'Every child deserves to thrive': Alia Bhatt empowers at-risk youths through her charity gala

The Bollywood actor hosted the inaugural Hope Gala in London attended by prominent global personalities


Somya Mehta

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Published: Fri 29 Mar 2024, 3:39 PM

Last updated: Sun 31 Mar 2024, 4:54 PM

Renowned Indian actress Alia Bhatt hosted her inaugural charity gala in collaboration with Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in London as its Global Celebrity Fan. The event, filled with entertainment and culinary delights, aimed to support Alia's chosen charity, the Salaam Bombay Foundation.

Dedicated to creating pathways towards purpose and economic opportunities, the Foundation empowers slum children to complete their education and pursue better-paying jobs and vocations.

"I’ve always admired Padmini Sekhsaria’s (founder, Salaam Bombay Foundation) tireless efforts and the incredible impact she has made through the Salaam Bombay Foundation. The thought of being able to play such an active role in shaping the futures of so many children, was deeply motivating," Alia tells Khaleej Times in an exclusive conversation post the gala that took place on Thursday.

Natasha Poonawalla with Alia Bhatt at the event
Natasha Poonawalla with Alia Bhatt at the event

In India, families living in slums endure on incomes of less than £200 (approx. Dh926) per month. A staggering sixty-four percent of school children drop out before reaching Grade 9, often compelled to join the unregulated workforce where exploitation is rampant. Recognising this dire situation, the Salaam Bombay Foundation was founded with a clear mission: to assist children aged 11-17 living in India's urban slums.

"Every child deserves a chance to thrive, and by supporting organisations like the Salaam Bombay Foundation, we can provide them with the opportunities they need to succeed. It’s only together that we can break the cycle of poverty and create a brighter future for all children," says the actor who marked her Hollywood debut last year alongside Gal Gadot in Heart of Stone.

Among the distinguished guests attending the Hope Gala were actress and model Poppy Delevingne, CEO of Chanel Leena Nair, Natasha Poonawalla, filmmakers Richie Mehta and Gurinder Chadha, CEO of Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group Laurent Kleitman, along with Orhan Awatramani (Orry), Tania Shroff, and many others.

To mark her first charity gala, the actor adorned herself with a stunning necklace and matching sapphire ring from Bulgari along with a custom Gucci designed wine gown.

"The expertise and support of both the Mandarin Oriental Group and the Salaam Bombay Foundation played a crucial role in ensuring the triumph of our gala, turning each challenge into an opportunity for success. We collectively gathered like-minded people who share our vision of uplifting and empowering today's youth," says Alia, who also participated in a fireside chat with YouTube star and comedian Rohan Joshi.

Throughout the event, guests participated in a silent auction to raise funds for Salaam Bombay, featuring exclusive items and experiences such as suite nights at various Mandarin Oriental hotels, Alia's jewellery worn at the Met Gala, and a custom-designed saree by Indian designer Manish Malhotra.

For her second look at the Hope Gala, Alia wore a vintage Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla saree
For her second look at the Hope Gala, Alia wore a vintage Abu Jani Sandeep Khosla saree

Ultimately, it's the unwavering faith in a brighter tomorrow is what empowers us to navigate through life's trials with grace and resilience, says the actor. "At the heart of the gala was hope. The belief that every contribution, whether big or small, can make a meaningful difference. The belief that can help create opportunities."

Through her advocacy, Alia seeks to magnify the message of hope, creating an empowering environment for the countless at-risk youths on the verge of dropping out. The raised funds will serve as catalysts for transforming lives and altering the economic trajectory of the underprivileged children.

"Our aim is to foster a sense of community and collective support for the Salaam Bombay Foundation and the children that they are empowering through their programmes," says Alia, who holds the distinction of being the first Indian movie star to feature in Mandarin Oriental's globally renowned advertising campaign 'I’m a Fan', alongside film legends like Morgan Freeman and Michelle Yeoh and sports stars like Andy Murray.

Padmini Sekhsaria with Alia
Padmini Sekhsaria with Alia

The evening's entertainment featured captivating performances by Indian singer Harshdeep Kaur, Usha Jey, who's the innovator behind Hybrid Bharatham, and the Yehudi Menuhin School Quartet. The culinary experience showcased the best of Indian and British cuisines, crafted by Michelin-star chefs Vineet Bhatia and Jason Atherton.

When asked if she wishes to continue this impact in the cinema she creates, the Gangubai actor responds, "Absolutely. I firmly believe in the transformative power of storytelling. I want to tell stories that are unique, spark meaningful conversations, evoke emotions, and inspire positive change."

"Through my films, I hope to contribute to a world where storytelling is not just entertainment but fosters growth, empathy, and understanding," says Alia.


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