“If 2019 is a sign of things to come, then Kamal Haasan sits on the right,” said Smriti Irani in the opening remarks of her debate with Kamal Haasan. It was titled, ‘What’s The 2019 Narrative?’ and was moderated by Arnab Goswami. Kamal sat on Arnab’s right and prompted Smriti Irani to speak first. He said, “I thought it’d be better to start with the left.”
The first half of the discussion was largely dominated by Smriti Irani. Her arguments were marred in ambiguity and appeasement. The ex-Human Resources Minister said that a progressive country like India can have only one narrative for the coming year – development. “For an ancient civilization, where a young democracy breeds, it’s quintessential to celebrate the journey of development,” she said.
Kamal Haasan agreed with her that development must be given top priority. He said the way forward should also be about preserving the diversity of the country. “Humanity should be put to practice,” he said. When asked if he thought the government was doing enough about this, he said, “They are trying to, but we’ll have to debate on that.”
Kamal was also asked to elaborate on his allegations against BJP’s hyper-nationalism. He said, “Movie theatres aren’t the places where one’s nationalism should be put to test.” Smriti Irani retorted by ironically proving Haasan’s point, saying, “It’s a community of people coming together to celebrate the one thing they have in common.”
His response was this, “I’ve been the kind of person who screams out the national anthem when a mike system fails me. Despite the anthem being in a language that I don’t understand. Most Tamil people don’t understand the national anthem. But they are still singing it.”
Later, clarifying the point, he said, “Both of us are saying the same thing. But all I’m saying is add some decorum.” He turned to the moderator and said he would stand up for the anthem – “Try me now.”
In another instance Haasan was corrected by Irani. After saying that BJP’s fundamental politics was based on dividing people into Hindus and Non-Hindus, he said that India was a Hindu nation based on population. He said the elder brothers (Hindus) must take care of their siblings (Non-Hindus), and Irani responded, “There are no bada bhaiyas and chota bhaiyas. The constitution has deemed everyone equal.”
Haasan was mostly relegated to the background. Arnab Goswami, the mediator, took on the role of the debater. Despite several invitations from Goswami to quiz Irani on the sitting ministers from her party who garlanded those accused in lynching cases, Haasan largely remained silent.
Watch the full debate here: