Prakash Raj interview | ‘We are argumentative Indians, we don’t reason’

Prakash Raj speaks to us about the importance of having an opinion in a democracy, the role celebs play in shaping public opinion and the need for change. ​Excerpts:
Actor Prakash Raj. (Photo|Nakshatra Krishnamoorthy, EPS)
Actor Prakash Raj. (Photo|Nakshatra Krishnamoorthy, EPS)

HYDERABAD: He has carved a niche for himself in Indian cinema, across tongues. But he has never shied away from speaking his mind. Outside of the film sets, he’s a vocal critic of the BJP, a true citizen of a democracy and a champion for change. On the sidelines of his press conference ahead of the MAA elections, for which he’s running for president, we catch up with actor Prakash Raj over coffee (without sugar). He speaks to us about the importance of having an opinion in a democracy, the role celebs play in shaping public opinion and the need for change. ​Excerpts:

How important is it for people living in a democracy to have an opinion? Or is it okay to not have an opinion at all? 
It is very important to have an opinion. Whichever side you are on, there might be differences, but one should have an opinion. If you don’t have that in you to question, to blurt out what you have in your mind, it becomes too heavy for you and you become very irresponsible. You have to identify yourself with what you want and only when you speak out, will you know whether you are right or wrong. This is your country. In an election, no leader or party wins. If you elect right, you win; if you don’t elect right, you lose. Everyone needs to have an opinion, everyone needs to listen to opinions. You can have an argument, you can have a difference of opinion but there’s no point in being neutral. 

What is the role that celebrities play when it comes to shaping public opinion? 
If a celebrity is a coward, the society will be coward. A celebrity has reached a place (in society), he has the platform, his voice is strengthened because of the people. He should make a conscious decision to raise his voice. Otherwise it’s just not fair. When it comes to shaping opinion, you are an influencer. So, do it! A lot of people today have great voices, but I wished they used it for the right reasons. This means that there’s an agenda, they are an island by themselves. That’s very unfair. 

What drives you to speak up? 
We pay taxes. You are in politics the minute you leave your house. The roads are your politics, the water is your politics, harmony is your politics. You need to question and my conscience says you cannot be

quiet. I want to be identified for what I am from within than just my roles and my acting, which is not true, which is not me at all. I don’t want to die before people not knowing who I am and for what I stand for. What death is that? It’s dying before you die. 

Aren’t you scared of speaking up, especially the manner in which dissent is being silenced?
People who lie should be scared. Truth is not afraid. Only a coward shoots, kills. And I am not a coward. This is when we need to strengthen our voices all the more. 

How have we as a society dealt with the pandemic?  
We ourselves are irresponsible. There’s no scientific temper among us, nor has our society, over generations, evolved in this aspect. Complaining about the government and its leaders is a different thing, first let us look at ourselves. How responsible have we been? The culture of patience and listening is missing. Everybody wants to be a doctor in a pandemic. We are argumentative Indians, we don’t reason. We, as a humankind, have failed. Corona is just a virus, but it has questioned the very pillars we have built our lives on. Had Corona come from a cow or a dog, we would have killed every single one of them. It’s because the host is human beings, we want social distancing. It has questioned our education system, theatres, malls, lifestyle.

You have been a vocal critic of the Modi government. Do you see an alternative? 
I believe in alternatives and I think it will churn up. Nobody is permanent here. My only worry was, I foresaw this assault and had to warn the people. Now, it is late but not too late. This time when we arise, it’ll be with a lot of wounds which will take a decade to heal. All dictators of the world have seen the end. The human spirit and people will rise.

Your message to the youth? 
I love them. We have to say sorry to you (the youth) for  bringing you into the chaos. My system, my leaders did not have the vision to reimagine the future. There’s a lot that has to be done.

— Himabindu Reddy  himabindugopinath@  @himureddy

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