The comments by Anupam Kher, who has been a strong supporter of the BJP and PM Modi in the past, have evoked a flurry of reactions on social media.

Anupam Kher is seen wearing a white shirt in the image.
Flix Coronavirus Thursday, May 13, 2021 - 15:10

It is important to hold the government responsible for what is happening in the country in the wake of the second COVID-19 wave, actor Anupam Kher said on May 12 while asserting that public criticism towards authorities is "valid in lots of cases".

The veteran actor, who is often viewed as being close to the Narendra Modi-led government and is married to BJP MP Kirron Kher, added that it was time for the government to understand that there's more to life than image building.

In an interview to NDTV, the former FTII (Film and Television Institute of India) chairperson also said that while the government has "slipped" somewhere in its management of the health crisis, it was wrong for another political party to use the lapses to its advantage.

Asked if the efforts of the government should have been more in providing relief right now than managing their image and perception, the National Award-winning actor said it is important for the government to rise to the occasion and do things for the people who elected them.

"I think the criticism is valid in lots of cases... Only an inhuman person will not get affected by the bodies floating (in the rivers)," Kher said in a reference to the scores of bodies found floating in the Ganga, leading to suspicion that they might be those of COVID-19 patients. 

"But for another political party to use it for their gain, I think that is also not right. I think we should, as people, get angry. It is important to hold the government responsible for what's happening. Somewhere they have slipped. It is time for them to understand that there is much more to life than just image building maybe," he added. 

The Shimla-born actor said the people are facing a tough time today after having taken "undue advantage of Mother Nature". 

"There are problems, pain, anger, frustration, that's obvious... Lot of people say 'You are always so optimistic', but I say there's no other way out for me. Our lives haven't been smooth sailing. It is just that this situation has happened on a world level," Anupam said.

Terming the state of affairs in the country a "war-like" situation, the actor said people have the right to complain, get angry, and feel helpless, but that they should not hold back on being compassionate towards fellow citizens.

"How can you console someone who has lost a family member due to shortage of oxygen, medical facilities or beds? You can't. But that does not stop life... I lost a friend to corona. I'm still doing my job," he said.

The actor has started Project Heal India to extend support to the needy amid the pandemic. He has collaborated with Dr Ash Tewari, urologist (chair) at New York's Mount Sinai Hospital, and Baba Kalyani, Managing Director of Bharat Forge Ltd.

Together, they have sent medical equipment, including oxygen concentrators and ventilators, to various hospitals in cities such as Mumbai, Kanpur, Delhi, Pune, and Ghazipur.

"I'm assisting humanity, people in pain. I'm helping myself by helping others. That's a natural process of feeling compassion towards others. People have gone out of their way to help each other in times of war, floods, drought, and earthquakes. It's not the first-time people are helping each other," he added.

Kher said they are also working towards mental health issues like anxiety, which has developed as a major problem amid the pandemic and lockdown. 

Anupam Kher’s interview has prompted several Twitter reactions, coming in from all quarters.  Journalist Rohini Singh reacted to the issue by pointing out how Anupam Kher chose to remain a vocal supporter of the government in the past and had mocked journalist Shekhar Gupta for criticising the government.  

Indian National Congress’s Thiruvananthapuram MP Shashi Tharoor welcomed the comment. Noting that the two of them continue to remain friends despite their political differences, Shashi Tharoor wrote, “And he has said the right thing here: the Govt has "slipped" in handling #Covid

Twitter users had various theories about the interview. While some argued that it was merely a political stunt pulled by the Union government, some expressed that actor Anupam Kher has chosen to switch sides when the ship is sinking.  

Another user took a jibe at Anupam’s tweet posted last month, where he stated ‘Aayega toh Modi hi’. The comment received flak from users for being insensitive since it was posted during the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, when the country had reported a spike in the number of cases and scarcity of important resources such as hospital beds and oxygen. 

(With inputs from PTI)