Asin goes to war-torn Jaffna
Asin, who was in Sri Lanka with Salman Khan shooting for her Hindi film Ready, made a trip to the war-torn regions of Northern Sri Lanka, thus becoming the first celebrity to visit the area.
She visited Vavuniya and Jaffna, where she organised Eye Care Camps. The First Lady of Sri Lanka, Madam Shiranthi Wickramasinghe Rajapakse, accompanied Asin to the region.
In Tamil Nadu, supporters of Sri Lankan Tamils have been calling for a ban of Asin's films, because she went to Sri Lanka to shoot a film. She was currently shooting for a Tamil film, too.
Asin not only shot her Hindi film in Sri Lanka but after the shoot chose to visit the war-torn areas and, in a way, told her critics that, while they shouted from Tamil Nadu, she did something good for the Tamils in Sri Lanka.
In an exclusive chat with Shobha Warrier, Asin talks about her visit.
Were you shocked at the way people over here reacted to your going to Sri Lanka to shoot a Hindi film?
I was shocked and surprised because I couldn't understand why a professional could not be at a place where she is needed. I was not there to support anything or anyone. I went there to do my work.
When I signed the film, I made a commitment to the filmmakers that I would shoot the film wherever they wanted to. It is not in my hands to decide where to shoot the film. It is the producer's and director's call; the leading lady has no say in this. So, I was bound to go to the location the director chooses. As a professional, I was honouring the commitment I had made by going to Sri Lanka to shoot Ready.
'All those who are talking about the Tamil population in Sri Lanka are doing nothing'
Hmm. I know people who can think will understand why I went to Sri Lanka, and what is right and what is wrong. I feel I did nothing wrong. I know that I did the right thing as a professional. People can politicise and turn things to their own interests. What can I do about it? I went to do my work; it is as simple as that.
Was it to counter their attack that you decided to visit the Tamil people in war-torn Jaffna?
I didn't go there because somebody said something. I went there because I felt like going there.
That came afterwards. I had gone there to work, in which I had no choice. Once I went there, I thought I should do something for the people affected by war.
Remember all those who are talking about the Tamil population in Sri Lanka are doing nothing.
I wanted to do something for the Tamil community. I owe a lot to the Tamil people, as most of my films are done in Tamil. That is why I wanted to help them in whatever capacity I can.
So, I met Namal Rajapaksa, MP and eldest son of (Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa) and expressed my desire to meet the Tamil community. I said I wanted to go to the war-affected areas and do something for the people there.
After that, I came up with the idea to conduct an eye camp, with the help of Salman's Being Human Foundation. We flew down five surgeons, necessary equipment and the lenses needed for the surgery from India. Then, we conducted the eye camps in Vavuniya and Jaffna, two towns in northern Sri Lanka.
Image: Asin at the orphnage in Sri Lanka
'In three days, we did 300 successful operations'
Did you do this after the shooting was over?
Yes, after the shoot was over, the rest of the crew left for Mumbai and I stayed back and visited the eye camps. In three days, we did 300 successful operations. 4000 patients are registered with us. I am told 10,000 Tamil people need cataract operations there. I am ready to do it for all of them.
How did you feel when you landed in the war-torn areas?
Remember this is the first time that anybody has gone to the area after the war, that too, a girl, all alone. I don't understand the attitude of some of those people sitting in Chennai and criticising while one goes to the areas and does something for the people.
I went to an orphanage too, which was set up for Tamil girls who lost their parents in the war. 150 girls were there. I spent an entire afternoon with the girls.
Image: Asin at the eye camp in Sri Lanka
'They told me, 'Akka, please bring the other actors too'
Have they seen Tamil films? Did they know you?
Of course, they have seen Tamil films, and they knew me too. They sang my songs and danced. They told me, 'Akka, please bring the other actors too. We want to meet all of them. Akka, we are so happy that you came here.'
These people want the Tamil actors to go and meet them, but here some say you are not supposed to go and meet them. What a bizarre situation!
Are you angry with all those who criticise you and clamour for a ban on your films?
I am not angry. I cannot understand what wrong I did. Did I support terrorism there? I went and did what is good for the people over there.
Let me ask, what about the Indian cricket team that is playing a cricket series there? Is that not an issue? Every day, flights are going from Chennai to Sri Lanka and they are full. All these people can come and go. Only when Asin goes to do her work, there is a hue and cry.
Image: Asin along with the first lady Madam Shiranthi Wickramasinghe Rajapakse