If you’re a Kamal Haasan fan, then you surely are not a stranger to the actor’s intellect, his desire to constantly learn and his eloquence. Apart from entertaining his fans with his films, the actor is also known for his bold and honest opinions. A school dropout, Kamal Haasan can read, write and speak all four South Indian languages. He is also a writer, director, producer and playback singer. On February 7th, the actor delivered a speech at the Annual India Conference 2016, jointly hosted by the prestigious Harvard Business School and Harvard Kennedy School. He later answered questions from students, scholars and fellow speakers. Here are some interesting revelations made by the actor:
1. On The Freedom Of Speech
”I have taken this opportunity to put on record through media and those receptive minds here that we cannot take freedom of speech for granted and complacently think that democracy automatically means freedom of speech".
2. On Democracy
"Democracy is often touted as the only bastion for freedom of speech. My opinion is questioned when I tell them democracy is not the most infallible of the political system. They take umbrage, they see red – red as my political complexion. Let me confess I’m not."
3. On Intolerance
"I am against the word tolerance. You do not tolerate; you accept a friend. Why should you tolerate everything? It is a view either you accept it or not accept it? Why do you tolerate? Intolerance is there because you are tolerating it. Do not tolerate. Accept the Muslims as your co-citizens. Do not tolerate them. Accept the Hindus (as your co-citizen). That’s the problem of the tolerant. Accept it (Muslims) because you are not going to take away the green in your Indian flag."
4. On Religion
"I think, like in food habit, man should remain omnivorous to stay on top of the food chain. I don’t have a religion yet I shamelessly use some rare but finer points from even religion for a better living and harmony."
5. On Freedom
"Freedom, unlike money, is not safe once inside a bank locker. It won’t safely accrue to be withdrawn for use in times of dire need. Constant vigil is necessary to safeguard it. I am part of that large vigilant community that is always on the lookout, for subtle political coercion. That is the reason why I am willingly part of the reform committee In India that is going to recommend a new order of function for the film certification board that surreptitiously tries to censor films and other voices in the name of culture or the state."
6. On India As A Democracy
"I am proud of the kind of democracy we have managed to practice in spite of many attempts to abuse it. India is a younger democracy as compared to the centuries old democracy practiced in UK and USA. Yet universal suffrage that is voting rights for all citizens of India came into practice 15 years before it came into practice in a democracy called America."
7. On Being A High School Dropout
"I have been constantly reminded about my lack of intra-mural training. I must humbly submit that I am a high school dropout. Before, with very little success on my side, I used to brag about being a dropout and yet managing to move seamlessly in a scholarly circle without being caught out. That’s because I was a good actor. I knew my lines."
8. On Pursuing Education
"I have always envied people like you who have pursued wisdom and skill in your chosen field, where it is taught with scientific methodology. People often confuse my voicing dreams of going back to film school as humility, that too false humility. Believe me it’s truly humility that time and experience has taught me, that too not very kindly. I have learnt little tricks in the time I spent in the film industry, a little more than half a century. What took me nearly 25 years to learn could easily have been taught to me in a proper film school in five or seven years. The only difference and a happy compensation was that I was earning through the process of learning instead of spending on my education. I guess that is a good trade off."
9. On Achieving Freedom and Ahimsa
"I respect the way their freedom to speak was won. On rare occasions, freedom of speech was won taking on violence without returning it in kind. A very hard act to follow. To take on violence with nonviolence needs extraordinary valor. Not without reason does Gandhiji, an otherwise humble man, openly brag about ahimsa being the highest form of valor. That is why probably the 24th Tirthankara or saint in the Jainic religious order, the champion of ahimsa, was called Mahaveera, the great warrior. Ahimsa is difficult to achieve. It is not done by merely turning vegetarian. Being a vegetarian and yet showing apathy to fellow human beings is purpose defeated."
10. On The Future Front-Runners Of The Country
"In future we’ll have CEOs running the country not leaders, because I think we are not sheep any more; we don’t need a shepherd. We need someone to take care of us."
His advice to students and the world at large:
"Any government institution or religion trying overtly or covertly to coerce your mind to suit a narrow selfish purpose with disregard to larger society is something we should all be wary of."
What do you think of the actor’s opinions? Do you agree with them? Tell us your views in the comments below.