Describing himself as an “extramural student of cinema,” actor Kamal Haasan said here on Sunday that film festivals were “temples of learning” where he went to learn.

“I never went to an institute. My earliest memories are of cinema. I came to act when I was three-and-a-half. All my learning has been through studios, film festivals and films, especially film festivals,” he told journalists at an interactive session at the Netaji Research Centre in the city.

Mr. Haasan, who was in the city to attend the inauguration of 19 Kolkata International Film Festival (KIFF) later in the day, said Kolkata held a “special position” as far as cinema was concerned. Kolkata was a city from where “pioneers” in Indian cinema had emerged. “What is close to my heart is the fact that film societies were born here, and now the film festival… I think it will be an apex film festival.”

“This is a versatile modern art,” Mr. Haasan said when he was asked about an article in Frontline that said two of his real life heroes — Mahatma Gandhi and Periyar — hated cinema. “There is no use disrespecting it.”

Responding to a question whether his decision to attend the film festival was because the State government did not ban the screening of his film Vishwaroopam, Mr. Hasan said “it is not a matter of give and take.”

“Because… I might be wrong the next time. Then they [the State government] are not going to support me. They felt the voice was right… they supported me. I am not a political animal at all,” he said.

Mr. Haasan said it was not the first time he got Kolkata’s support. It happened on an earlier occasion when certain people opposed the screening of his film Hey Ram.

‘Every Indian’s dilemma’

Earlier in the day, after visiting the house of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Mr. Haasan said the dilemma before every Indian was: which is the right path… the martial path of Bose or ‘Ahimsa’ of Mahatma Gandhi. “It is a very difficult question to answer even in today’s world. Even America is trying to answer the question…. Some of the most educated and affluent societies in Europe are unable to give an answer…..which is the right way to approach differences?”

“To practical men, both have their limitations… Ours is a young world, a merely 10,000-year-old civilisation… and it is very wrong to judge what is right or what is wrong,” Mr. Haasan said.

On the difference between the two leaders, he said, “their routes were different, but they were heading towards the same destination,” though people claim they were opposed to each other.

People in Bengal know that it was Bose who gave Mahatma Gandhi the title ‘Father of the Nation.’ But people in other parts of the country, particularly the south, were not aware of it, he said.

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