Actor Kamal Haasan, who has been facing a barrage of accusations from the political class in Tamil Nadu, was recently interviewed by Thanthi TV in their Kelvikenna Bathil show hosted by Rangaraj Pandey. During the course of the 43-minute-long interview, Kamal spoke about a number of things, from his interest in politics and criticism of religion to the controversies dogging him.
Kamal has been quite active on Twitter and has been raising questions on the AIADMK government which is in power in the state. His actions have led to speculation that he might join the DMK or float a party of his own.
Crediting his uncles and older brother Charu Haasan for making him a rationalist and atheist with an interest in communism, Kamal said that as a small child, he used to do puja for several hours.
Asked why he was known to criticize Hinduism alone, Kamal said, "It is Hinduism which has made my friend an untouchable."
He acknowledged that all religions had their share of superstition but when the interviewer asked him for examples of when he'd stood up against other religions, Kamal said, "(Richard) Dawkins has been asked why he went after Christianity but not Islam. I, too, criticize what is of immediate interest to me, what I see within my immediate surroundings."
Kamal laughed when he was asked why he didn't speak out against late Chief Minister Jayalalithaa when she was alive.
"Raaj Kamal films is a small company and it cannot stand up to the mighty government," he said. "I know what my strengths and weaknesses are...I don't see myself in a magnifying mirror. That's what my profession cinema does, I don't apply it to my life. However, I've been facing difficulties for the past 15 years. It's a company that is solely dependent on one artiste for it to run. Even when I stayed low, not wanting trouble, I was harassed."
Kamal also said that he was unaware that Jayalalithaa was behind the controversies that followed his films, be in Mumbai Express or Sandiyar (later renamed as Virumaandi).
"If my language was like that of a child then but like an older person now, that's growth. That's my understanding," he said. "I've never been silent. I even filed a case against the Tamil Nadu government, is that a simple thing?"
Kamal also said that he'd refused to fall at Jayalalithaa's feet and plead. He noted that while he didn't mind touching the feet of people older to him, he couldn't do it to someone who'd disrespected his art.
"There was news that bombs were planted by Muslims during the release of Viswaroopam. Do you really think it was the Muslims who did this? If I say who'd planted it, they will again say I have to be arrested. I can only mention my suspicion," he said.
Asked about his tweet which generated a lot of controversy when Jayalalithaa died, Kamal said he didn't understand what was so wrong in his language. At the time, he'd said, "Condolences to all those concerned."
"I cannot lie. Death doesn't absolve anyone of all crimes. It doesn't make you a person who has committed no wrong. We should have forgiven Hitler then," he said.
Kamal said that he'd objected to DMK President and former CM Karunanidhi's infamous midnight arrest because it was just wrong to arrest an elderly person that way. He acknowledged that he'd mouthed dialogues written by Karunanidhi in his films and felt close to him.
However, Kamal also said that he'd stood against Karunanidhi in the FEFSI issue: "I went and pleaded with him. He didn't even listen to what I had to say. My love for him is not because he's a politician. What I like about him is that he's a kalaignar (artiste)."
When asked if Kamal was going soft on the DMK because he had political ambitions, Kamal said, "In 1983, Karunanidhi had asked me if I want to join the DMK but I refused. MGR has also asked me but I said ‘no’."
When asked about his recent tweets against the AIADMK after Jayalalithaa's death, Kamal said, "I've started talking only now. Will you ask why didn't you act in any movies before Arangetram? Or why my performance was mediocre in movies before 16 Vayadhiniley? I have learnt, that's all I can say."
"I'm a slow learner. I'm placing my criticism step by step. If I can improve my intellect and make my criticism stronger, I will do it. I will do that from now on, whichever government it is. I see it as my duty," he said.
On cinema and politics
"I didn't fight against the GST, I said it was too high," said Kamal. He further asked, "Why should the government put a cap on the price of tickets if it's a luxury. If it's not an essential service, then don't consume it! Why do you chain it? Is it because you are worried the next politician will come from cinema?"
However, Kamal said that people from cinema might be effective propaganda tools but not all of them could become an administrator like MGR. He also said that Jayalalithaa was not in the same league as MGR and Karunanidhi.
Talking about corruption in the state, Kamal laughed and said that he should perhaps thank Jayalalithaa for having made him politically vocal because he might not have been so if not for how she targeted him.
Will Kamal enter politics?
"Do you think I can start a party with the money I have?" Kamal said. "But in the current situation, I feel like taking white money honestly and doing it. Don't ask me if I'm going to come...under these circumstances, anyone can come."
He also said that it should be educated people who are efficient administrators who should come to power.
"We should stop running after leaders and pick administrators," he said.
To the question, "Have you come to the conclusion that you should enter politics?", Kamal said, "Not until now. Don't make me do it."
While Kamal maintained that he was not thinking of entering politics as of now, he did not rule out the possibility either. He said that depending on the pressures on him, he might do so in future. "This seems to be a statement," the interviewer commented. "It is," asserted Kamal.
"I will not say in an interview what my views are on Rajini entering politics because he's my friend," said Kamal. "I wish him well in whatever he does and I will do so if he enters politics, too. But once he becomes a politician, I will criticise him as well, just as I do others."
Kamal added that theirs was a friendship which was nearly 50 years old but that Rajini's decision to enter politics would not particularly influence his own decisions about the same.
Kamal had recently tweeted that a true revolutionary has no death.
When asked when he'd become such a revolutionary, the actor shot back saying he already was one. He also added that being in cinema, against challenges, can also be considered revolutionary.
"When people say I can't work here any more, when they say I cannot be in this field any more, they are challenging me," said Kamal, adding that in his personal life, too, he'd worked to be on friendly terms with people of different ideologies.
"Do you mean to say that one can only be considered a revolutionary if one took a gun and went to the jungle to join the Naxalites?" he asked. Later in the interview, Kamal said that his stance on not accepting black money, either from the film industry or otherwise, could also be considered a revolution in his personal life.