Friday, August 20, 2010

Actor , PM Visit Buddhist Run School

"All is not well." This was how Aamir Khan reacted on seeing the condition of The Druk White Lotus School where the film star shot for his superhit 3 Idiots, tweaking the film's popular dialogue "Aal izz well" to reflect the ground situation.

The school, which was damaged in the devastating cloudburst nearly two weeks ago, shot into the limelight after it was featured as Khan's character Rancho's school in the film.

Khan, 45, has a special attachment with the school, about 15km from Leh on the Leh-Manali highway.

Khan, who rushed here at the first available opportunity, visited the school which suffered heavy damage owing to the cloudburst on the intervening night of August 5 and 6, and some other villages as far as 70km from Leh town.

Some 200 people perished in the flash floods that followed the cloudburst.

Asked if he would repeat the famous dialogue from 3 Idiots, "Aal izz well", Khan said, "All is not well. But for the sake of humanity one should help others. One should raise the morale of others."

The school, which has about 800 students on its rolls, had shot to fame after Khan's character in 3 Idiots, Ranchhoddas Shyamaldas Chanchad, a brilliant engineering student, is shown as having started a school in Ladakh.

"Actually the school is not Rancho's. It was set up by Fungsuk Wangdo, the real name of the character that I was playing in the film," Khan said.

Dressed in blue denims and a white T-shirt, Khan interacted with students at the school and took stock of the damage caused. He also appealed to people to donate freely to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund.

"It really pains me. I wish I had come in happier times," Khan, who undertook the day-long trip with the twelfth Gyalwang Druk Chen, chief of the Drukpa sect of Buddhism, told the Press Trust of India when asked how he felt visiting Leh after the disaster.

"One part of the country is suffering and it is our duty to help the people out," he said. "One should donate whatever one can within the best of his abilities to the Prime Minister’s Relief Fund. The money for the rehabilitation is coming from that fund."

No one from the Druk school was injured in the disaster.

The actor said he, too, will donate a sum "well within my means" to the fund but did not disclose the exact amount.

He said he will also ask his Hindi film industry colleagues, once he goes back to Mumbai, to donate to the relief fund. "The film industry never shies away from helping out in national disasters," he said.

The actor, who was almost the ambassador for the district, said he will also donate to the school because he has a personal connection to it as his film was shot there though he himself never filmed in its premises.

He also appealed to people across the country to come and visit Leh which, he said, was like “paradise”.

"What has happened has happened. But things are being brought back to normal. Leh is mainly run by tourism and I would ask you not to drop plans of visiting this place because of the cloudburst. Even if you are planning to make a trip later, please come to Leh," he said.

"I am very sad that about 200 lives have been lost and over 10,000 houses have been damaged. My sincere condolences to all those who lost their lives,” he said.

Asked why no other members of the film unit had come with him, he said, "I spoke to Raju Hirani [the director]. He could not come but has promised all help. Actually, I am the only one who is not shooting and hence am here."

Khan had Shoaib Ahmed, a Std V student of Delhi Public School here, who played the young Rancho in the film, with him.

Asked if he wanted to grow up and become an actor like Khan, the boy said, "No. I want to be a scientist."

Aamir Khan will visit the Druk White Lotus School tomorrow, where he shot the final scenes of his 2009 blockbuster '3 Idiots'. "I am here to be with the students because I was told that they are in a state of shock. Nature can be real cruel sometimes but luckily, there were no casualties in the school but the children are under emotional trauma. I will try my best to bring their smiles back," Aamir said.

The school, run by the Buddhist Drukpa leader Gyalwang Drukpa, was affected during the cloudburst in Leh on August 7 that claimed nearly 200 lives. The school, located about 15 km from Leh on the Leh-Manali highway, came to limelight after it was shown as the school run by Aamir's character Rancho in the film

Aamir who took an early morning flight to Leh, had to return to Delhi after the plane developed a technical snag. He took another flight and reached Leh before noon. While the grey stone building remains intact along with the amphitheatre, slush and boulders filled up its interiors during the flash floods

The actor said he decided to visit Leh to create awareness across the nation so that more and more people could come forward and help in the relief and rehabilitation efforts. "I want to use this opportunity to focus spotlight on the tragedy in Leh and not just the school. Lots of lives have been lost there. The rest of India lives so far away sometimes we don't realise what has happened here. When natural disasters like this strike we should come together and help," Aamir said.

"Apart from my personal contribution, we all have to contribute as a country because it is a huge tragedy. The country should reach out to the people of Leh in these testing times. I am here to see what kind of assistance do they need, so that we can help raise the money," Aamir said. Keen to get the school back on track, principal Prasad Eledath said, "We have started some classes in the area, which was unaffected but we are still in the process of clearing out the mud from other portions. All the equipments and chairs and benches have been damaged in the flood

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh interacting with victims of flash floods at a relief camp at Choglamsar in Leh a day earlier. Singh, who arrived at flood-ravaged Leh in the morning on a day's stock-taking mission with his Cabinet colleagues, announced a relief package of Rs 125 crore from the Prime Minister's National Relief Fund for the victims of the Leh cloudburst that left 179 dead and nearly 400 injured

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh along with J & K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah interacts with victims of flash floods at a relief camp at Choglamsar in Leh two days ago. The Prime Minister has also said all houses destroyed in the flash floods will be rebuilt within the next two-and-a-half months

Army jawans remove the debris of a damaged house in flash flood-hit Leh. The Prime Minister said a monitoring committee under the chairmanship of state chief secretary will be constituted to ensure effective implementation of various schemes for the affected people

Army jawans rebuild houses in flash flood-hit Leh

A beautiful view of a mountain range in the backdrop of a rivulet in flash flood-hit Leh