Uday Shankar's take on social responsibility

MUMBAI: This Independence Day saw the who’s who of the film and television fraternity come together in a unique initiative by Star India to support the victims of the Uttarakhand tragedy.

Christened Saath Hain Hum Uttarakhand, the seven-hour-long event held at the NSCI grounds in Mumbai was telecast live across the entire Star India network.

In an exclusive interaction with, Star India CEO Uday Shankar spoke at length about the conviction behind this noble cause and Star India’s philosophy.

“When such a tragedy occurs, there is a need to do something different. At Star, we have a very deep emotional connect with the audiences at large," expresses Shankar. "Whether it is through our programming or by connecting with the film and television industry for this cause, we feel it is our duty to help people who are in pain there.”

Star's Uday Shankar says the network is not only number one in terms of content but it also has a very strong social conscience

Shankar points out that the initiative helped reinforce another point that Star is not only number one in terms of content but it also has a very strong social conscience. "The endeavour was also born out of his sense of responsibility toward the large number of people that have made all the channels of the Star network successful," he highlights. “People’s belief brings with it a huge responsibility, which we are continually aware of, and try and live up to. Doing this for the rebuilding of Uttarakhand is yet another acknowledgement of our responsibility."

So why I-Day? According to Shankar, Star India had wanted to do something big at the time the tragedy occurred but the logistics were daunting. That’s when he and his team started taking the creative community into confidence.

“Obviously, an event on such a big scale takes time, as you have all the top stars from the industry and you need some time to bring all of them together. So, 15 August was very appropriate because both its symbolic and philosophical values were in sync with our objective,” explains Shankar.

What was the idea of airing the event live? “Live has an element of intensity, immediacy and urgency. We wanted to share with the people how the creative community, comprising media, television and film has responded spontaneously to the disaster. We wanted to capture that intensity,” gushes Shankar.

Are he and his team happy with the response the event garnered? “I was overwhelmed by the positive response from all the top stars and everybody from the film and television industry. Bringing together so many people is a challenge, but everybody was more than willing the moment we said it is for Uttarakhand victims. While some of them could not make it because of their own commitments, it was very satisfying to see them all so willing to lend their support to the cause,” exults Shankar.

Star India has decided to encourage viewers from across the globe to donate generously toward the victims of the tragedy

Have the network’s expectations been fulfilled, at least to some extent? According to Shankar, the immediate and material consideration was “to raise as much contribution as we can so we can play a more effective role in rebuilding Uttarakhand.”

In fact, as a natural next step, Star India has decided to encourage viewers from across the globe to donate generously toward the victims of the tragedy.

Donation lines will be open from 15 August to 7 September and the funds collected will be channeled to the People’s Science Institute (PSI) and Himmotthan society NGOs partners. How the funds are used will be overseen by a team of independent auditors.

A large part of undertaking the initiative was about replying to the perennial question faced by the media as to whether it is living up to its social responsibilities or not.

“Whether it is the political class or the rest of the country, this question is being put to journalists, people in the field of entertainment, TV, print, all of us, every day. To which we wanted to say, ‘Look, we are more alive! Doesn’t matter whether we are news or entertainment, we are there when society needs us’,” said Shankar.

Before concluding the interview, Shankar bared his heart on what the country should do in such situations.

 “Within the creative community, there is a strong desire to be socially more relevant, more meaningful and contribute more effectively. Everybody - whether they are actors, directors, producers, technicians and many more - has that kind of desire. What we require is the leadership, and I think that is why we all came together so we could provide that leadership to channelise that urge and those emotions. If we can do that, I think the country can do a lot more."

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