Superstar Rajinikanth’s latest visit to Thoothukudi to meet the victims of recent police firing was a PR disaster. Everyone was quick to point out the difference between Rajinikanth the Superstar and Rajinikanth the politician. However, it seems a similar revelation about Rajinikanth’s rival Kamal Haasan seems to have escaped people’s attention.
On Tuesday, Kamal met the newly-appointed Karnataka Chief Minister Kumaraswamy in Bengaluru to discuss several issues concerning the ties between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. The Cauvery water-sharing issue was top on the agenda. Post their closed-door meeting, Kumaraswamy and Kamal displayed a high degree of camaraderie at the media briefing. And when the question was raised whether they discussed the ongoing controversies around Kaala release, both were quick to brush the question aside. While Kumaraswamy claimed, “It was a different issue and not necessary”, Kamal immediately reciprocated Kumarswamy’s sentiments assuring the media that, “Not a word was spoken about that.”
“There are film chambers and business community who will take care of it (Kaala issue). And we (Kumaraswamy and Kamal) will see that good relationship exists between both the states,” he said.
And then came a more shocking response, “This is more important than movies if you ask me.”
The irony in Kamal Haasan’s statement is hard to miss. Of all the people, Kamal should know why issues related to movies are also important for a cordial relationship between the two states. He seems to have forgotten that he had participated in the protest in Tamil Nadu when cinema halls showing Tamil films were attacked in 2008 in Karnataka during Hogenakkal water project issue was at the peak.
And it is also surprising how conveniently Kamal overlooked the fact that when Karnataka and Tamil Nadu are at loggerheads, it is always the film industry which is the first victim.
It’s so astonishing that Kamal Haasan thinks movies that represent freedom of expression and choice are not an important issue. It exposes the difference in Kamal Haasan, the actor-filmmaker versus Kamal Haasan, the politician. The multifaceted actor Kamal would have probably condemned the security threats faced by Kaala. But, the politician Kamal chose convenience over the trouble of supporting for a free and fair treatment of a movie made by his friends.
Kamal was quick to champion the cause of freedom of expression when Bollywood film Padmaavat was facing a ban. “I want Ms.Deepika’s head.. saved. Respect it more than her body. Even more her freedom. Do not deny her that. Many communities have opposed my films. Extremism in any debate is deplorable. Wake up cerebral India. Time to think. We’ve said enough. Listen Ma Bharat(sic),” he had tweeted.
Why did Kamal Haasan overlook the fact that distributors and exhibitors risked attacks from pro-Kannada groups in showing Kaala in Karnataka? Why did Kamal fail to find threats of violence against Kaala as deplorable? Why did he find it not important to request the Karnataka Chief Minister to assure the security for the cinema houses from fringe groups?
Did he ignore Kaala issue because it was not a controversy engineered by the saffron brigade? Will he repeat, ‘movies are not important’ comments when pro-Kannada activists push for a ban on his films in future in Karnataka? Because he may have forgotten even he demanded quick implementation of the Supreme Court order on Cauvery water management board.
Of all the people he should have known better. Kamal had been in this situation more times than his peers. When Vishwaroopam was banned by the Tamil Nadu government in 2013, Rajinikanth wrote a long letter to the Muslim community to withdraw their protest.
“Kamal is no ordinary artiste but an extraordinary one who can take Tamil cinema to new levels,” Rajinikanth had said in his letter.
Kamal could have returned the favor by just paying lip service to protect the rights of his friends, of the film industry, of the freedom of expression, of majority’s choice to watch a film. But, he didn’t and it is flabbergasting, to say the least.