The Bollywood effect: Organ donation pledges in India jump 16500% in two years!
As stars such as Aamir Khan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra, Salman Khan, and Sonakshi Sinha get involved, organ donation campaigns get a huge boost — with numbers to match.Updated: May 08, 2018 17:17 IST
Wouldn’t it be amazing to see the world through the eyes of Aamir Khan, or Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, or Sonakshi Sinha? While Aamir has pledged to donate all his organs, Ash and Sonakshi have pledged their eyes. Their support, along with that of other Bollywood personalities, have bolstered efforts to increase organ donation pledges in India.
For ages, it has been a herculean task for doctors and social activists to make people understand the significance of organ donation — simply put, it can transform lives. So, the recent report by the National Organ and Tissue Transplant Organisation (NOTTO) stating that pledges had increased from 9,000 to 15,00,000 in the past two years — an incredible 16500% rise — is bound to be received with applause. And Bollywood deserves a big hand, too.
‘Just the fact that they endorse such a campaign means a lot’
“We’ve received the support of several Bollywood personalities, including actors Shabana Azmi and Nana Patekar, and writer-lyricist Javed Akhtar… Some have pledged their organs, and some are extending their support to the campaign. Even if Bollywood celebrities don’t pledge their organs, just the fact that they endorse such a campaign means a lot,” says Sunayana Singh, CEO, ORGAN India, an initiative by the Delhi-based NGO, The Parashar Foundation.
Singh explains that the decision of organ donation in India isn’t made by the donor alone. “We need to understand that in India, the decision is made by the donor’s family, too. So, if one has been saying throughout one’s lifetime that one wants to donate one’s organs, then the family would also think of doing so after the individual’s death,” says Singh.
‘For Aishwarya to be the brand ambassador for an eye donation campaign was an absolute fit’
It was in the Nineties that Aishwarya pledged to donate her eyes; the striking campaign brought the pledges pouring in. “In the ad, for the initial few seconds, only her eyes were visible, yet people recognised her stunning slate grey eyes. For Aishwarya to be the brand ambassador for an eye donation campaign was an absolute fit!” says adman Prahlad Kakar, adding that any such campaigns created today would need to go into more details.
Kakar adds that the increase in pledges is not only because of celebrity endorsement, but also because of better general awareness. “It’s a combination of Bollywood people promoting the whole thing, and then people reading about it and feeling compassionate saying, ‘Why should you burn my body if people can use parts of it’, and that ‘It will be of some use after I’m gone.’ Even parents, whose young children have died in an accident, are willing to donate a child’s organs, which inspires a whole lot of others to do the same.”
‘You can’t use your voice just to sell chips, and cola and movie tickets’
While the organ donation campaigns have gained momentum, to keep public interest alive, celebrity support is invaluable. Celebrity manager Anirban Blah says that Bollywood names — or any names with similar clout — need to engage more with campaigns that “affect Indian society in a meaningful way”. He names Dia Mirza (“for the environment”) and Deepika Padukone (“in the area of mental health”) as two celebs who’ve shown consistent commitment. “I think,” he says, “that more celebrities need to do this. You can’t use your voice just to sell chips, and cola and movie tickets. Organ donation is just one of the things they should talk about.”
- Aamir Khan, reportedly after watching The Ship of Theseus (2012), which had a story around organ donation, pledged all his organs.
- Priyanka Chopra pledged all her organs. It’s said that she took the decision after the death of her father, and was quoted as saying so at an armed forces event.
- Salman Khan is the first Bollywood celeb who pledged the donation of his bone marrow. Following him, his brother, filmmaker Arbaaz Khan, also joined the cause.
- Sonakshi Sinha is probably the first among the younger brigade in Bollywood to pledge her eyes.
- R Madhavan has reportedly decided to donate almost his entire body to the cause.
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