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Indian cinema is at the precipice of its own Hallyu movement: Kamal Haasan

When Kamal Haasan was featured on our January 2020 cover, he was leveraging his success in films to steer his political ambition. Three years on, balancing his "passion" for politics and "profession" as an actor-filmmaker, he reflects on how the current political climate and cultural expression are likely to evolve over the next few years

Published: Jun 5, 2023 11:21:54 AM IST
Updated: Feb 19, 2024 03:51:46 PM IST

Kamal Haasan Image: Sunder Ramu; Designer: Amritha Ram; Brand: Kh House Of KhaddarKamal Haasan Image: Sunder Ramu; Designer: Amritha Ram; Brand: Kh House Of Khaddar
Today, India stands at a crossroad, one with huge implications. After officially becoming the world’s most populous nation, we have an opportunity to finally take our place as a civilisational power with a self-sustaining economy, due to our advantageous demographic dividend. To unshackle the potential of our young population, it’s imperative that our politics needs a tectonic transformation.

Politicians today behave as modern-day feudal lords with the misuse of the unholy trinity of money, might and media, giving them an impunity from the rule of law. Come election time, they retain power with token welfarism towards the downtrodden, and on and on the wheel keeps turning. As long as this political reality exists, we will never truly imbibe the democratic spirit of our Constitution and, in turn, unleash the true potential of our people.

We have witnessed economic democratisation since 1991, and, I believe, with the advent of internet and improving educational standards, we will witness ‘knowledge democratisation’ as a country. An informed electorate automatically acts as a natural check against misuse of the state’s mandate by our elected representatives.

I envision an informed polity where religious- and caste-based identities dilute, giving rise to ideological political identities. A reawakened India, with its people whose national consciousness and pride are not centered on religious nationalism but one based on civic nationalism. This transformation will be nothing short of a second freedom struggle.

Also read:  Cover story: Can Kamal Haasan replicate his success in politics?

While politics is my passion, cinema is my profession and its future in India is equally bright. Indian cinema stands at the precipice of its own Hallyu movement. Korean entertainment has seen an explosion in its popularity worldwide leading to increased cultural soft power for the country.

Across the world, there is a newfound interest in Korean culture, language, food etc, especially among the younger generations. But Korea has also successfully converted this soft power into hard dollars. Its entertainment industry is a revenue-generating export for the economy.

The worldwide success of regional blockbusters such as Baahubali, RRR and Vikram are early signs of Indian cinema’s very own Hallyu movement. Today, regional entertainment industries are at the forefront of cinematic innovations in India.

The Indian entertainment industry with its regional diversity is the largest movie producer in the world with up to 2,000 movies made each year. It is critical that the government creates safe spaces of creative self-expression for the industry. The industry needs support and not direction from the government whose motto for the industry must be ‘certify, not censor’.

We Indians must all introspect as responsible citizens to ensure what we can each do. These next 50 years can either be a poisoned chalice or a golden one. The choice is ours.

(This story appears in the 16 June, 2023 issue of Forbes India. To visit our Archives, click here.)