Actor Aamir Khan and former Pakistani cricketer Imran Khan will star in a live telethon on Pakistan’s Geo TV this evening. Viewers will call the channel on designated phone lines, speak to the celebrities – ask them a question – and donate a sum of money towards Imran’s second Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital, to be built in Karachi.
Aamir reached Pakistan on Friday; yesterday, he attended a fund-raising dinner at Lahore’s Shaukat Khanum Memorial Cancer Hospital. He says, “Right through the year, I get offers to be part of fund-raising work for charities and I do what I can. Apart from being a big fan of Imran Khan, I had heard about the cancer hospital he created after the death of his mother, from cancer. So of course when we met in London about three months ago and he asked me if I would do this, I agreed.”
Aamir has been to Pakistan before briefly, about 15 years ago. He says, “I sensed a positive note amongst the people – they are thrilled that relations between the two countries have improved. Leaders should take a cue from that.”
Aamir’s is the first of three telethons Imran is hoping to make happen. Aishwarya is expected to do the next, in February. Imran says, “I spoke to three people about doing this – Aamir, Aishwarya and Shah Rukh.
Aamir agreed right away, Aishwarya didn’t have dates this year but she’s likely to do it in February, and Shah Rukh said that he would look at it when he came to Pakistan for his commercial shows.”
The last time actors from the Hindi film industry starred in a similar benefit programme was when Imran was building the first hospital in Lahore, in 1989. Then, he pulled in Vinod Khanna, Rekha and Kabir Bedi to support his appeal for donations.
Says Imran, “There was tremendous media interest because of the actors then. It’s been the same this time, with Aamir’s visit. There was great interest in his visit to the Lahore hospital. It was a big boost to the staff – it’s tough working there because you see people in terminal stages.
Children cancer patients were so excited to see him. And, because Aamir was there, the media looked at the hospital too; you don’t see hospitals on TV otherwise. We will use this to project the next hospital. Celebrities advertise causes and the media projects these causes in turn.”
Imran will launch the Karachi hospital project with the telethon today. A total sum of $50 million is needed to build the hospital. Says Imran, “70 per cent of the treatment is free so we need to raise a lot of money.”
The show, to be aired live on Pakistan’s Geo TV, will be hosted by Moin Akhtar. Azhar Abbas, director news, Geo TV, says, “Moin is an excellent host. We like to do shows with guests from India and Pakistan. Amongst other things, we expect people will ask Aamir for his thoughts on Pakistan – and on what he’s seen so far.”