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Actor in a Tractor

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Mammootty takes up farming in a battle against chemical fertilisers

Mammootty has played farmer in many films. Now, dismayed by the use of chemicals in farming, he has taken the tractor wheel in his own hands. Busy with his main vocation, the actor had given the 17 acres of land he owned in Cheepungal, near Kumarakom in Kottayam district, on lease for paddy cultivation. This season onwards, he says, he will cultivate the paddy himself. Mammootty insists that his renewed interest in farming is not just a hobby or gimmick and reminds sceptics that he hails from a peasant family.

“When I learned about natural farming, I got interested,” he says. “This is very natural paddy cultivation by using only natural manure like green leaves, cow dung, etcetera.” Mammootty has no plans of turning to organic farming. He thinks it is not viable.

It was a pleasant surprise for Cheepungal locals when the superstar appeared on the farm last Wednesday in a traditional white dhoti, brown shirt and his favourite sunglasses. Appu, his childhood friend, and KM Hilal, a former Left-wing student leader and now a natural farming proponent, accompanied him to the paddy field. The actor drove the tractor and assisted the workers in transplanting the saplings. Mammootty, who has won the National Award for best actor three times, hopes he can inspire others to turn to natural farming. “For paddy, chemical fertilisers are absolutely unnecessary. Cow dung and cow urine are the best manure,” he says.

Mammootty is keen to protect varieties of paddy seeds that are diminishing due to chemicals and is seeking experts who can guide him. “Our ancestors had 3,000 such seeds and at present only 60 exist,” he says. “These seeds succumbed to pests and pesticides.”

Mammootty seems to have been inspired by the concept of Zero Budget Natural Farming (ZBNF) popularised by agri-scientist Subhash Palekar. This promotes crop rotation, mechanical cultivation, biological pest control and green manure. Earlier, Malayalam actor- director Sreenivasan and director Sathyan Anthikkad were in the news too for similar agricultural ventures.