Daijiworld Media Network - Mangaluru (ANK/DC)
Mangaluru, Apr 26: With over 300 movies across the South Indian film industry to his credit, Prakash Rai is an actor par excellence. He has charmed his audience with his superior talent, be it as a villian or in a comic role. But it is not just his acting skills that have earned him name and fame, and perhaps even notoriety - he is one of the most outspoken celebrities in India today. His anti-right, anti-Narendra Modi and anti-Amit Shah stand have evoked both criticism as well as appreciation. There is no doubt that he is one of the most sought-after celebrities when it comes to debates on current affairs in the nation, especially where ideologies are concerned.
Multi-lingual actor, director, producer and orator, Prakash Rai spoke in an exclusive interview to editor-in-chief Walter Nandalike on Daijiworld 24x7 channel's 'Public Challenge' programme on a variety of issues.
Q: Everyone knows that your actual name is Prakash Rai. But after entering the Tamil film industry you changed your name to Prakash Raj. What was the reason?
A: It is a screen name. The film industry is a public domain, so you need a name that people can easily recognize you with. The practice of having a screen name has been followed for ages. Actors like Dilip Kumar, Rajinikanth, Vishnuvardhan and Dr Rajkumar too had different names. My guru, Tamil movie director K Balachander gave me my screen name. Even though I am Prakash Raj, for the people in Karnataka I am Prakash Rai.
Q: You have been busy with films and you have also been involved in social activities. But suddenly your tempo has changed, with your name being getting entangled in controversies. What was the reason behind this sudden change?
A: I have experienced sudden changes several times in life, be it in my film career or my personal life. With no background in films, I became an actor all of a sudden and then turned into producer and director, and later I prefered to write columns. I even adopted a village. As a human being, you need to keep growing and expanding your horizons. I don't set the path of my journey, the journey sets my path. Change is common in everybody's life, it is the law of nature. But when Gauri Lankesh was murdered, something stirred in me. Like her father, Gauri Lankesh too used to speak openly and boldly. Even though we may not agree with her manner of saying certain things, it is important to understand what she was trying to say. Instead of debating or countering her views, she was murdered. Those who raise their voice are being silenced in a series of murders as those who question are few and without any support. I do not know where our society is heading. The moment I raised my voice, they started to attack me or twist my words, and it makes you wonder if there is an unseen web being spun against you. One should not remain silent about this. If there is one person against me, there hundreds who support me, who tell me not to back out. It is then that I feel I am doing the right thing.
Q: You have lacs of followers in Twitter, at the same time the haters troll you, abuse you and they use vulgur language against you. Do you read all those comments?
A: Yes, I read everything. When you see the beauty of this nature, at the same time you should see the bad things happening around you. We should be rooted to this earth. We should see what is happening around us. About five years ago you did not see such abuse or so much difference of opinion. This is happening now because people are not equipped with answers to participate in a healthy discussion. They say, boycott Prakash Rai's films because he said so-and-so about something. But what is the connection between what I say and my films? Instead of discussion and debate, they want to hit you below the belt. People are not fools, they are watching. They will not tolerate this abuse. There is a limit for everything. Sometimes you speak rashly in a fit of anger, but this kind of abuse is deliberate. So you should be ready to face it.
Q: You have openly said that you are neither a leftist nor rightist, nor you are anti-Hindu. But you are against politics in the name of Hindu religion.
A: How can someone be against Hindu religion? Religion is to make you pure, not to make you powerful. Religion is about giving light, not setting fire to another's house. Some brand me as an anti-Hindu and their supporters believe it. You may tell lies a hundred times in the belief that they may sound like truth, but I will keep saying the truth. I am not against any religion. No religion tells you to kill anyone, and if you do kill someone, it means you are not following your religion at all. You can propogate your religion, build a temple or organizations, but don't form a government in the name of religion. There should be no connection between religion and government.
Q. But politics in the name of religion is happening among Muslim, Christian and other communities. But why do you speak only about Hindus?
A. Whoever does forcible conversions, be it Muslim or Christian, is wrong, and I am against it. But what we need to understand is, in today's scenario in India, some are stomping around in the name of a pure, ascetic and tolerant religion like Hinduism - I am speaking up against them. If somebody else is stomping over you, then condemn it.
Q: Recently you said that to understand BJP leader you don't need to do research, you just need common sense. On what basis did you say that?
A: There are several incidents occuring right in front of our eyes. Recently in Bihar a BJP MP was arrested for instigating communal violence, are they not doing communal violence? To protect the Kathua rape culprit you go for a procession holding national flag, are they not traitors? You can see right in front of your eyes whats happening around.
