Closely associated with PETA, this actor never fails to astonish. Unlike many celebrities, his association with many causes is very little covered by press and he shies away if ever asked about his social work. He even has his own brigade, ‘John’s Brigade’ for habitat, providing homes for the needy.

Prama Neeraja Ayala is an Editorial Intern with The Alternative. The Alternative editorial internship is a chance for students and working professionals across the globe to work with the magazine’s editors in creating real-time content, photo and video stories and more while exploring the fascinating world of sustainability and social impact as it unfurls around us. Write to editor@thealternative.in if you are interested in exploring an internship.


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