The rare 'Kamal-Hand' bonhomie: Not the West, only India can take on China, RaGa tells Kamal

Kamal recounts his 'Gandhi-hating' teenage years to making 'Hey Ram' in the leader's honour, and discusses China, the 'Tamil idea' and farmers with Rahul Gandhi
Kamal Hassan and Rahul Gandhi having conversations on 'Hey Ram', China, films, and politics.
Kamal Hassan and Rahul Gandhi having conversations on 'Hey Ram', China, films, and politics.Rahul Gandhi's youtube channel

CHENNAI: Days after actor-politician Kamal Haasan expressed support to Congress leader Rahul Gandhi's 'Bharat Jodo Yatra', a mass movement to mobilise party cadres and general public, the two took time to discuss politics, people, agriculture - and films of course.

In between his 'long march' that is over 16 weeks old, Rahul has been having conversations with a spectrum of people, including some renowned personalities such as former RBI governor Raghuram Rajan. His latest guest was actor-politician Kamal Haasan.

Echoing sentiments similar to Rahul on politics, Haasan pressed on the need for skill development and upkeep of amity to taken on the global competition.

Rahul welcomed Kamal with a gift --- a picture of a tiger drinking water --- snapped by his photographer nephew, comparing him to the big cat. Excerpts from the interaction:

From being a Gandhi-hater to making 'Hey Ram':

The 'Indian' actor confessed he disliked Gandhiji as a teenager but his Congress-leaning father would never argue with him on that. But he put himself into learning who Gandhi really was when he was 24-25 years of age.

He added his respect and admiration for the leader grew exponentially which led him to make 'Hey Ram' (2000), a film that Kamal calls 'his apology to Bapu'.

On Hatred and the 'Tamil idea':

Kamal and Rahul Gandhi agreed that amity is the norm and hatred could only be doctored. The Wayanad MP described hatred as "blindness and misunderstanding", while Kamal, referring to Gandhi's death, termed assassination is a cheap form of hatred that has its utility only to cowards. Fascinated by the passionate expression of opinion by Tamils, Rahul enquired Kamal about the driving force of the Tamil people. The actor replied that Tamil Nadu has been hardened by wars over the centuries and also has inculcated the teachings of Buddhism and Jainism.

He added that Tamils love their language just like people who speak other languages. Tamil Nadu need not be seen as an island, Tamils have had opposed governments on several occasions when their voices were unheard but that doesn't mean opposing India, he said.

"In my native, someone or the other would turn around if you randomly call 'Gandhi' 'Nehru' or 'Bose'," he said. The current government's neglect towards agriculture has also disgruntled the people in the state, Kamal opined.

The China conundrum and criticisms:

When Kamal sought Rahul's opinion on the ongoing China-India border issues, Rahul enumerated the consequences of PM Modi's denial of Chinese incursion, which, he said, could dilute the purpose of Indo-China negotiation.

"The lack of a global view towards security has caused the government's miscalculation in its Chinese policy," he added. Both echoed the need to have a strong economy and a united population to take on the global challenges. Rahul said the divisiveness that the Modi-led BJP government has brought forth was robbing India the opportunity to take on China both on the military and economic fronts. "India alone can take on China not the West," Rahul said.

Drawing parallels between the Ukraine-Russia conflict, Rahul said a similar situation could arise in India, as the Chinese actions tantamounts to threats of 'changing India's map'. On the government's response to criticisms, Kamal said despite India touching its 75th year of Independence, the nation is still a young democracy with reminiscences of monarchy.

'Skill development is the next Satyagraha':

Taking his own profession as an example, Kamal expressed regret over the large pool of untapped talent in India. "A film can employ 200 technicians, but there is no ITI for that," he pointed out.

He went on to say skill development would be the next satyagraha. Rahul added that the 'wrongly applied GST' and demonetisation were the woes afflicting industrial sectors like the jeans hub in Bellary.

Touching upon the importance of engaging people in politics, Kamal said there needs to be fora to raise issues and complaints in order to make politicians understand that politics is just not about 'number crunching'.

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