In spite of getting clearance from the Central Board of Film Certification, Kamal Haasan’s mega-ambitious movie faces a ban from the Tamil Nadu government. Is this move justified? Can the state impose this kind of diktat on films, or is there more to the whole issue than meets the eye? We dissect the controversy to find out what exactly made Vishwaroopam attract so much of the wrong kind of attention….
It all started when Kamal Haasan’s decision to release his magnum opus Vishwaroopam on the DTH platform (Direct-to-Home) set the industry abuzz. The 58-year-old actor-filmmaker defended his move to introduce the film in pay-per-view mode on DTH networks on the day of its theatrical release.
What Haasan thought would be an innovative move to earn money through a novel and legitimate avenue bothered producers and exhibitors from the industry who were apprehensive about the result of this newer technology that could eat into the profits they would have made by screening the film in theatres alone.
As per Haasan’s innovative concept, the film would have been screened on DTH eight hours before its theatrical release at the cost of Rs 1,000 per viewing. In doing so, the superstar wanted to take his film – as well as the whole experience of movie watching – to a newer level and also wanted to curb rampant video piracy. But his opponents, mostly film exhibitors and distributors, argued that this ‘technologically-sound’ move could have killed any curiosity about the film, and therefore affect potential business, even if producers were more than excited to explore the idea.
As the debate raged on and Haasan refused to relent, the film faced newer hassles on the eve of its release. Finally, after much argument, the movie lost its distribution channel and the idea of the DTH premiere had to be shelved. But Vishwaroopam found itself embroiled in a newer controversy when it faced the state-imposed ban following a new brouhaha. Some Muslim organisations in states like Tamil Nadu thought that the film portrayed their community in a negative light. The screening of the film was subsequently stopped in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and recently even in Malaysia. Interestingly and ironically, even though the Central Board of Film Certification has cleared the movie for viewing a ban has been imposed by the state government without consulting any expert body.
Meanwhile, Haasan has received enormous support from the film fraternity, including southern superstar Rajiniknath, who has urged Muslims to end the controversy through peaceful talks. Kamal Haasan’s fans and those who attended the special screening of Vishwaroopam are of the opinion that the film has not portrayed Muslims in a bad light. And, they insist, the veteran actor has not tried to link the community with terrorism.
The entire episode has been tinged with a political colour now. Is the ban politically motivated, is the question being raised. In this scenario the possibility of Haasan’s detractors – some powerful exhibitors as well as distributors working in tandem with political parties, each trying to milk the controversy to fulfil their own agendas – can not be ruled out. Amidst this confusion, liberally peppered with allegations and counter-allegations, the Madras High Court deferred its order till Tuesday. That means the movie will be stopped from screening for at least the next two weeks. The court has also suggested that Kamal Haasan should engage with the group opposing the film and find an amicable way to deal with the issue.
While we at BollywoodLife condemn censorship of this kind in any context, we are curious to know what the outcome of this argument will be. And, of course, we look forward to watching Vishwaroopam, controversies and all!