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Rashmika was part of a photoshoot to raise awareness about pollution in water bodies, especially the frothing, foaming and on fire Bellandur lake in Bengaluru.

A woman is under water, her eyes closed, sunlight streaming in. But all around her are plastic bags, floating around in the water body. This stunning photograph with Kannada actor Rashmika Mandanna has caught the attention of people on social media. The photo is part of a photoshoot that the actor did, to raise awareness about water pollution in our lakes, particularly Bellandur. While Rashmika didn’t actually enter the lake for the photos (that would be quite a health risk!), the striking photos are getting people talking about the issue.

Speaking with TNM, Rashmika said, “It all started when a senior from school spoke to me about this project. She told me this is not a paid thing, but since this was to raise awareness about pollution, I was interested.” Four photographs featuring Rashmika was released by the actor on Thursday on social media and they went viral by Friday – two in which she is on the lake bed, one where she is swimming in a water body, and one where she is suspended under water.

The inside water and underwater photos were taken at a friend’s pool, and the photos were later edited to make them dramatic. The other two photos were shot on the banks of Bellandur lake.

“It was the first time I had gone to that part of the city,” Rashmika says about her visit to Bellandur, “and as soon as I saw the crowd of people living there, I was heartbroken. I did not feel like leaving my car and I thought, how could people breathe this air. There was so much foam and it was flying around everywhere.”

“It’s high time we start talking about pollution and working on this issue,” she said, “We wanted to do the underwater shoot to showcase how grave the situation is and how bad things are going to be if we don’t change.”

Bellandur lake, once a lively water body, has recently has been making headlines for all the wrong reasons. It first caught fire in August 2016, and has been spilling smelly froth on nearby roads whenever it rains.

Rashmika, who is popular for films like Kirik Party (Kannada) and Geetha Govindham (Telugu), has earned a lot of praise of social media for raising awareness about the issue. Many fans were also worried about her health – but Rashmika has clarified that she didn’t actually enter the polluted lake, which would have been quite a risk.

The lake has been severely polluted as sewage, chemical effluents and construction debris are being dumped into it even today. The country’s topmost green court, National Green Tribunal (NGT), had taken suo motu cognisance of the matter after the lake caught fire for the second time in February 2017. As recently as December 6, the NGT had once again penalised the state government and civic agencies for not doing enough to rejuvenate the lake.