Covid support: From Sonu Sood to Priyanka Chopra, Vikas Khanna, Arpita Mehta and Vir Das, celebs from all walks of life come together to help India breathe

As the nation continues to battle COVID-19, celebs from all walks of life come together to help ease the lives of those affected by the pandemic
As the nation continues to battle COVID-19, celebs from all walks of life come together to help India breathe. In picture: Vikas Khanna, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Vir Das and Sonu Sood
As the nation continues to battle COVID-19, celebs from all walks of life come together to help India breathe. In picture: Vikas Khanna, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Vir Das and Sonu Sood

India’s second wave is like no other in any part of the world. From the rich to the poor, the entire population is afflicted by the unprecedented impact of COVID-19. Even as India struggles to wriggle out of the vicious circle of this pernicious pandemic, people from all walks of life, including celebrities, are supporting one and another during this testing period.

From actors Sonu Sood, Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Riddhi Sen, Parambrata Chatterjee, Bhumi Pednekar and Pranitha Subhash to filmmakers like Rohit Shetty; and from fashion designers Anita Dongre and Payal Khandwala to artistes like Anita Ratnam — celebrities are stretching themselves to make things happen.

From arranging medicines, hospital beds and oxygen cylinders for those in need to verifying the authenticity of information that’s getting shared on social media, they are leaving no stone unturned. International celebrities too; from Hollywood actors and authors to pop stars and musicians — everyone’s reaching out to their fans and supporters to help raise funds for India. Indulge shines a light on the efforts taken by them to help combat this perilous state that the country is in, and hopes this inspires and motivates more helping hands.

Amplify and act

<em>Bhumi Pednekar, Vineet Kumar Singh and Alia Bhatt</em>
Bhumi Pednekar, Vineet Kumar Singh and Alia Bhatt

Among the many things that we learnt in the last few months, one that tops the list is the importance of having timely access to verified information, whether it is related to procuring medicines, oxygen cylinders or the availability of beds in hospitals or even vaccines.

While some celebrities, (including actors Taapsee Pannu, Richa Chadda, Tisca Chopra, Vineet Kumar Singh and Manav Kaul, filmmaker Hansal Mehta, stand-up comedian Appurv Gupta, Chennai-based dancer Anita Ratnam and lyricist Varun Grover among others) are actively sharing the pleas of citizens looking for plasma, beds, oxygen cylinders and the much-in-demand antiviral medication Remdesivir; others like Appurv have even built a small team of volunteers to verify leads, collect data and amplify the SOS messages. Anita has been going live on Instagram and making videos, almost every day, to motivate people to do whatever little they can to help. Vineet, who is presently recovering from COVID-19 and is in isolation, is using social media to provide verified information about the availability of oxygen cylinders, beds and ventilators, and sometimes even trying to arrange them personally with the assistance of his team of volunteers that he created recently using social media. The actor himself is an MD in Ayurveda. “One would have to help, there is no other way. This is a pandemic. I helped someone using my social media and the youngest boy from that family reached out asking how he can help. That’s how I found my first volunteer and now we have a network of volunteers on the ground, sourcing information and resources,” shares Vineet.

Others like filmmaker Karan Johar’s Dharma Productions have collaborated with youth organisation Yuvaa to amplify verified information pertaining to vaccination processes and mental health, and actress Alia Bhatt has joined hands with an independent journalist to share information about various aids and government helpline numbers across the country. Actor John Abraham, who is not very active on social media, handed over his official accounts to partnered NGOs to post messages and help COVID-19 patients and their families.

Also read | Covid Support: Deepika Padukone shares a list of verified mental health helpline numbers

Bhumi Pednekar continues to actively use her social media platforms to amplify pleas, while also identifying resources to enable access to medical supplies, plasma requests and donors. Recently, the actress along with her sister Samiksha also collaborated with the crowd funding platform Ketto to enable financial assistance to COVID-19 patients.

Kannada film and television actress Shwetha R Prasad has been hosting Instagram live sessions with doctors and psychologists to bust myths about COVID-19, and to speak about mental wellness. Most recently, Shwetha, partnered with Bangalore Medical Services Trust, and hosted a blood donation camp and encouraged people to come forward and donate blood and plasma.

Helping India breathe

<em>L-R, clockwise: Akshay Kumar and Twinkle Khanna, Kichcha Sudeep, Samantha Akkineni and Ajay Devgn </em>
L-R, clockwise: Akshay Kumar and Twinkle Khanna, Kichcha Sudeep, Samantha Akkineni and Ajay Devgn 

Known for his action blockbusters, Rohit Shetty recently stepped forward to help Delhi, which is facing an acute shortage of oxygen cylinders and hospital beds, by donating 250 hospital beds to Guru Tegh Bahadur COVID-19 Care Centre. The same COVID-19 care facility also received Rs 2 crores from Amitabh Bachchan on Monday and the actor has pledged another Rs15 crore for the cause.

