Why political, religious groups are targetting big Tamil stars

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A top Tamil film director recently said: “The most difficult and sensitive movie industry in the world to make a film is Tamil cinema. Nowhere in the world is there so many self appointed guardians of morality and politicians who feel a film can stir religious and caste problems. Getting a Tamil film especially those with big stars censored and released is becoming a headache.”

Last week Puthiya Thamizhagam president K Krishnasamy, objected to the release of Karthi’s Komban, and he wanted it banned! The censors had given it initially a U certificate but later under pressure from Krishnaswamy, it went to Revising Committee which gave it a UA certificate with cuts.

A special screening of Komban was organised after Madras High Court appointed a 10-member committee to watch the film after public interest litigation (PIL) petition was filed by Krishnasamy. He had alleged that if Komban is released, it will lead to caste clashes between scheduled caste communities and the Thevar community in southern districts of Tamil Nadu!

Subsequently the High Court reserved its order and Komban was released for the Easter weekend. The film turned out to be a village-based mass masala entertainer, and there were no caste aspersions or anything controversial in it. The critics tore into the film and The Hindu in its review said: “Take the controversy away and there’s very little here – rather, the fact that a controversy was created around something this underwhelming, this undeserving is worth a controversy of its own.”

The call for a ban on Komban has stemmed from the fear that the film could be glorifying the Thevar community, dominant in Tamil Nadu’s southern districts. This has triggered yet another debate on censorship and relevance of censor board in Tamil Nadu. This is not the first instance, many films have faced the wrath of extra constitutional powers, politicians and religious organisations in Tamil Nadu.

Kamal Haasan’s Viswaroopam is a film which ran into trouble in Tamil Nadu and faced angry outbursts from Muslim groups over his portrayal of the community as “terrorist” in the film. The Jayalalithaa government banned the film for two weeks in the state its primary market, while it ran to houseful shows in neighbouring states and rest of the world. Finally the film which had cleared censor board with a UA certificate was released in TN with additional cuts to please those who protested against it.

Vijay is another actor who faced wrath of various “unknown and mysterious letter pad organisations” against his films. A commercial masala film of Vijay, Thalaiva faced bomb threats and finally made it to theatres in Tamil Nadu two weeks after its worldwide release. Last year Vijay’s Kaththi too faced the wrath of a little known organisation, which wanted its London based producer’s name to be removed from the title cards as he was said to be a close friend of former Sri Lankan president Mahinda Rajapaksa! The film made it to theatres on release day after its’s producers name was removed from all promotional material and title cards.

Now the latest film to be caught in a ‘ban’ movement is Kamal Haasan’s big budget May day release Uttama Villain. Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) have called for a ban on the movie claiming it will affect and hurt religious sentiments of a certain section of the society. In a statement given to the commissioner of police in Chennai the organisation allege that they have issue with Iraniyan Nadagam song in Uttama Villain, which they claim may hurt Hindu religious sentiments.

A spokesperson of VHP said: “The lyrics of the song will upset followers of Lord Vishnu. It belittles the conversation between Prahalad and Hiranyakashipu. Hence, we demand a ban on the film.” Remember the Kamal Haasan starrer directed by popular Kannada actor Ramesh Aravind Uttama Villain has been censored by CBFC, with a ‘U’ certificate! It is scheduled for a massive 2000 screen release worldwide on 1 May in Tamil and Telugu.

An earlier Kamal Haasan film Manmadhan Ambu (2010), faced a similar problem from Hindu Makkal Katchi, who saw to it a song which they felt “degraded Hindu gods” was removed from the film after censor! And in the case of Kamal’s Viswaroopam, the Hindu Makkal Katchi protested against the movie asking for the change of title from Sanskrit to Tamil.

Kamal Haasan has always been targeted by Hindu organisations and local caste based politicians. In 2004 his Virumaandi which was initially titled as Sandiyar had to change its title after Puthiya Thamizhagam leader K Krishnaswamy protested citing “it will cause caste war in the state. The same Krishnasamy had no problem when early this year a film titled Sandiyar was released with little known stars.

Recently a lot of films after getting censored could not be screened in Tamil Nadu due to objections from political outfits. Dam 999 could not release as it was said to have taken the stand of Kerala government in the controversial Mullaperiyar dam issue, a sensitive subject in the state. Santosh Sivan’s critically acclaimed Tamil film Inam was banned in the state as it had “pro-Sinhalese treatment in its narration.” The Hindi film Madras Cafe was also not allowed to be shown in Tamil Nadu as it was said to be “anti- LTTE and shows its leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran in bad light.”

Mostly big hero films that are being targeted by fringe groups in TN. It has lend credence to rumours that most of these outfits are trying to make a fast buck and piggy back ride on the controversy and improve their political bargaining power in the state, as elections to state assembly is due next year.

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Photos: Ek Paheli Leela

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Why political, religious groups are targetting big Tamil stars

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