Not too many people know this. But Suniel Shetty has been close to Laloo Yadav for the last five years. They've been in constant touch, and have exchanged notes on cinema and politics. But Suniel remains happily non-partisan. "We talk about a lot of things. Whenever Lalooji speaks about Bollywood he mentions me among his friends. That makes me feel really happy and proud. He's keenly interested in movies .In fact I've invited him to watch my film Little Godfather which is about the train blasts that happened in Mumbai in 2005. We're connected deeply."
Laloo Yadav and Suniel Shetty have been friends for the past five years ever since Suniel visited Patna during Laloo's regime. And now Suniel and his team from water-sports centre H20 at Marine Drive in Mumbai have joined hands with Laloo for rescue operations in flood-ravaged Bihar.
Says Suniel, "Lalooji and I are in constant touch about the flood situation in Bihar. He's been calling me 3-4 times a day. He has helped me understand the gravity of the flood situation in Bihar and how we could be of help. My partner Rajiv Somani who's the brain behind H20 suggested that we send our water experts to Bihar. That's when Lalooji's disaster-management team swung into action and got in touch with our H20 team. Our H20 team consists of fishermen and ex-navy personnel. We've also been working very closely with the BMC and the fire department in Mumbai for flood management in our city. We man the waters and saving 20-30 lakh lives every year. Bihar therefore seems like a good destination at this time when the floods have created havoc."
60 of Suniel's personnel are from H20 are being rushed to Bihar. "Ten of them are experts in flood management. We've broken up the 60 boys into ten teams. The teams have set up boats, lifejackets, etc. And we're introducing jet skis into areas of Bihar where boats cannot go."
All through Lalooji has been giving Suniel personal instructions on how to go about the rescue operations in Bihar. Says Suniel, "My boys are not familiar with the flood-hit topography in Bihar. That's where Lalooji comes in. And I expect other members of the industry like Sanjay Dutt, Ajay Devgan and Salman to now lend a hand in helping Bihar cope with the floods. I know the industry will come forward to help Bihar. "
Suniel has not been in touch with Bihar's CM Nitish Kumar. "I don't know him. But I'm sure he's all for our efforts to help the flood situation even if it comes on Lalooji's initiative. I'm not denying it's Lalooji I'm very close to. And if it wasn't for him I wouldn't be able to provide any help in Bihar. But this isn't the time to take matters personally."
Suniel says his connectivity with Bihar is strong. "I've got so many people from that area working for me. I feel bonded with them. Now when my lift-man or watch-man says, 'Sir aap mere jegah ke liye itna kar rahen hai' I feel elated. Seven years of H20 feels rewarding. Instead of just doing the routine fund-raising, I feel I'm contributing much more actively. Right now I want my H20 boys to go full-throttle ahead with their rescue work."
Suniel also wants to visit the State. "I don't want to be this film star who's scared of wetting his feet in the water. I'd rather be down in Bihar and meet people. I'll be flying down soon."
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