Actor Akshay Kumar along with his wife Twinkle Khanna have been at the forefront of the pandemic relief. Last year, the couple donated Rs 25 crore to the PM CARES fund. This year, they donated Rs 1 crore to the Gautam Gambhir Foundation and 100 oxygen concentrators to an NGO.

One of the most sought-after celebrity couples, Anushka Sharma and Virat Kohli took to their respective social media platforms last week to announce a campaign to raise Rs 7 crore. Out of which, the couple pledged to donate Rs 2 crore themselves. The campaign generated over Rs 4.7 crore within three days.

Actor and producer Ajay Devgn and a few of his colleagues recently joined hands with Hinduja Hospital, Mumbai to set up an emergency facility at Mumbai’s Shivaji Park by contributing over Rs 1 crore to MCGM’s Smiley Account. As per reports, this money has helped Municipal Corporation of Greater Mumbai (MCGM) convert a hall at Shivaji Park into a 20-bed COVID-19 facility equipped with ventilators and oxygen support. Actor Anupam Kher has also joined hands with Dr Ashutosh Tewari of Global Cancer Foundation and Babasaheb Neelkanth Kalyani’s Bharat Forge for Project Heal India. Under this project, critical equipment and life-supporting devices will be provided to needy institutions and hospitals across India, including states like Rajasthan and Jammu Kashmir.

Tollywood star Samantha Akkineni’s charitable trust Pratyusha Support has collaborated with Donatekart to raise donations for oxygen cylinders. Besides, Pratyusha Support has been delivering medical support and distributing groceries to several small organisations. Samantha’s own fashion line, Saaki World, too raised donations for oxygen support through the brand’s sales with the actress donating 100 per cent of sales proceedings in the first week of May.

As someone who has a strong fan following across Kannada, Telugu and Tamil film industries, Pranitha Subhash is also using her social media platforms to raise funds for oxygen concentrators. She initiated the campaign by contributing `1 lakh, and earlier last week she posted a video message on her official Instagram page, appealing to people to donate.

Also read | Rakul Preet Singh starts fundraiser to help Covid patients, asks people to donate Rs 100

Kannada actor Kichcha Sudeep (Sudeep Sanjeev)’s trust — Kichcha Sudeep Charitable Trust — has also come forward to help families of 24 patients who succumbed to COVID-19. These patients were admitted at the Chamarajanagar District Hospital and died due to lack of oxygen supply. The trust has now donated 300 oxygen cylinders to government hospitals in Bengaluru. Mumbai-based Aahana Kumra also extended her support by promoting India’s International Movement to Unite Nations (IIMUN)’s initiative, Find a Bed. Aahana took to Instagram to amplify their cause that is being led by over 20,000 students across 160 cities.

Then there’s Mumbai-based Luke Coutinho who recently contributed Rs 1 crore to help patients affected by COVID-19 breathe easier. This donation was made as part of Paytm’s initiative to raise Rs 20 crore for the procurement of oxygen concentrators. That apart, the Holistic Lifestyle Coach (Integrative & Lifestyle Medicine) has been sharing everything from vaccination guidelines on his social media (amplified by celebrities like Emraan Hashmi) to mental health tips and even a completely free e-book titled The Magic Immunity Pill: Lifestyle, co-authored with Shilpa Shetty last year.

The torchbearer

<em>Sonu Sood</em>
Sonu Sood

Sonu Sood’s phone hasn’t stopped buzzing, ever since the actor emerged as one of the saviours during the first wave of COVID-19. But the second wave has been quite cruel and Sonu, who had tested positive recently, understands that the stakes are high. He started the Sonu Sood Foundation in January this year, and the organisation has been working round the clock providing aid to people. Ever since India registered a spike in cases in April, Sonu has been more accessible than before even through social media. He has flown patients by air from one city to another for treatment, and has also arranged for oxygen cylinders and medicines, reaching out to different nooks and corners of India. He is now in the process of importing four oxygen plants from France and these will be installed in states that are the worst hit, including Delhi and Maharashtra.

Kolkata cares

<em>Anusha Viswanathan​ and Riddhi Sen​</em>
Anusha Viswanathan​ and Riddhi Sen​

Bengali cinema’s young brigade, including actors and singers like National Award-winning Riddhi Sen, Parambrata Chatterjee, Surangana Bandyopadhyay, Rwitobroto Mukherjee, Anupam Roy, Piya Chakraborty, Anusha Viswanathan, Rajarshi Nag and Tanmoy Ghosh among others have formed Citizen’s Response, an interim relief centre formed in collaboration with several NGOs and Bangla Sanskriti Mancha.

