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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Reena Ranger's Women Empowered, Sewa Day, Movie Star Vivek Oberoi and Director Gurinder Chadha

Reena and her father Rami Ranger were kind enough to invite me along with my son and a friend to a spectacular evening recently held at the Bright Courtyard  Club in Baker Street earlier this month as their guests.

The event venue was light, bright and packed out, with well behaved audience members politely assembling in anticipation. Director Gurinder Chadha was there nice and early, amiable and chatty. Her husband Paul was in watchful attendance. It was good to catch up with her. They are preparing the West End opening of their musical "Bend in Like Bekham" and trying  to fit in a film (about Partitition)  before then.

People drank wine, ate canapes and mingled. As soon as the star guest, Vivek Oberoi, entered the room, there was a frisson with camera phones suddenly clicking away.

Reena confidently opened proceedings with a welcome address. Manoj Ladwa, Trustee of Sewa Day, a charity effort to serve the community round the world, talked about how he feels the need for service and shocked me with some heartfelt honesty about his relationship with his mother. Manoj handled communications for Indian PM Narendra Modi election campaign recently and is a quiet presence on the London scene. Other Sewa Day founders were also present.

Gurinder and Vivek took to the stage and Gurinder started asking the gently spoken, slim actor her questions.
Vivek has a stellar Bollywood career but he has devoted a huge amount of his time and energy to doing good. He was awarded the Red and White Bravery Award for helping rebuild a tsunami-hit village. He is the WHO's anti-tobacco spokesperson, and supports a whole host of charities including Banyan, which works towards rehabilitating mentally challenged, homeless women.
His passion for helping others was palpable and confounded expectation. At times, he became emotional when discussing service to others and the joy he derives from sharing with those perhaps less fortunate than himself.

While our photos were being taken I was able to ask Vivek an exclusive  question on tape, about why he felt it was important to attend the event. He told me,

"It almost didn't happen, actually. I was pretty busy at work, and I called up Manoj, and I was like, "Is it OK if I postpone this?" [He replied] "You have to make it." "And I just decided on the spur of the moment that no, I should come out here and reach out to people. I'm actually heading back tomorrow. I just came in only for this. To reach out to people and make a difference. That's why it's so important. The kind of people that were here today can have a very deep impact on a much larger society. I think we can take the flame forwards."

Of the Indian film stars I have interviewed over the past year or two, Vivek Oberoi impressed me as the one most committed to service. He clearly forms a special bond with those he meets through this work and they, in turn, have an impact on him.

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