Interview | Alia Bhatt on her initiative CoExist: I’m not a preacher or an activist – Last year, Alia Bhatt started an initiative titled CoExist, which was aimed at reducing the conflict between humans, animals and the environment. In its second year, the team has now announced its second part called Find Your Green. Before heading for a Facebook Live video session to interact with her fans and create awareness about her new campaign, she tells After Hrs how she plans to take this movement forward.
Where did the whole idea of CoExist stem from?
The inclination to do something in this space was always there. I have a whole team that helps me put my campaign together. I might be the face of CoExist, but there are others who plan and assist me with everything. As an actor, I get to enjoy a huge reach. I always wanted to do something good, after being in the position where I’m today. I feel passionately about animals. Having said that, we also need to be protective towards our country, world and space. If we only take care of our own place and don’t worry about the world, then it’s a selfish way to lead our lives. My main aim is to create as much awareness as I can.
How much of a change do you think the campaign will be able to bring?
It’s difficult but not impossible to gauge the change, actually. There are ways to do that. Last time, we had an adoption drive for stray animals and there were so many of them who found homes. I believe that if you feel strongly and passionately about making something happen, it will happen for sure. In Before The Flood (a 2016 documentary about climate change), Leonardo DiCaprio went on a journey to search for answers to do something for the world and the environment in general. It’s so interesting because he was learning and we were learning along with him. That’s exactly what I want to do.
What is the campaign about?
I’m kicking it off with a Facebook Live video today. The campaign is called Find Your Green. We are asking everyone to be more green conscious. Reduce, Reuse and Recycle are the three words that we have been constantly hearing. It’s about putting them to good use to conserve the environment. Gradually, I want to move on to a larger picture where I’ll talk to parents and ask them to make their kids aware of what’s happening. After all, they are the green warriors of tomorrow. Children are sensitive and caring towards the environment and sometimes, parents get scared and hold them back because they want to protect them. But, they need to understand that the more we push our kids to be eco-friendly, the better it is because they are the ones who will come up and help this cause. Along with this, like we all know, plastic is extremely harmful to the environment. So, we are getting it banned in Maharashtra. I’m going to be campaigning for this through the year because it’s extremely disturbing and hazardous to land, water and animals.
What’s the call for action then?
I’m a happy and positive person, so none of this will be done in an overtly sad, sorrowful or preachy manner. Everything that I campaign for, will be done with a lot of laughter, positivity and colours!
You started the campaign already by sending your co-actors a plant each as a New Year’s gift…
Yes, that’s true. That was the intention. Of course, people do send chocolates and it’s a great gift to receive as well. But somehow, I just feel gifting a plant to people around me is a sweet, simple way to start the year and also kind of put my point across. Let’s just all make 2018 a green year. It’s as easy as making simple changes in our daily lifestyle. Ban plastic from your house, don’t eat ice creams in cups, instead, have them in cones, these are such basic things that we don’t even think about. But they can initiate a huge change. That’s also something we will talk about in the live video.
Does that mean as a star, now you won’t endorse certain products anymore?
I feel that when it comes to brand endorsements, you need to be conscious and responsible. But you cannot be too stuck up as well. I’m not a preacher or an activist. I’m just passionate about the environment and want to put my voice to good use. But if I think differently, that way I wouldn’t be doing half the things I’m doing in my life. All my furniture should be organic. Of course, some of it is but not all of it can be. I’m not asking people to make life-altering plans. I’m not telling people to stop doing anything, I’m just requesting them to start doing a few things.
I think very practically. We also need to understand that the biggest reasons people indulge in activities that harm the environment are illiteracy, unemployment and lack of awareness. That’s why my campaign is called CoExist as it’s about the man, animals and the planet at large.
Given your busy work schedule, how creatively involved are you in the planning and execution?
I’m completely involved, there’s no other way to be. I can’t not be involved with it if I’m doing it from the heart. Whenever I get the time, my team tells me what their plans are and I veto them. I tell them what I want and then we chalk out a plan of execution. I’ll turn 25 this year. If I don’t multitask now, when will I do it?
How do you plan to market it?
As we are doing this from the heart, we don’t need to overanalyse this whole thing. It shouldn’t be like har paper mein jaake har din kuchh baat karni hai. I don’t like to do things that way. I’m not showing off but genuinely working towards something. I say this with gratitude that I’ve ‘X’ number of followers on social media and if that can help me reach out to a larger audience, I should put it to good use. It’s not my birthright to get this kind of love but I’m not a selfish person who only wants to take. I want to give a lot of it back to the people and the environment, too.
Have you ever thought of opening an animal farm?
I don’t think I will open one. But I would love to fund and nurture more such shelters. There is an animal shelter that has opened very close to our farmhouse so whenever I get time, I would like to spend some time there.
How does your family react to this initiative?
They have always been supportive of whatever I’ve done. My sister (Shaheen) is someone who got me into this animal-loving zone. She’s someone who would rescue strays and get them home. I can always speak to my family about anything and they come up with great ideas. So, they are happy.
Would you ever do a film which deals with such an issue?
No, I haven’t been offered anything yet but it will be nice to see a film like that. See, in our cinema, animals are treated well. The best way to impact people is to entertain them while you speak about the issue at hand. If we can make an entertaining movie on it, I’m always open to doing it.
Your dad has also been vocal about preserving the green Aarey patch. Are all of you working towards that?
Not as of now. My dad has been very outspoken and courageous about different issues in life. He knows what’s right and wrong. I think that’s where I get this confidence from. To stand up for something that I feel so passionately about.