INTERVIEW | PRAKASH RAJ | Karnataka

'I’ll continue to speak my mind whenever and wherever necessary': Prakash Raj

Unruffled by the barrage of trolls that his criticism of the “chilling silence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi” on the killing of journalist-activist Gauri Lankesh has drawn, actor Prakash Raj has said he will continue to speak his mind “whenever and wherever necessary.”

In an exclusive interview with The Hindu , Mr. Raj brushed aside those who bracket him as “anti-Modi.” He said that Mr. Modi was the Prime Minister chosen by the majority and he — as a citizen and an artiste — had the right to disagree with him and have a dialogue with him.

Describing Mr. Modi as no longer representing just a political party but a secular nation, he said that he was “paying the price for being honest and democratic enough to express” his differences on certain issues.

“I was aghast that those who celebrated the killing of Gauri Lankesh were being followed by Mr. Modi. As a responsible citizen of this democratic country, I was disturbed by the silence of the Prime Minister. Is that a sin?” he asked.

Haunting question

Mr. Raj said that he did not wish to block those who are trolling him because he believed in democracy and freedom of expression.

“I learn about what is happening in this country through them. I hope they come to their senses. The question haunting me is why and how a situation of silencing dissent has emerged in our society,” he said.

Describing social media as a double-edged sword, he said, “In a way, it has democratised the system. The facelessness it allows is both good and bad.”

He urged his admirers and detractors not to read his comments as a precursor to his entry into politics.

“If I want to enter politics, I will come straight to you and announce my intention. It’s time people grow up and stop reading between the lines of the statements made by sensitive and socially responsible actors,” he said, adding that he “wants to live like a world citizen and react like a human being.”

Excerpts from the interview:

Your comments on the Prime Minister have stirred up a hornets' nest. Did you foresee this and do you regret what you said, in retrospect?

The heinous, ghastly, cowardly act of killing Gauri Lankesh disturbed me deeply. I was really pained and taken aback by the celebration over the inhuman killing. I was even more aghast that those who celebrated the killing were being followed by Mr. Modi. As a responsible citizen of this democratic country, I was disturbed by the silence of the Prime Minister. Is that a sin?

You are now being dubbed ‘anti-Modi’...

I said that the Prime Minister’s silence is chilling. I have a right to say this. How dare they call me anti-Modi for doing that. I’m not anti-Modi. He is my Prime Minister chosen by a majority. I don’t consider Mr. Modi as the leader of a political party. He now represents the country and every citizen. He is the head of a secular nation. I have differences with him on certain issues. I’m paying the price for being honest and democratic enough to express them. I’m not a coward. I won’t run away from the responsibility that society has put on my shoulders.

I’m responsible for what I say and that is the identity for Prakash Raj. Those trolling me are not strong enough to face up to me. Regardless of the consequences, I will speak the truth, whenever and wherever it is necessary. I stand by words. There is no question of denying that.

Any message for the trollers?

I do not wish to block those who are trolling me because I believe in democracy and freedom of expression. I learn about what is happening in this country through them. I hope they come to their senses. The question haunting me is why and how a situation of silencing dissent has emerged in our society. Social media is a double-edged sword. In a way, it has democratised the system. The facelessness it allows is both good and bad.

Your comments have gained special significance since they have come days after Kamal Haasan decided to enter politics. It is being read as a precursor to your entering politics too.

My intentions are being misread. If I want to enter politics, I will come straight to you and announce my intention. It’s time people grow up and stop reading between the lines of the statements made by sensitive and socially responsible actors.

I adopted a village in Telangana because I love people who are responsible for my present place in society. It is my way of giving back to society. When I help a farmer, I don’t differentiate between them based on their region, as farmers have no borders. I want to live like a world citizen and react like a human being.

How do you want to identify yourself — Prakash Raj or Prakash Rai? One brought you name and fame, the other indicates your roots.

People know me as Prakash Rai in Karnataka. Let it be so. But I’m known as Prakash Raj to the rest of India and abroad. Every actor worth his salt gets a name after coming to films. Rajkumar was Muthu Raj... Actors tend to get a screen name purely for professional reasons. That has nothing to do with their identity of region they represent.


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Printable version | Oct 24, 2021 12:19:38 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/ill-speak-the-truth-whenever-and-wherever-it-is-necessary/article19798024.ece

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