The Interim Relief Centre provides free beds, oxygen and treatment till the patient finds a bed in the hospitals. “It’s difficult for the financially challenged to afford oxygen at the moment, especially with so much of it being diverted to the black market. Plus, so many people are hoarding oxygen, so we have arranged for oxygen at the relief centre so people can access it free of cost,” says Riddhi. “Even though we are able to help only a limited number of people, it at least feels like we are doing something instead of sitting back at home and watching deaths helplessly,” adds Anusha.

For the film family

<em>Aditya Chopra and Salman Khan</em>
Aditya Chopra and Salman Khan

In order to contain the spread of the COVID-19, the shooting of films and shows have been suspended in most states, making it difficult for daily wage earners of the film industry to make ends meet. Coming to their rescue, Salman Khan has pledged to offer monetary help to 25,000 daily wage earners. According to the Federation of Western Indian Cine Employees (FWICE), the actor will be paying Rs1,500 to every worker on a monthly basis.

One of the giant production houses in the country, Yash Raj Films has also stepped forward with a relief scheme, Yash Chopra Saathi Initiative. Named after the founding father, Yash Chopra, the foundation will extend a helping hand towards the members of the film industry union who are currently unemployed and have one or more direct dependents (parents, spouse and children). Under the scheme, there will be a direct benefit transfer of Rs 5,000 to women and senior citizens working in the industry and the distribution of ration kits to workers for a family of four for an entire month.

<em>Payal Khandwala, Anita Dongre and Arpita Mehta</em>
Payal Khandwala, Anita Dongre and Arpita Mehta

Designers have chipped in from various quarters to raise money for COVID-19 relief. Not only have they managed to raise big sums but most of them are also tying up with lesser-known charities and foundations to make the lives of those affected by the pandemic a little easier. Designer Anita Dongre has been using her 1.6 million-strong Instagram followers in raising awareness and creating curated lists of people, groups and institutions, from mental health resources to NGOs who are working for the betterment of COVID-19 affected people. She also highlights the bodies helping artisans during these times. Couturier Arpita Mehta introduced a unique initiative called #WishfulWednesday. Under this, she puts out her summer-friendly kaftans for sale at 20 per cent off on all Wednesdays in the month of May, and all of the proceeds from the sale of these kaftans will be donated to different verified organisations helping out with COVID-19 relief. The sum raised during these drives is rather large — last week, Mehta raised a six-digit sum. “Last Wednesday, we partnered with the Hyderabad-based foundation Ripples of Kindness (helmed by Bajaj family of jewellery label Krsala fame) as they are doing some great work at the grassroots. ROK is known for setting up an infrastructure that is aiding a campaign called — Help India Breathe to help with the decreasing oxygen crisis and donating oxygen concentrators for free to hospitals around India and individuals in need,” says Arpita.

Mumbai-based designer Payal Khandwala will be donating all her profits from the months of April and May towards India’s fight against the pandemic. The designer, known for her exquisite ensembles, will direct the sum towards Hemkunt Foundation and charities from Ketto.

Aaina Mahajan, who helms label MellowDrama, stands in solidarity with those fighting the virus as well. The label has pledged to donate all of their proceeds to Hemkunt Foundation and Doctors For You from May 11-18.

For a smile

<em>Amit Tandon and Vir Das</em>
Amit Tandon and Vir Das

Amid all the grim news, two comedians decided to do what they do best — make people out there laugh. But, no, it is not business as usual. While comedian Vir Das has partnered with NGOs like Hemkunt Foundation and HelpNow 24x7 and all proceeds from his show Vir Das At Home will be directed to them, Amit Tandon has decided to conduct free laughter sessions for COVID-19 patients. “If you are COVID-19 positive and stuck alone, let’s spend some time together. This will be a 30-minute session where we will talk and hopefully laugh together. There is no money involved,” wrote Tandon.

Food and beyond

<em>Tara Deshpande, Vikas Khanna and Jacqueline Fernandez</em>
Tara Deshpande, Vikas Khanna and Jacqueline Fernandez

Celebrity chef Vikas Khanna, who has been actively working towards COVID-19 relief in India since the beginning, served over 50 million meals last year. As the second wave hit his home country, the chef reportedly worked round-the-clock to mobilise and transport oxygen concentrators and fire-resistant PPE kits to India. Khanna has partnered with Vibha, a California-based NGO and as of May 6, they had disbursed $600K towards COVID-19 relief, procured 850 oxygen concentrators, and even dispatched the first batch of these concentrators to states like Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Rajasthan. Khanna has also partnered with Texas Instruments and the Government of Karnataka to set up a 100-bed modular hospital in Bengaluru.

