EXCLUSIVE: Asif Bhamla: Sidharth Shukla was passionate about giving back to society, his demise devastated me

Updated on Sep 04, 2021 12:04 AM IST  |  185.1K
EXCLUSIVE: Asif Bhamla: Sidharth Shukla was passionate about giving back to society, his demise devastated me

The news of Sidharth Shukla’s sudden demise yesterday served as a shock to all. He was young, fit and on a career-high after his win in Bigg Boss 13. His recent digital show – the third season of Broken But Beautiful was among the top trending ones this year. Few know that the actor had a sensitive side that was not just environmentally conscious but had a soft spot for strays. Environmentalist and philanthropist Asif Bhamla, who has organised many initiatives through his NGO, the Bhamla Foundation, and one of Sidharth's close friends, tells us that he was supposed to meet the actor yesterday (the day Sidharth passed away) for lunch to discuss a new campaign on beach clean-up at Madh Island.

Sidharth, Tony and Neha Kakkar and I had planned to meet on March 2 to discuss the design of the beach cleaning-up campaign. Sidharth was keen to do it as a stand-alone campaign on just him and we wanted to have him as the main face. I met Tony and Neha for lunch yesterday without him and there was an immense sense of loss… We were trying to figure out how to go about it. The aspirations of the campaign will go on but we will certainly miss Sidharth. Maybe we will have a small tribute in the campaign with a photograph as a way of expressing our solidarity and love. It was something he wanted to do and so many people will be inspired by him. He should be remembered by all people for all the good that he has done.”

Bhamla says that he is shocked and saddened by the news. “Sidharth was like family to us. The news of his death devastated me. We have lost a very dear person… Sidharth was like family. Few people knew about his philanthropic side. He was the face of so many of our campaigns including the environment, welfare of stray dogs and beach cleaning up. We would often chat on Whatsapp or meet up for black coffee (his favorite) at a coffee shop in Bandra or Sidharth would come home. Bandstand was his favourite spot.”

Bhamla met Sidharth during the actor’s television show, Balika Vadhu (2008), over a dozen odd years ago. “One day he just called me up directly as he had seen one of our environmental campaigns as he had got the number from the website. Sidharth said that he wanted to be a part of one. And just a few days ago, he had pledged his support on social media for stray dogs facing problems during troubled times. Sidharth was the brand ambassador for it. He wanted to do something on International Dog Day, so I asked him to give a statement and do an on-ground campaign which he tweeted about.”

The environmentalist says that Sidharth even wanted to be a part of Bhamla Foundation’s vaccination campaign, Sleeves Up. “He was kind enough to be part of so many of our campaigns that I felt it would be unfair to ask him for more. But Sidharth was upset that I hadn’t asked him. He thought that I wanted only top stars like Bhumi Pednekar and Arjun Kapoor. Sidharth told me, ‘You asked them because they are big stars and you think that I am a small screen star. But trust me one day, I will be a big star on the big screen.’ I can never forget that.”

Few know that Sidharth contributed rations silently to many people in Dharavi. Bhamla says, “He wanted to donate food rations for 300 people himself and Sidharth arranged for it directly himself through the grocery store so our team could go and distribute it. He wanted to come to Dharavi to distribute the food packets himself but it wasn’t safe as we would face crowd control issues. He never aligned himself with any other foundation except ours. He had established that trust over an association built up over the years.”

As a close friend probably, Bhamla knew him better than most. “Sidharth was reserved and didn’t care two hoots for any and everybody. But those whom he really liked, he stood by like a rockstar. He was never depressed, always fit and health-conscious, a regular gymmer and very sharp. I have never seen him depressed. Sidharth wanted to do so much good for all. He was very passionate about doing something and giving it back to society and his fans. Sidharth was a hero on and off screen. We are very proud that he was part of so many of our campaigns. Despite his fame, he still remained as down-to-earth as ever. He achieved so much fame post BB 13 and his fans were crazy about him and the SidNaaz combination. I have not seen such crazy followers about any actor. We will miss him tremendously…”

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