The Bollywood actor tells us about her love for organic farming and more
Geetanjali Minhas | June 5, 2018
Very few know that leading Bollywood actress Juhi Chawla is an activist of sorts when it comes to environment. She is an organic farmer as well and does her bit in spreading awareness about sustainable development. A former Miss India (1984), Juhi has banned the use of plastic in her home and office. For the IPL matches of her team, Kolkata Knight Riders, co-owned with Shah Rukh Khan, she changed the team’s flags from plastic to biodegradable material. She is associated with numerous national and international charities and social causes. In November 2015, she received the Indira Gandhi Memorial Award in Social Awareness for her active participation and efforts towards creating awareness about the health hazards caused due to mobile tower antennae radiation.
How can citizens take care of environment?
Mahatma Gandhi had said that if each one of us cleans at least five to 10 feet around us, the entire world will be clean in five minutes. This holds true even today. If each one of us decides to take care of the environment in and around our homes, our habits, our families, the world will be a clean place.
People must understand that we would be preserving the environment for ourselves and our future generations. You may or may not put money in their bank but if you can clean up your environment, you are leaving them better air to breathe, better water to drink and soil which is not been poisoned. Every drop counts. Even as a housewife you can bring about a great change.
I was shaken after realising how we are polluting the world. Before telling anyone else, I decided to act from my end. I started from my kitchen and replaced all plastic jars and bottles etc. with steel, glass or ceramic. I instructed my staff to not bring plastic bags in the house. To make this a habit, I put a fine of '20 and within days they transformed. I also switched to a bamboo toothbrush when I realised that every plastic toothbrush that we used as children is still floating on the earth somewhere and when multiplied by 6 billion people these plastic toothbrushes are either stuck in the oceans, land or in some animals gut. Nothing in the world will make me go back to a plastic toothbrush. When I am travelling, I ask for normal drinking water in a jar or glass bottle instead of plastic water bottles. I practise the same in my husband’s [Jay Mehta’s] office and followed it at Red Chillies’ office too. Now they have also given up plastic bottles in their offices.
During the IPL matches, it was shocking to see the amount of plastic in the stadium. All the plastic items, inflatables plastic balloons littered on the ground end up in a landfill. With Kolkata Knight Riders, we have no cheer items made of plastic. Even our flags are made of natural material and flag sticks are made of recycled paper.
How can authorities make the cities sustainable?
They can bring in better laws. In Maharashtra they are bringing firm laws and banning single-use disposal bags – the main culprits! The rich and the influential running industries and business houses can surely take small measures to start with. In Jay’s factories and our Gurukul in Porbandar, we are planting more trees. Just simplify lives. Buy less, consume less and be more mindful of what you do.
You have strongly voiced against the harmful effects of radiation from mobile towers and cell phones. Do you see changes happening on that front?
In the last six years, I see many more cell towers in every possible area of the city. We have also gone from 3G to 4G and we are already talking about 5G. We are digging our own graves while entertaining people. You cannot hear or see radiation.You can only feel the effects after it has crept into your system! Many people are now taking small steps to safeguard themselves from the effects of radiations, like charging their phones outside the room or switching off the Wi-Fi router at night before sleeping. The point is that the industry is on such an upswing and I know that I won’t be able to turn the tide, but, well, change happens only when there is a crisis. So we will have to wait it out!
You have been advocating organic farming. Why is it important?
I, in fact, practise organic farming on our farms near Mandva and in Vada near Mumbai. I find it a wise practice and it gives great yield. Somewhere there is this unfortunate misunderstanding that if you grow organic, bugs will eat it up, because of which you get small and odd-looking produce. Though it may not look perfect but the produce is sweeter, more nourishing. Both fruits and vegetables smell and taste great. You only have to take slightly more care of the produce.
Use of neem, tulsi, drumstick mixtures, digging pits, spraying your plots with neem oil etc. helps. We grow mangoes and we get them in thousands which we then send to all our friends and extended family every year. We have now slowly started retailing these. This is the right thing to do. By killing your soil with pesticides and harmful chemicals you will end up exhausting your soil, which will eventually lead to a dark ending.
After the organic festival in Delhi last year, I wrote to union minister Maneka Gandhi to conduct one in Mumbai. Within days her office got back to us with a positive reply. It took place in March this year over six days and I did my best to help them. About 300 women put up their stalls and it turned out to be a great success. I am sure it will be now held regularly.
Which is the most memorable film you have seen recently?
Padmavat. The scale, the beauty and its each frame was like poetry in motion. I enjoyed the story and loved how the actors were treated and presented. Ranveer was outstanding in his performance. It is a classic film and takes you into another world. Padmavat did the same to me.
How has the film industry changed over the years?
From single producers, we now see a lot more production houses running in an organised manner. The planning of films is more meticulous. I clearly remember when we used to shoot a film, it would take anywhere between one and two years. In fact, a few of my films took up to five years because of financial troubles, dates of artists and other issues. Nowadays they wrap up the film in a few months and within one year, it hits the theatres. Also, I see a lot of girls on the sets now. Up to 40 percent of the crew are young women. Women are working in right from art direction to cinematography, direction, make-up and styling, which is a fresh change. It’s wonderful to see that. When I had joined the industry in the 90s there were only three-four women on the sets among 100-125 crew members which would include myself, my hair dresser, maybe my mother or aunt if they accompanied me or another one or two women like the choreographer or the assistant. Another change is that, you now get a bound script beforehand and you clearly know about your role before you jump into the project. Whereas, earlier we were only aware of the outline of the story and about the producer, the director and the hero of the film. This was the only basis to reject or accept the project. The only scripts which were ever narrated to me and that too entirely were Aaina and Darr produced by Yash Chopra.
What is your favourite pastime?
Sometimes, it is to just sit in silence and being with the self. I also enjoy practising yoga. When I feel the effects of yoga on my mind and body it makes me think about what I was ever doing without it in my life earlier!
What are your future plans?
If you want to make God laugh, tell Him about your plans! And if you want to make God laugh some more tell Him about your business plans. So I am honestly not planning. I just go with the flow. I am indeed having a great time.
As told to Geetanjali Minhas
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