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Thursday, January 24, 2013
Kamal Haasan's Vishwaroopam release stopped in Tamil Nadu as Muslim protests rage
Kamal Haasan’s much-awaited, and controversial, Vishwaroopam will not be released as promised this Friday.
The Tamil Nadu government on Wednesday decided to ‘suspend’ its release by a fortnight fearing violent backlash from Muslim outfits that alleged it portrayed their community as one breeding terror and demanded its ban.
Understanding the gravity of the issue, chief minister J. Jayalalithaa rushed to the secretariat almost immediately after returning from Kodanadu and held a high-level meeting with senior ministers and top police and law officers.
Sources said officers briefed her about the angry demonstrations by some Muslim outfits in Chennai and elsewhere in the state demanding ban on Viswaroopam; there was a special reference to the violent attack by Muslims on the U.S. Consulate General in the city in September last year protesting against an American short-documentary called ‘Innocence of Muslim’ which allegedly portrayed the Prophet in poor light.
Following this meeting, sources said the government decided to suspend the screening of Vishwaroopam by two weeks. Orders would be issued by the various district collectors and police commissioners to reach the movie halls Thursday.
“We have not received any official communication about the suspension of Viswaroopam’s release, so we cannot commentt”, a spokesperson for Kamal Haasan said.
Kamal movies get negative publicity
Controversy might as well be his middle name. Kamal Haasan, well known for being a creator par excellence is also famous for triggering controversies in his movies.
While he aspires to give path-breaking movies, controversy seems determined to tag along. The list kicks off with Devar Magan, continues with Hey Ram and Virumaandi and now Vishwaroopam is in news for the wrong reasons.
In 1992, while Thevar Magan got into trouble for allegedly portraying the ‘Thevar’ community, a dominant caste in South Tamil Nadu, and identifying them with glorified violence, Virumaandi in 2004 was embroiled in controversy for similar reasons. The film, which was originally titled ‘Sandiyar’, drew flack and the team was forced to change it to ‘ Virumaandi’.
The title, with its connotations of heroism of the Thevar clan, prompted protests by dalit organisations. The film was talked about for its controversial theme. The film even had problems while Kamal began shooting for it as he was denied police protection to shoot in Theni, a district infamous for its caste clashes between Thevar-dalit castes.
Even before its release in theatres, Hey Ram, Kamal Haasan’s ambitious venture in 2000 came under serious criticism, especially by the Congress party for reportedly hurting public sentiment and showing Mahatma Gandhi in bad light. Protests were held throughout the country, screens were burnt down or pelted with stones and even the audience was attacked in places.
In the case of Vishwaroopam, several Muslim organisations in the city have pushed for banning the movie as they feel it would affect the 'social harmony of the state'. It may be noted that even earlier, Tamil Nadu Theatre Owners Association (TNTOA) and Tamil Nadu Film Distributors Federation decided to cancel the screening of the film because Kamal wanted to release the film in Direct-To-Home (DTH) first.