10 Things Kamal Haasan Spoke of to Harvard Students

1. Why freedom of speech, why now?

 

 

Whats Kamal Haasans problem? What is ailing him that he chooses to speak on freedom of speech as if it were threatened, that too in a democratic fortress like the US of A where freedom thrives and freedom of speech more so? You can speak, rap and curse and also use parliamentary language to show off your education. Thats the kind of freedom enjoyed here. Is that freedom of speech? Is that freedom enough?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 political system. They take umbrage, they see red - red as my political complexion. Let me confess I am not.

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. On religion

 

 

I think, like in food habit, man should remain omnivorous to stay on top of the food chain. I dont have a religion yet I shamelessly use some rare but finer points from even religion for a better living and harmony.

 

 

 

 

 

 

4. On freedom

 

 

Freedom, unlike money, is not safe once inside a bank locker. It wont safely accrue to be withdrawn for use in times of dire need Constant vigil is necessary to safeguard it.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.

 

 

 

 

 

5. On not taking freedom of speech for granted

 

 

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. It is only through the offices of democracy that Adolf Hitler rose to power. Oh That was when the world was naive. Not anymore, possible some say. Lets move forward in history and that too Indian political history and you find emergency promulgated and voices silenced in plain sight for the world to see.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 highschool dropout and on education

 

 

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. Thats because I was a good actor. I knew my lines.

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 its 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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

8. On forerunners and advocates of freedom of speech

 

 

We have been forerunners and actual practitioners of the civil disobedience. An idea presented as a theory by Henry David Thoreau, we actually put it to practice. Thanks be to Mr Rajagopalchari popularly known as Rajaji and our own Mr Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. India became a trendsetter for giants like Mr Martin Luther King and Mr Mandela to emulate. Those vigilant gentlemen have made it possible for me to speak fearlessly, but with responsibility, today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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 valour. Not without reason does Gandhiji, an otherwise humble man, openly brag about ahimsa being the highest form of valour. That is why probably the 24th Theerthankara 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 will have CEOs running the country not leaders, because I think we are not sheep any more, we dont need to be shepherd, we need someone to take care of us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

His final 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.

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