Tamil filmmaker-actor K Bhagyaraj issued a video apology on Wednesday, after his speech lashing out at critics of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and likening them to prematurely-born babies, drew flak on social media.
The filmmaker made the comments at the launch event for the book Prime Minister’s People’s Welfare Schemes – New India 2022 at the BJP head office in Chennai, earlier on Wednesday.
Speaking at the event, Bhagyaraj said, “I am giving a small tip for Modi ji. He should consider those who criticise him as those born prematurely (kura prasavam) at three months. I am saying this because they don’t speak good nor hear the good others have to say.”
He went on to say, “The mouth of a foetus is only formed in the fourth month of pregnancy and the ears during the fifth month. That is why I am saying these people are like premature babies born at three months. We should think of people who criticise wrongly as those whose ears and mouth are not developed.”
Bhagyaraj’s comments were met with applause and laughter from the audience.
The filmmaker also praised Tamil Nadu BJP President Annamalai and said he has heard positive things about him and opined that he is the right person to head BJP in the state.
Bhagyaraj’s “premature baby” comment was called out by many on social media. Deepak Nathan of December 3 NGO that fights for the rights of persons with disabilities also condemned the filmmaker’s statements. “There have been several instances where political leaders have commented on people with disabilities. Should Bhagyaraj make such jokes based on disabilities? There have been people who have achieved much with disabilities, why insult them? Only those who do not understand this, make such comments. I condemn this,” he said.
After Bhagyaraj’s remark was met with widespread outrage, the filmmaker released a video statement in an effort to clarify his statement. “I was shocked when I heard that my comment about prematurely-born babies at today’s function was misinterpreted. There is no relationship between disabled people and those born prematurely. In villages, even a baby born one or two months before the due date is called a prematurely-born child, and this does not imply any disabilities. I apologise to all those who have been hurt by my comments.”
இன்றைய புத்தக வெளியிட்டு விழாவில் நான் பேசிய கருத்துக்களுக்கு என் தன்நிலை விளக்கம். pic.twitter.com/nMlf70kptl
— K Bhagyaraj (@ungalKBhagyaraj) April 20, 2022
The filmmaker also went on to clarify that he is not part of the BJP. “I am not a BJP man. I was born and brought up in Tamil Nadu. I’ve made Tamil films and it is what gave me my livelihood. Dravidian leaders and their ideology are part of my basic fabric and this is reflected in my movies as well. My work will continue to echo these thoughts.”
Earlier, Bhagyaraj has had political stints with both AIADMK and DMK parties, but the filmmaker is currently not actively engaged in politics.
It is to be noted that Bhagyaraj is not the only veteran artist from the Tamil film industry to come under the scanner for his comments on Modi recently. Music composer Ilaiyaraaja too has been receiving backlash since last week for equating the prime minister with social reformer BR Ambedkar, in a foreword he penned for the book Ambedkar & Modi – Reformer’s Ideas, Performer’s Implementation. While BJP supporters backed the musician, several others have criticised him for drawing such a parallel.