At the opening ceremony of the 22nd edition of the International Film Festival of Kerala (IFFK) on Friday, actor Prakash Raj, a chief guest at the event, delivered a sharp, biting speech, touching upon various issues including censorship.
“When I come to Kerala, I don’t come with a script to talk because there is no censor here,” he began to a thunderous applause. “This is one state where I can breathe without fear. Whatever I am going to talk now, I believe with integrity, that this is what I should talk [about]. We are going through difficult times. Let’s not mince words when we talk about the recent agenda that is being forced up on us. It’s not just creative voices, but just any form of dissent is being silenced. I have started talking because I want to tell them, ‘when you silence a voice, a louder voice will be born’. I raise my voice not because I belong to a political party, but because I am an artiste. And, it is very important for artistes who owe their life and position and comfort to the society to pay it back.”
Talking about the movie Sexy Durga, which was later renamed ‘S Durga’, Raj said, “They have problem with a film called S Durga. But, the same people have no problem with Durga Wine & Bar. They have no problem if a street named Durga is dirty. We know Hindutva is a way of life. If these people are saying Hindutva and nationalism are the same, they are trying to disguise the meaning of Hindutva. They want us Bengalis, Tamilians, Malayalees and Kannadigas to learn Hindi. Do they just want us to understand what they are saying? Works of art and films being stopped sets a dangerous precedent. If we let this continue, the next generation will be afraid even to think. We should not let that happen.”
Raj then went on to add, “They are threatening me, but I laugh at them. They are trying to silence me, and I have started singing. What more will you take away from me? I don’t need the support of any political party to stand up. Come out with your agendas, I say. Today, when chief minister of certain states who are elected with big mandates say we are helpless, we should ask them to step down.”
The opening ceremony, which was held at Nishagandhi open air auditorium in Thiruvananthapuram this evening, was attended by Aparna Sen, Madhabi Mukherjee and Resul Pookkutty. Actress Shiela and Rejisha Vijayan were also present. It is to be noted that none of the speakers thus far, including festival chairman Kamal, spoke of or addressed such issues.
Over 11,000 delegates are expected to attend the IFFK, which will be on till December 8. The festival opened with the Lebanese film The Insult.