Often called the thinking man’s sex symbol or the female hero in Bollywood, Vidya Balan has a carved a strong niche for herself as the woman of substance in Hindi film industry. In her career spanning almost a decade, the actress paved the way for women-centric films in Hindi cinema, by earning critical acclaim and commercial success for power-packed performances in films like Ishqiya, No One Killed Jessica, The Dirty Picture and Kahaani among others. So, who better than her to champion the cause for women? An avid supporter of several humanitarian causes, Balan has strongly rooted for women empowerment. In September 2012, she visited a village in Mirzapur, Uttar Pradesh and participated in a campaign to promote children’s education and support the cause for women. Her efforts were lauded with The Prabha Khaitan Puraskar 2012 by the Calcutta Chamber of Commerce and she became the youngest recipient of the award.
An increasing number of celebrities are being sought after by the government to be the face of national campaigns, considering actors play the role of influencers in society. In 2012, Vidya Balan was also roped in as the brand ambassador for government’s drinking water and sanitation programme, under the aegis of Union Minister Jairam Ramesh. The Rural Development Minister was hopeful that her involvement will make the campaign to end open defecation a “national obsession”, while the actress had commented that nothing could be better for an actor than do a dirty picture on screen and off screen, a clean picture.
Conscious about the ill-effects of global warming and the prevalent climate change, Balan has often urged Indians to save the environment as the face of WWF’s Earth Hour. The actress participated in the campaign by switching off lights during a designated hour and appealed everyone to do the same, not just for that hour but also through the year to protect the planet. Thanks to the actress’ dedicated efforts, the campaign has managed to raise mass awareness about the changing climatic conditions and has also become a popular and ‘cool’ annual mass event.
Often, when celebrities endorse brands, they also become an extension to launch the brand’s CSR initiatives. As the brand ambassador of Nihar Shanti Amla hair oil, the actress supports their campaign ‘Chotte Kadam Pragati Ki Aur’. In an innovative attempt, Balan launched a mobile phone-based learning system aimed at aiding children to learn English words in an engaging and entertaining manner. Having graduated from one of the foremost educational institutions, St Xavier’s College, Mumbai, Balan’s drive to highlight the importance of education and spread it among the youngest lot of the country hardly comes as a surprise.
Interestingly, the actress, whose love for her alma mater is publicly known, visited her college earlier this year for a noble cause. She launched the SmartCane device for the visually impaired at the college and even distributed it among the students at the Xavier’s Resource Centre for the Visually Challenged (XRCVC). Aiding mobility among the visually impaired, SmartCane is a simple electronic device that helps to detect the presence of objects above the knee level and hanging obstacles (like protruding air-conditioners and parked vehicles) through sensors.
Earlier this year, the actress also participated in a music video ‘Phool Khil Jayenge’, a plea to immunize all Indian children. Launched on the occasion of Independence Day by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, the video also features Balan’s Shaadi Ke Side Effects co-star Farhan Akhtar, and highlights the importance of immunization as a life-saver, considering 14 lakh children under the age of five die every year in India due to preventable diseases, like pneumonia and diarrhea. With lyrics penned by Javed Akhtar, the video has received close to a lakh views on YouTube.