Silverscreen goes to the Blue Cross event

In a catastrophic building collapse that occurred in a construction site in Moulivakkam a few weeks ago, two canines that lived at the site lost their owner. Like the Japanese Akita Hachiko, both dogs continued to remain on the site hoping for the return of their deceased master. When the mutts’ health deteriorated for lack of a guardian, Blue Cross of India brought them to their shelter in Velachery along with another rare rescue, a raven, from the same site. One of the dogs was adopted by a vet and Blue Cross was looking for a home for the other one. And they were told that a popular duo was willing to adopt the dog.

Amidst college girls going ‘awwww’ over puppies and the shutterbugs running behind wagging tails, we met actors Sathyaraj and Sibiraj at Blue Cross of India, Chennai. The father-son duo visited the animal shelter to adopt the rescued mongrel, now named Lassy. As soon as they walked in, Dawn Williams, General Manager of Blue Cross, requested Sathyaraj to free the crow that had been nursed back to health. A visibly elated Sathyaraj gently let the bird fly and it quickly perched on a branch.

Lassy, with a fancy golden collar adorning her neck, was then brought to Sibiraj, who handled her with caution. “Idhu kadikkuma?” he asked. As the volunteers assured that Lassy was timid, he mustered the courage to pet her. We were later told by Sibiraj that he raises three dogs in Chennai and seven at his native Coimbatore. Why did the actor choose to adopt another one when he already had ten? “All of my pets are pedigree dogs that I bought. After a friend spoke to me about the importance of adopting Indian mongrels, I realised that buying dogs is not a great thing to do. I would never say that one shouldn’t buy dogs. But when there are so many strays, we should give them a chance to be a part of our family,” said Sibiraj. Sathyaraj had some statistics handy. “There is about only one dog to 58 humans in Tamil Nadu. If we can be a bit more generous, we can change many dogs’ lives,” he said.

While the duo sauntered around the shelter, we realised that there were a few men with Sibiraj, all of them wearing identical shirts.  Their tees read, “Doggy Style. Naaigal Jaakirathai.” Sibiraj quickly introduced the other gentleman to us, filmmaker Shakti S. Rajan, director of his upcoming film Naaigal Jaakirathai. The flick is produced by Sathyaraj under his banner Nathambal Film Factory.  Shakti said, “Sibiraj is an ardent animal lover. He even endured 13 dog-bites during the shoot of Naaigal Jaakirathai. I’m so glad that he has adopted this mongrel.”

13 dog-bites? We prodded. “The Belgian Shepherd that acts along with me in Naaigal Jaakirathai is so intelligent. The dog was trained to bite on command for our climax scene. And unfortunately the command was ‘action’. Every time the director went “start, camera, action..”, my canine-friend would come right at my wrist, without knowing that this ‘action’ meant something else. But it was fun,” laughed Sibiraj. And he quickly added that they later learnt to say ‘action’ using sign language to save themselves from getting more bites.