In South Mumbai, actor and chef Tara Deshpande has been providing home-cooked meals to those without an income like pavement dwellers, especially children, and elderly people living by themselves in South Mumbai. Her meals are simple and nutritious — a one-pot meal, usually a combination of lentils or beans with vegetables served with rice at her home. Actor Jacqueline Fernandez, who recently started an NGO, You Only Live Once (YOLO), is distributing free meals to the needy in Mumbai. For this, she has collaborated with Roti Bank Foundation, an NGO in Mumbai run by former Mumbai Police Commissioner D Sivanandan.

Music for a cause

<em>L-R, clockwise: Corner Café Chronicles, Shankar Mahadevan, Peter Cat Recording Co, and The F16s; Centre: Badshah</em>
L-R, clockwise: Corner Café Chronicles, Shankar Mahadevan, Peter Cat Recording Co, and The F16s; Centre: Badshah

In times like these, music is something that people reach out to for hope and peace. With this in mind, many musicians are doing their bit to contribute to the pandemic relief. The Hope for O2 virtual fundraiser concert, which took place earlier this week, featured big names who all performed for the cause. Musicians Adnan Sami, Shankar Mahadevan, Sonu Nigam, Kailash Kher, Amaal Malik, Badshah, Mika Singh, Guru Randhawa and Sukhbir supported the cause of providing oxygen cylinders for patients across the country, through the Mission Oxygen programme.

But it’s not just mainstream names that are coming through. Indie musicians like Chinmay Patkar, a doctor by profession and also the frontman of Mumbai-based rock band Corner Café Chronicles, along with fellow indie musicians and music promoters from various cities in India has started The Citizens COVID-19 War Room. The war room is prompt in providing verified leads for oxygen cylinders, plasma, ambulances and beds in hospitals, all round the clock.

Chennai-based indie band The F16s has released a single after almost two years. Titled To Be There With You, and all proceeds from its sale on Bandcamp will go towards charities. Indie darling Peter Cat Recording Co has also pledged funds from their albums Sinema, Happy Holidays and Wall Of Want to the Hemkunt Foundation. Chennai-based musician Anil Srinivasan has also been using his social media profiles to amplify the message and is working on-ground with many NGOs. An aptly named SOS album that is a compilation of music by India’s best electronic artistes such as Arjun Vagale, Ankytrixx, BLOT!, Func, Kohra and Murthovic has also been released and sales from the whole album are going to be directed towards Hemkunt Foundation. As Arjun says on his Instagram page, “It’s now up to each of us to do our bit and help. As artistes sitting at home, perhaps the best help we can offer is via our music.”

Global action

<em>Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Mindy Kaling​, Lilly Singh, Jay Shetty</em>
Priyanka Chopra Jonas, Mindy Kaling​, Lilly Singh, Jay Shetty

Actress and producer Priyanka Chopra Jonas, along with husband-singer Nick Jonas, has started a fundraiser for $1 million (about Rs 7.3 crores) with a non-profit organisation, GiveIndia. Stating that “unless everyone is safe, no one is safe,” Priyanka reached out to the global community and asked her followers to donate. “India, my home, is suffering the world’s worst COVID-19 crisis, and we all need to help! People are dying in record numbers… Whatever you can spare truly makes a difference. Nearly 63 million people follow me here, if even 100,000 of you donate $10, that’s $1 Million, and that’s huge. Your donation will go directly to healthcare physical infrastructure (including COVID-19 care centres, isolation centres and oxygen generation plants), medical equipment, and vaccine support and mobilisation,” the actress wrote on Instagram. Priyanka’s initiative received global support, with Hollywood stars like Hugh Jackman, Irina Shayk, Jonas Brothers, Sophie Turner and Reese Witherspoon endorsing the initiative.

Also read | Russian cryptocurrency founder, Vitalik Buterin, donates $1.14bn as COVID support to India

Following her request, GO Campaign announced that its COVID-19 Relief Fund will be mobilised towards providing assistance in India. Its brand ambassadors Robert Pattinson, Lily Collins and Ewan McGregor have joined hands to spread awareness about India’s critical situation while also raising about $250,000 (about Rs 1.8 crores). Another virtual fundraiser Help India Breathe saw celebrities Ellen DeGeneres and Shawn Mendes partnering with celebrity life coach Jay Shetty to raise funds. The virtual fundraiser saw the presence of Kunal Nayyar, Jay Sean, Lilly Singh and Gaur Gopal among many others. The fundraiser raised $5 million and saw Hrithik Roshan donating $15,000.

Besides them, Drew Barrymore, Jennifer Aniston and Mindy Kaling, among many others, have requested people to donate to charitable institutions that are helping on the ground in India.

(With inputs from Team Indulge)

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