Malayalam award-winning actor Tovino Thomas doesn’t seem to believe in arm chair activism or limiting his contribution to signing off cheques for flood relief in Kerala.
The Maayanadhi star, 29, is one of the many celebrities who has willingly gotten his hands dirty by working from the grassroots level to rescue those who have been stranded in water-logged homes. He isn’t shirking from wading through muck-riddled waters and plucking those stranded in water-logged homes in his native district Thrissur in Central Kerala.
When Gulf News tracked him over phone on Monday morning in his native hometown, he was on day four of rescue mission and was battling a nasty bout of fungal skin infection, triggered by him constantly being in water-logged streets. He’s also one of the few stars who opened the doors of his family home in Irinjalakkuda and urged those trapped in floods to take temporary shelter there. His close friends and their families are currently camping down there.
“Now the situation is slightly OK. Rescue is almost over as we have managed to cart majority of the residents into relief camps. Now our next step is to rehabilitate them into their ravaged homes,” said Thomas, who has been constantly uploading videos on their collective rescue mission.
Since he was working on the grounds, he also highlighted the realities facing volunteers who were trying to help the flood survivors to safety.
A recent video uploaded on his Facebook account saw him drenched to the bone, pleading with his neighbours in water-logged homes seeking refuge on their terraces. He explained that shifting to relief camps, no matter how rich and privileged your existence, is the most pragmatic solution during a natural disaster like the floods as help may not reach them once the volunteer leave.
According to reports, around 22,000 people were rescued from flood-hit areas in Kerala on Sunday and more than 350 people have been killed in landslides triggered by monsoons.
Tovino chronicled his last week’s trying experiences as his life’s biggest lesson in humanity coming together to stay afloat.
“It all started when I heard that water had flooded my friend’s home. I went to pick them but then I realised how bad the situation is. This is my first experience of such intense rains. Even my father’s generation had not witnessed such flood. So, we are just learning on the job … I am not alone in my efforts,” said Thomas. He recounts how students from Christ College, who have their families in worst-hit areas such as Wayanad, are staying back magnanimously to help in rescue and relief efforts.
What I am doing is not a big deal. There are so many others who are risking their lives and pitching in without a thought for their own safety. Kerala floods is a shining example of how humanity has stood together to fight the situation."
- Tovino Thomas
According to the actor, who has played a variety of roles in hits such as ABCD and Ennum Ninte Moideen, the need of the hour now is financial help.
"What I am seeing is that we have rescued and put them in relief camps. The food is ok without any problem. What we need is that we need to rehabilitate them into their homes. Lot of people have lost their livelihoods. Many traders have lost their shops and those who lived livestock have lost their cows. This was their means of livelihood. To bring them back to normalcy isn’t easy. Every malayali around the world and the non-malayalis need to just put in Rs1 [Dh 0.05] and it will still help.”
But is there a silver lining in the face of such mass destruction by nature?
“Kerala floods is a natural calamity but we have collectively stood together to overcome it. No matter what happens to us from now on, we will stand with our chests puffed and face it with strength. The bond between us all have strengthened. We are one big happy family.”
Tovino Thomas, 29, was born in a Catholic family in Irinjalakkuda in Kerala. He is a former model who graduated from Tamil Nadu College of Engineering and is a qualified software engineer. However, the industry-outsider with no film dynasty backing him realised that his true calling is acting.
He made his Malayalam film debut in 2012 with Prabhuvinte Makkal directed by Sajeevan Anthikad. But he could get his feet into the door after acting in a string of films such as Ennu Ninte Moideen, Charlie and ABCD. But the turning point in his career was Guppy in 2016. He topped up his career with hits including Godha and Oru Mexican Aparatha last year.
But his biggest hit was the romantic drama, Mayaanadhi, which saw him play an endearing lover who’s in love with an aspiring actress. It was a blockbuster that made him a household name. According to critics, his appeal stems from his friendly demeanour that makes him perfect for guy-next-door roles.
He is married to his childhood sweetheart Lidiya and has a daughter.
Malayalam actress and fashion designer and TV Poornima Indrajith, who has been active in Kerala flood relief efforts, urged the Central government to declare the rain-ravaged calamity as a ‘national disaster’ to help the rain-ravaged state limp back to normalcy.
“Kudos to the Kerala government and all the civilians who have managed to run things even without the Central government’s support so far … But when it comes to grass-roots reality, we need their [Central Government] support,” said Indrajith in an interview with Gulf News.
For the past ten days, Poornima and her actor-husband Indrajith and two daughters have been camping at the Rajeev Gandhi Sports Centre (RSC) in Kochi, which has been transformed into a massive collection centre for relief items under the NGO, Anbodu Kochi.
“We weren’t ready for such rains … it was like an attack because all of us were just expecting to celebrate Onam … When a natural calamity hits you, you may at first feel like you can overcome it. But this one has hit us so hard … it was like our carpet being pulled away from our feet,” said Indrajith.
She isn’t alone in helping rebuild Kerala after massive floods, which has claimed 350 people and forced its residents to seek refuge in temporary relief camps.
More celebs stepping in
Singer- actor Vineeth Srinivasan said the need of the hour is to provide sanitation and food.
“Any contribution of the Gulf Malayalis to the CM’s relief fund will be of great help to those who have been affected. Malayalis in the GCC can also guide them about the need to work on their insurance claims,” said Sreenivasan.
The Jimmiki Kamal composer Shaan Rahman dubbed the floods as the biggest disaster to have hit Kerala.
“People are slowly going back to their homes now. Now what is required is cleaning materials … These flood were the biggest display of humanity coming together,” said Rahman to Gulf News.