He is the son of the legendary Shammi Kapoor and Geeta Bali. Yes, he did make his foray into films, but more than an actor, Aditya Raj Kapoor is known as an entrepreneur and a philanthropist. Kapoor’s mission on women empowerment associates him with Rang De, a project aimed at helping people fight poverty and find a source of income. Excerpts from a chat with the man who minces no words:
How did you conceive of this the #FightPoverty ride?
A couple of friends of mine run this road trip planning portal called scoutmytrip.com and they ran the first #FightPoverty ride with Rang De in February. I was intrigued by the organisation and I wanted to know more about how they help rural women entrepreneurs and so I got in touch and before long we agreed to do 1200 km ride to Yavatmal in Maharashtra to see how Rang De is making a difference. I will soon go on a world tour as well on a bike and I would be happy to spread Rang De’s message and do my part to get these wonderful hardworking women in the villages of India the support they need.
Do you think the term ‘women empowerment,’ still remains confined to books or have we really woken up to its necessity?
I met some inspiring women this month that are truly empowered in the fullest sense of the word. Like Ramaji who worked hard to set up her own beauty parlour and now trains other women so they can start their own businesses in nearby villages or Pramila ji whose walls were made of old saris but who now has a decent house and several cows in her name.
So far as women empowerment goes, there is a section in the society, which still harps on archaic rules and regulations especially in villages. How do you plan to make them see sense?
We cannot plan to change anything in villages because the ideas must come to the people themselves. We can only support them and show them a different way of life. It is slowly changing and women are getting more respect and recognition with each passing day.
Do you think such endeavours like yours can bring about a big change to the general mindset?
Many such endeavours will. I can only save my soul if I save someone else’s. More people are realising that they have a part to play in the development of this country.
I being from Bengal, am of the view that there is a huge scope of expanding and making inroads into the interiors of the state through this project. How do you plan to expand this mission?
Rang De has been working for nine years now in empowering women by raising social capital on www.rangde.org. The best way that people can help their mission is by contributing to the loans of women in rural India. The next best way is to spread their message to as many Indians as possible in whatever way you can. It does not have to be a bike ride but even a simple conversation with them can start a whole new journey.
Honestly speaking, you still need to do a lot to reach out to the people and make them aware of it. Not too many people would be aware of such a unique phenomenon. Your take.
We definitely need to do a lot to get people to be more aware of the support that women in rural India need and how there is a solution available using the Internet but we should not lose hope. I had a terrific time in Digras and it was a life changing experience. I will always carry their stories close to my heart and do my best to help them.
Don’t mind my saying this Sir, but I have seen people not taking celebrities’ charitable missions seriously. Some say they do charity for publicity. Of course, your goal is different. How would you react to this notion?
I am a retired businessman and I have been an entrepreneur throughout my life. I understand the concerns that these women have with their need for capital for their beauty parlors, grocery stores, artificial jewellery stores, tailoring stores etc. I was lucky to get the support I needed in my career and I can only hope that these women will get it too.
On a different note, coming from an illustrious family, your approach to life and career has been different. Tell us something about it.
I was offloaded from my promising career by my Guru: Bhole Baba from Haidakhan. It is now extremely obvious that he wanted to show me a different way of life. So I started my career as an office apprentice and then a simple warehousing service called Clearing and Forwarding at the first rung of the service industry. While the family continued on their chosen path, I plodded on mine and both have yielded excellent results.
One advice your father has given that has worked wonders for you…
Keep reading books. I owe all my powers of intellectual observation from this premise. He was a very well read man.
I should not be asking this because it’s an old story but audiences would have loved to see you more on screen carrying forward Shammiji’s legacy…Your take.
I agree, but I drew the line much earlier and while I did act and direct in a few films recently, it’s just vapour compared to my family’s accomplishments. And I am proud of my path.