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In Conversation With Shatrughan Sinha

Ranjani Saigal

It was nearly nine pm on a Tuesday evening when a bunch of Indian Americans in New England eagerly awaited the arrival of the great Bollywood star Mr. Shatrughan Sinha.  As he walked into the room it felt like we were in a time warp; for Sinha looked no different now than he did in the 70s and 80s when he stole the heart of millions of fans and the appreciation of the critics for his fine performances in hit films like Kalicharan.  His towering personality filled the room as he charmed the audience with his witty conversations.
Reminiscing about his time in the films, Sinha described both his famous and bit parts. “When I graduated from the Film and Television Institute and came to Bombay I took any part that came my way.  In the beginning they offered me villainous roles and later I moved into hero roles”, says Sinha who earned stardom with Mere Apne. Later he acted in a list of great films including Rampur Ka Lakshman, Kalicharan and others.

Why did he decide to join politics? “ I was very inspired by the great politician from Bihar Mr. Jai Prakash Narayan I felt I had to do something for my country that had given me so much. Becoming part of politics empowered me to help the poor”, says Sinha. He joined the Bharatiya Janata Party, which was then a fledgling party with just two Members of Parliament. 

“Supporting social causes has always been the central theme of my life. I have worked to support many organizations. I am here on this trip to introduce Prayas, an organization dear to my heart, to the people in the US and UK.  This organization which has nearly 227 centers all over the country has welfare programs for the care, protection and development of disadvantaged children, homeless youth and women.  People often donate to temples.  I consider this a “manav mandir” or a temple of humanity where neglected and abused children find a safe haven. A $250 donation could look after the education and upbringing of a deprived child for a year. Prayas will provide a complete progress report of the child to the donor”, says Sinha.

Sinha is considered one of the most successful actor politicians of India, having made history by being the first member of the film fraternity to become a cabinet minister with the Government of India. He has held two portfolios, the Department of Health, and the Department of Shipping. He is still a member of the Bharatiya Janata Party and campaigns for the party all over India and is well known as a leader of the masses and a brilliant orator.

Sinha has served as a mentor to many stars from the film industry the most notable being the South Indian superstar, Rajnikanth. Rajnikanth's career path was very similar to Sinha's where he started in villanous roles and moved into hero roles. "Rajnikanth is a wonderful human being. Despite being a superstar he is so simple. He is a dear friend of mine" says Sinha.
Is it difficult to be a politician while continuing to have an honest and simple life? “In Indian politics there are a handful of corrupt politicians, but there are many who are not corrupt.  The country runs because of the honest folks. It is a choice one has to make and for me being corrupt was not the right choice. I am proud to say that despite having had a long tenure in the film industry I have never had an income tax raid”,says Sinha.

When asked if it was true that he owned three houses pat comes his witty response “People say that I do. I am fortunate for I have three houses and one wife. I would be in trouble if it was the other way around”

Sinha has two sons and a daughter. “My son Luv is coming into Bollywood fraternity with the movie Sadiyaan, directed by Raj Kanwar. Luv has attracted a lot of attention for his acting talent. However, there are some more surprises in the movie which are definitely eye-catching. Bollywood fans will be able to see Rekha and Hema Malini together after almost two decades in this film.  Legendary actor Rishi Kapoor will play the role of Luv’s father in the movie”

Any special message for the people in New England? “My best wishes to the Indian Americans in New England. It is great to see that so many are so successful. I hope they can support Prayas. We are not only looking for money but also for ideas and talent to move this initiative forward.  Please check out www.prayasonline.org for more information.”

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