Published: 26th July 2019
Even if I'm making people angry, it's ok: Pa Ranjith on controversy over Raja Raja Cholan comments
Pa Ranjith was speaking at the 'Caste Matters' book release organised by Neelam and Penguin Publications
I stand by my words on Raja Raja Cholan," director Pa Ranjith said at a book release function on Thursday, reigniting a controversy that had all but died down. Ranjith in his speech at the book launch of Caste Matters, said that he was not the first to criticise the royals, many before him had done the same, but there was only one reason that it became as big an issue, as it did - because he was a Dalit.
"It was not the question itself but where it was coming from. That was what irked people. But I don't regret my words. What I spoke was the truth and the one question that I asked, I still haven't received the answer to," Ranjith said. Ranjith said he found it amusing that out of the 50-minute speech, the media had chosen to nitpick only the parts he had said about Raja Raja Cholan. "But I'm glad they did because there was an opportunity for dialogue and I'm very grateful to them for what they did," he added.
"I asked people one thing - why do I not have land? Why do Dalits not have land? And the response I get is, "Dalits never had land, so what are you asking for". To that, I tell them, how is it possible that one person has land and another doesn't? As a Dalit, I'm asking a question, why is no one answering me? If a dominant caste person says the same words it is the truth, if a Dalit says it then is it a lie?" Ranjith asked.
The director of films such as Kabali and Kaala went on to make an even stronger statement, "The fact that people chose to protest against what I had said shows how caste works in the society," he pointed out.
He ridiculed the fact that people think that he only says the things he says because he's seeking attention, "They say I'm trying to create controversy. How is this controversy going to benefit me? I will keep talking. Whatever language or whatever medium I can use to talk about caste discrimination, I will use. Whatever I can do to make a connect and make people understand the truth, I will use those means to keep talking. Even if I'm making people angry, it's okay, I'm happy to speak the truth," he said.
He also went on to criticise the film Article 15 and said it reinforced stereotypes, "The Dalit girl sings at the beginning of the movie but isn't given a voice even till the very end. The character-based on Chandrashekhar Azad was barely there, so what are they trying to say? They cannot resist? It was an important film but it reinforced the same stereotypes that Dalits are poor, shabby, dirty, uneducated, landless. It's okay to show people as poor but it's not necessary that they are sad, there's no need to sympathise. Only the oppressed should feel sad that they are oppressing people," he added.
Speaking about the book, 'Caste Matters' by writer Suraj Yendge, Ranjith said that he was glad that these stories are getting told. "He talks about Dalit love in the book and that is what is most important. What Dalits want is to be treated as humans, to be loved, to be happy."