Chennai: For actor Kamal Haasan, his 60th birthday on Friday turned out to be a different one. Instead of the usual ritual of cutting of cakes, he was seen cleaning garbage at the Madambakkam lake outside Chennai and in the process showing solidarity with Prime Minister Narendra Modi's nationwide 'Swachh Bharat' campaign.
Mr Haasan was among the nine people nominated by PM Modi in October for the 'Clean India' mission.
Around 1,000 people, mostly his fans, had waited for more than three hours for a glimpse of the birthday boy. While the actor went about cleaning the area, a drone filmed the entire event from above.
"This is nation building," said Mr Haasan. "I'm colourless politically and I have no religion. I thank the Prime Minister for accepting us as we are."
The actor had partnered with the Environmentalists Foundation of India for restoration of the lake and safe disposal of waste. Close to four tonnes of garbage was removed from the lake which was a dump yard for industries till locals reclaimed it a decade ago.
"We are happy. Earlier would get just around hundred people. Now over a thousand people have come and we see them as messengers to take this forward," said Arun Krishnamurthy from the Environmentalists Foundation of India.
Besides volunteers from his fan clubs that Mr Haasan had turned into social welfare groups many years ago, the campaign also drew school and college students.
Archana Purohit, a young student said, "It's a great motivation that Kamal Haasan leads this".
"Many had come only to see the star. They left soon after Kamal left. Of course many are interested, but the focus is on him," said Smita another school student.
However Mr Haasan's fans think otherwise. Arun Venugopal says, "We take this seriously, it's not a token gesture".
The actor has set himself a target of cleaning up 20 lakes across Tamil Nadu. While the campaign at the moment is largely celebrity-driven, the challenge, many say, would be to make it a people's movement.