How former President APJ Abdul Kalam inspired actor Vivek to turn to activism

How former President APJ Abdul Kalam inspired actor Vivek to turn to activism
Veteran comedian Vivek, who is a household name in Tamil Nadu, passed away due to a cardiac arrest at the age of 59 on Saturday in Chennai. While he has left a lasting impression among fans with his stellar performances in 220 films over the decades, he is also fondly remembered as an activist who spearheaded many afforestation initiatives in deference to former President APJ Abdul Kalam’s wishes.   Actor Vivek was an ardent follower of the former President and missile scientist Dr APJ Abdul Kalam. He had spoken about Abdul Kalam extensively on a number of occasions and also heaped praises on Dr. Kalam for being a role model, through some of his films.   His close association with Dr. Kalam is well-known to many of his fans. However, not many people know how he became Kalam’s follower as well as friend. According to The Hindu’s report, Vivek received a call from the former president’s office shortly after shooting for a sequence in 2002 Tamil movie Hit where the actor is seen diving into Chennai’s Cooum river. Kalam, who was a scientist when they first met, had left a huge impression on the actor-comedian during their first meeting. Vivek spoke about Dr. Kalam in many public functions and in his movies after closely tracking his work over the years, but it was his interview with the aerospace scientist and a subsequent meeting at the Raj Bhavan in 2010 that inspired Vivek to turn to activism and launch the ‘Green Kalam’ initiative.   Following the release of 2007 Tamil movie Sivaji, Vivek, who had interviewed fellow actors from the film fraternity earlier, was presented with the opportunity to interview former President APJ Abdul Kalam. In the candid interview with Vivek, Dr. Kalam, who was a native of Tamil Nadu’s Rameswaram, took a trip down memory lane and revisited his childhood, invoking a sense of nostalgia among viewers.   In the Raj Bhavan meeting in 2010, Dr. Kalam had shared with Vivek, an imaginative piece he had penned about a tree talking to a man. It was in this meeting that Kalam also asked Vivek to take up an initiative to plant more trees and spread awareness about global warming. Vivek, who spoke highly about Kalam in his movies, was also advised to use his screen time instead to discuss global warming and afforestation.   In deference to the former president’s wishes, the ‘Green Kalam Project’ was inaugurated in the year 2010 with the ambitious aim to plant one billion saplings across the state of Tamil Nadu.   Going by his social media profiles, Vivek planted over 33 lakh saplings in the state over the years. The Padma Shri awardee had conducted numerous tree plantation drives in schools across the state, raising awareness about afforestation and inculcating green practices in schools.  Vivek was also appointed as one of the brand ambassadors for Tamil Nadu government’s ‘plastic free TN’ initiative in the year 2018 along with actors Karthi, Suriya and Jyothika.  Along with fellow activists and actors, Vivek managed to use social media as a tool to create awareness, mobilise like-minded people and call for social change. Apart from posting several tweets creating awareness about global warming and afforestation, Vivek also used the microblogging platform to engage with his followers and inspire them to get involved in volunteering. In October last year, when Twitterati challenged the actor to clean up lakes in Chennai, Vivek instantly agreed to do so.   I m ready! We can do with social distancing. But can u come n show me the place? And bring volunteers. https://t.co/9uOnp5PzEb — Vivekh actor (@Actor_Vivek) July 28, 2020 From speaking highly about Kalam on screen to calling him the real superstar amid all the cine stars who were present in SIIMA (South Indian International Movie Awards) 2015, the veteran comedian did not shy away from accepting that his admiration and respect for the scientist goes beyond the confines of the film industry and stardom. Dr. Kalam too had spoken about his friendship with Vivek at public events.   Following actor Vivek’s untimely demise, notable celebrities and politicians have mourned his passing and conveyed their condolences on social media.   Read: 'Take diversion': 13 unforgettable comedy scenes from Vivek

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