In realisation of the entertainment and celebrity pull of Bollywood stars, non-profit organisations are increasingly using their glamour and glitter to attract and sustain patronage for their work.
On lines of this trend, Foundation For Excellence (FFE), a Silicon Valley based philanthropic organisation providing scholarships to meritorious and necessitous students in India for perusal of high school, engineering, medical or other study disciplines hosted its annual fundraising gala featuring Sunidhi Chauhan, Rahul Vaidya, Javed Ali, Manasi Parekh, and Ayub Patel at the San Jose Centre of Performing Arts on Sunday, July 9th.
The programme of the evening started with the welcome address by Vikram Modak, the new President of FFE.
Enumerating the growth plans for the years ahead, he said, "The foundation has granted over $3.7 million in over 18,500 scholarships to deserving students in India. Earlier this year, I spent a week in India meeting our students. I am amazed with their intelligence and sincerity. These students are deserving and committed to doing well for themselves, their families, and the country. These young people will be a significant part of a socially and economically stronger India. We need great ideas and support to make the programme grow to help more children from humble backgrounds desirous of pursuing higher education."
The plans for the foundation in the years ahead are to work with Indian corporates to increase the number of scholarship grants, enhance awareness about the program and rope in ex grantees as academic and career mentors and role models in their communities.
To increase the visibility and impact of the programme in northern India, the foundation has opened up a chapter in Uttaranchal with the help and involvement of retired government employees
Speaking on the impact of FFE in the future of higher education in India, venture capitalist Prabhu Goel who founded FFE a decade back with an initial funding of $10 million said: "the focus of the government of India is promoting elementary education. Private investors are increasingly getting in the business of incepting and running higher education institutions having found that education is a profitable return on investment. With privatized higher education, FFE can be a major catalyst for students seeking economic funding for higher education."
The keenly awaited entertainment portion of the programme priced for $30-$100 compeered by Manasi Parekh commenced with lilting tunes by Rahul Vaidya of Indian Idol fame, Javed Ali and Ayub Patel. They regaled the audience with foot tapping and soft romantic tunes from new and old Hindi numbers.
At enthusiastic audience request, Sunidhi Chauhan entered the podium and added the needed verve and vigor to the program with high energy "Hui, hui me mast….and Mehmoob mere, mehmoob mere. Accompanied with a full orchestra and four dancers, she sang non-stop for an hour, finishing the first half of the program with the famous Deedar de, Deedar de.
Later, while talking to the press, she added that though she wants to sing soft romantic numbers, yet, most of the time she is getting fast, lilting songs from her music directors. The upcoming releases that she is looking forward to are the sequels of Dhoom and Don. She does not consider anyone as her competitor and feels that there is enough work in the industry for all the singers.
Asked about her interest and future involvement with FFE as an ambassador, she appreciated the organisation's work and agreed to support the foundation's efforts.
The second half of the programme commenced with Jiya dhadak, dhadhak and Kajra re by Javed Ali followed by Aashik Baanaya, Yah Mulah Mere Haath Me Tera Haath Ho and others by Rahul who pulled many from the audience to the stage.
The programme ended with Sunidhi's signature number Dhoom machale that the audience lapped up with energy and enthusiasm.
Though none of our Bollywood celebrities have involved themselves in causes with the passion of Angelina Jolie or Bono, but on a smaller scale, the likes of Waheeda Rahman and Shilpa Shetty have joined hands with NGOs promoting social causes like early education and AIDS awareness. It is time for more to join hands in efforts of social significance.