Kamal Haasan has always been vehemently vocal on issues that he believes in. But when he spoke up in favour of the banned Jallikattu sport in Tamil Nadu—which animal activists have declared inhuman to bulls– a lot of eyebrows shot up in dismay and even disgust.
But Kamal Haasan remains steadfast in his belief that Jallikattu has a place in the Tamilian socio-cultural context.
Argues Kamal, “It is a sport older than Christ and Buddha. It is not a Matador versus Bull kind of unfair and cruel match. The original Tamil name for the sport is called Eruthazhuvudal , meaning embracing the bull. Using any weapons against the bull is considered foul and cowardly.”
But haven’t traditional definition of sports been over the period of time been seen as barbaric and inhuman? After all public hangings and lynching were considered entertainment in certain ancient cultures?
Kamal Haasan concurs, “Yes,over a period of time with no proper monitoring of the sport certain excesses might have come into practice. If those violent practises are eschewed and older traditions are brought into the sport,it might cease to concern animal lovers.”
The difference, according to Kamal Haasan, between other combat sports and Jallikattulies in the spirit of the ritual. “The players who run with the bull love the animals too. Just because you do not see animals playing traditional roles it doesn’t mean they are being tortured.In Rajasthan camels are used as beasts of burden sometimes pulling at nearly a one-ton load. In some places in India camels are slaughtered for meat.”
Kamal also questions the connection between animal rights and vegetarianism. “Being vegetarian does not constitute ahimsa. Vegetarians eat plants .Jagdish chandra Bose’s discovery and research has proven without doubt that plants sleep at night and come awake during day like us. They discern pain and fear like,we do. Just because they don’t scream and squeal in a way we understand does not exclude them from pain or cruelty.”
And while we are on the subject of cruelty to animals Kamal Haasan points out thatlacto-consumption is also a form of violence to animal rights. “Milk is meant for calves. Stealing their quota and milking the cow on a everyday basis is cruel . I dont drink milk at all.But I am probably the only or maybe one of the actors who actually trained to embrace the bull.”
The super-actor proudly declares himself a bull lover who also loves the banned bull sport Jallikattu. “I personally owned three bulls for a few years.I filmed Jallikattu in my film Virumandi. My bulls were the chief guests on stage when we released Virumandi’s music. My bulls lived and died without pain. Like me they acted in films as well. They did not end up in anybody’s plate. My dogs roam free in my house and are not chained.”
In principle, Kamal Haasan is against all bans. A few years ago when the central government contemplated banning porn Kamal has argued, “Then we should destroy Khajuraho ban the Bundi paintings deface some of our temple sculptures and while we are at it we can ban the Kamasutra and some verses by saint. Aandal of Srivilliputhur. Then finally we can decide what to do with phallic worshipping and Bhagvati pooja.”