Driven by the cause

February 5, 2017

Sticking to his philanthropic streak, Ahsan Khan signs up for Rungrez lawn as the brand collaborates with a social cause

Driven by the cause

At 11.59 am, the phone rang. It was Ahsan Khan and he was wondering whether I had found us a table since we were supposed to meet at 12. Unfortunately, celebrities (and their issues with punctuality) can make one assume the worst in people, which is why I myself was 5 minutes late, thinking that Khan will probably not show up on time. As he cheerfully waved from the table, where he had already ordered his meal by the time I arrived, the first thing I learned about Khan is that he has a fixed schedule, which he adheres to rigidly

The second thing is that he likes to have a full breakfast and wants to make sure the other person on the table is well fed too. After repeated failed attempts at getting me to order more food, Khan proceeded to discuss the matter at hand.

"I’m doing a lawn shoot for Rungrez," he said, knowing that it’s something unusual for him as well as any other man. As it is, lawn is becoming quite a saturated concept so why would Khan want to try something that is more like women’s territory?

"Well, Hamza Ali Abbasi tried it, alongside Maya Ali for Maria.B’s lawn campaign," he responded. That is true, even though Abbasi is not made for lawn modeling and his discomfort was visible in the final photo shoot.

"I didn’t want to just model because to be honest, as an actor, for me modeling is very unnatural. It seems mannequin like," explained Khan. Dressed in a pair of dark washed jeans and a navy blue jumper, wearing his thick-rimmed black sunglasses, Khan could very well be a model. "I asked the photographers and creative directors to give me a character to act so that there’s a story behind the scene."

He also revealed the real reason he agreed to do the campaign. "The brand will be donating a percentage of their earnings to a charity so of course I wanted to be a part of it. This is the first time a lawn brand is collaborating with social causes, where the profits will be shared with Moawin Foundation, an organization that works to empower rural women," said Khan, peering through his sunglasses, which I wished he would remove as I couldn’t see his eyes and their expression. Khan is one of the few actors in the industry who is just as famous for his devotion to social and charitable causes as he is for his work and sometimes one can wonder if his big heart is just a gimmick or a public persona, or if this is who really is.

He immediately smiled at this; clearly he had heard it before. "I can’t justify it, this is just who I am. It comes to me naturally. I’ve been doing social work long before people got to know about it. The reason I started publicizing it a little bit is because I realized that social media really helps in getting the word across. I can reach more people this way." However, Khan still doesn’t completely publicize what causes and charities he’s involved in.

This is what Khan ideally expects from others as well. "The world has become too materialistic and money minded. We want expensive things to feel better. I feel that if you’re content from within, money and things won’t matter that much to you."

How did Khan stop himself from buying luxuries then?

"I find a balance. I mean, I’m not saying we should all stop spending money on ourselves. I’m just saying that if everyone could even take out like one percent from what they have and give it to someone else, it would make such a big difference." In matters of finance, his wife comes to his aide. "She’s also like me. This one time, we had a huge birthday party for our son after which we felt terrible. She was like ‘yaar, did we really need all this food and extravagance?’ So for my son’s birthday the next year, we took a lot of food and cake and balloons and went to various slums and shared it with the children there. Later I told my three-year-old son, ‘aapki birthday hogai.’ He was so upset; he didn’t understand what had happened to him," laughed Khan.

Khan is optimistic and generous but he isn’t naïve. "I understand that one person cannot remove all the inequality in the world. There are too many factors involved. I do feel sad when I see that my help isn’t enough to actually solve all the problems." Khan had finally removed his shades at this point in the conversation.

So I brought up the topic which his TV serial Udaari tried to touch upon: children, whether boys or girls, who are raped, molested or sexually abused at a young age, by their relatives or someone else who’s close to them.

"We all know how common it is," he said with a grim face. "Everyone has a friend or a cousin or a sibling who has faced this while growing up. But I was still shocked at the number of messages I got from people after the show, people who confided in me and shared their trauma. One poor boy told me that he told his parents when it happened to him and they slapped and shushed him because the person who abused him was a very senior respected individual and they thought the child was lying."

Why isn’t there more of a dialogue around this?

"I don’t know. It’s the way people think here. It seems as though people live in a bubble. There’s also so much fear, especially for girls. They are constantly being told what to do and how to think and be." Finally, Khan’s optimistic smile had waned and he simply looked frustrated. "I myself know someone personally whose life to this day is dysfunctional because of what she went through as a child. She’s still struggling with what she went through and there’s no way to undo the damage." Khan explained that the only way forward to solving this issue is to first acknowledge it by talking about it and creating an environment where victims can come forward if they’ve been abused.

It was nearly time for Khan’s 2 o’clock appointment, which he could not of course be late for.  As he wrapped up the conversation, Khan proved his love for order in his life and the lives of other people when he explained that people shouldn’t behave based on instinct or instant gratification.

"People can’t behave like animals. There has to be some rule or guideline that we follow, we can’t just do as we please. Otherwise there would be complete chaos in the world. We live alongside other people so we have to understand each other and try to maintain peace."

Driven by the cause