Q: Several messages go viral in social media as well as in mainstream about Prakash Rai's silence when there is murder of Hindus in Dakshina Kannada?
A: I am aware who does it and who says it. When someone is killed, you say that Hindu or Muslim being killed. Why can't you say a human being or citizen is killed? When a boy dies you label him with a religion and instigate people to kill others. You threaten to set the entire district on fire over a murder in a small area. Amit Shah speaks about a murder at Bengaluru claiming that he was a BJP actvist later he apologises openly, which means communal violence is at the tip of his tongue. In Ananth Kumar Hegde's accident case, within a fraction of a second he passed statement that the driver intentionally tried to kill him and his name is Basheer, later it was found that driver was the brother of a BJP activtist. This is what I say - you need not do reaseach but common sense is enough.
Q: Being an actor you have raised voice on several current issues. Though you have clarified that you are not interested to join politics, your statements are political. Why don't you enter politics?
A: I need a participatory democracy and governance. Every politician must fear that he is questioned by the people who elected him if he does not work. Today if anyone is questioning the government, he is being targeted or the person is purchased. I am one of the voices of the people and my goal is to bring in a change in the society. I have started #JustAsking forum to help people to raise their voice whenever the government goes wrong.
Q: What do you have to say about your recent statement that actors taking up politics is a tragedy?
A: Acting and politics are different. Just because you are an actor you cannot become a successful politician. Because politics is a work of responsibility. Today an actor is given ticket just because he campaigned for the party. This is misuse of people's money.
Q: But don't you feel your name and fame as actor has helped you in raising your voice effectively?
A: Though I am an actor I am talking about real politics. But most of the politicians have become actors. Today when I am raising my voice, people are listening. I have solutions for the issues but the politicians do not.
Q: What was the reason for filing Rs 1 defamation suit against BJP MP Pratap Simha for his particular statement
A: I am not behind money. People would have talked even if I had filed a Rs 5 crore defamation case. Whatever you do, people talk. Today a few cowards are trolling people on social media. The online trolling has resulted in the deaths of several youth, it must stop.
Q: You have shared stage with youngsters like Jignesh Mewani, Kanhaiya Kumar and others. Is it because your ideology matches with theirs?
A: These young leaders are raising their voice. I met them and I can say that they are not anti-nationals as they are being portrayed but they are branded as one.
Q: Some say that you have been diplomatic or even elusive about the Cauvery issue.
A: Cauvery is not a T-20 match. Today everybody is using the issue for their political benefits. Giving a passing statement on a important issue like Cauvery will not solve it. A car needs an mechanic to repair it, not a doctor. We are not experts to speak on this issue. Nobody wants to talk about the mafia involved in ruining of Cauvery banks or the deforestation that is happening in its surroundings. Not giving a statement does not mean I am against the Cauvery. I feel deeply about the Cauvery issue, and I need one full hour to speak on it.
Q: You are anti-Modi, anti-BJP and anti-Amit Shah. What is your opinion on Rahul Gandhi?
A: He is young and he is seen growing as a politican day by day. Everybody has a right. When we can have ignorant and irresponsible representatives, he is one thousand times better than these stupid fellows. My worry is our nation's future is in the hands of some uneducated people. There are leaders who speak nonsense, but instead of taking action, Modi tells them not to give any 'masala' to media. I say, don't shut their mouths, let people know what kind of leaders we have.
Q: You have compared BJP to cancer and other parties to cold and cough. Are you a doctor?
A: I am a patient and the people of this country and the Constitution are doctors. The votes in my hand are the tablets. Democracy is the hospital. With all this, we can defeat the demon.
Q: Inspiration for your charity work.
A: My mother was brought up in an orphanage. She received financial aid to complete her education and it has inspired me to help the needy. When we help others we inspire many others to continue the noble work.
Q: You have done over 300 movies. Which is your most memorable and favourite one?
A: There is no particular movie as such. Nagamandala gave a different experience and Mani Ratnam's Iruvar, Kaanjiwaram, commercial movie Gilli, Singham are some of the movies where I learnt new things. You have to evolve as a person.
Q: Having gone through lots of ups and downs, what is your message for the present youth of our country?
A: I lost my son and I am richer in pain too. Problems are like a window to look at life. We cannot just complain and we should not succumb. There might be several reasons to die but we should find one reason to live. Do not try to control everything. Nothing is permanent in life.
Q: Message for first time voters in Karnataka elections due on May 12?
A: We cannot spoon feed everything. Think and vote for who you feel is right for a better tomorrow.