Looking at the events over the past few days, one does feel that cinema is becoming a really easy and soft target for politicians and outfits who are constantly looking to gain some mileage through the entertainment industry. This has been a culture which has been in vogue for quite a few decades now. High profile movies like Roja, Bombay, Dil Se, Virumaandi, Hey Ram, Manmadhan Ambu to name a few, were at the receiving end of some scathing protests. The core reasons for these protests were invariably surrounding religion, caste and community. At least these movies managed to release and some of them went on to become commercially victorious as well.
But, as ‘Film News’ Anandhan said, a high profile movie like Vishwaroopam and featuring such a big star like Kamal, has never faced such a Himalayan struggle to even release in theaters. The Vishwaroopam issue has stirred the online media like never before and opinions have been flying thick and fast questioning how the state government can ban a film after it has been cleared by the central censor authorities. Popular opinion was that there were some ulterior motives behind the government’s decision to put aside the release of the movie. But the press statement released by Chief Minister Dr. J. Jayalalitha explaining the practical difficulties in maintaining law and order and clarifying the government’s decision to ban the movie did cool tempers to a larger extent.
On a lighter note, people have pointed out that in future, political outfits and legal personnel would be the first to see a highly anticipated movie. The censors and public will have to wait.
This waiting game replete with dialogues and legal hearings has resulted in losses to Kamal Haasan, estimated to be as high as the budget of the movie itself. In that sense, Vishwaroopam is a commercial disaster in Tamil Nadu even before release, despite garnering good reviews in overseas markets and in the neighboring states of Kerala, Andhra and Karnataka. We have to see how an eager public takes to the movie when it is expected to release later in the week in Tamil Nadu, now that all the decks are set to clear for the release of the movie.
Voices were also initially irked by the lack of unity and support for Kamal Haasan from the film industry which has countless unions. Being a senior statesman in the industry who has been a regular in so many film events and political events as well, Kamal Haasan deserved a bigger show of hands than the odd one, here and there. But the industry woke up once Kamal came out with a moving speech on how this issue had affected his standing. After that, the entire thing blew into a media circus with Kamal’s office being sort of a 24*7 shrine for everyone concerned.
But looking at the way Kamal has been speaking to the national news media, he is doing a very good job of hiding all the pain and anger and showcasing a brave face. He has turned out to be sort of a Messiah thanks to his usage of sentences like ‘The protesting Muslims are like my own brothers’. His statements about having to leave the state and the country in search of a secular place, have given him the kind of positive PR and publicity that even crores of money can’t achieve. After all you don’t see the likes of Salman Khan, Shahrukh Khan and Aamir Khan talking about a Tamil film everyday. This entire saga can also be considered as a case study in marketing and publicity for a film.
Now, coming back to the core of the column, another big film, Aadhi Bhagavan, one which has already been struggling to see the light of the day over the past three years, has also been dragged into this political mess now. Some Hindu outfit has taken offense to the name of the movie and they want a screening before the release of the movie to ascertain that nothing offensive is in the movie. Looking at the tagline of the movie, A Mafioso Action Love Story, even a small child will say that it is a gangster movie with a fair dose of romance as well. Where does religion and caste come into play here? Are politicians so dumb that they can’t understand what a movie is about? Didn’t they see the trailer of Aadhi Bhagavan where it was suggested that Ravi maybe called Bhagavan in the movie? This utter irrationality is baffling.
There was another recent order which said that Murugadoss’ recent hit, Thuppakki, had to be censored again with an A certificate after all objectionable scenes against Muslims have been removed. One wonders, with the movie nearing the end of its run, if there is any logic in such a statement.
Creative fans have been having a field day ever since all these cases and they have been commenting in a lighter vein that films need to first get a community certificate before being sent for the censor certificate. The mother of all such viral creations was an image showing a big elephant blocking vehicles on the road and the caption was that this elephant, by the name Komban, was protesting the release of Kumki which portrayed elephants such as it, in a violent light. Others went to the extent of saying that now even snakes and monkeys would start protesting the release of director Ramanarayanan’s films.
Though the protesting political outfits might have had some really valid concerns with the movies that they are opposing, one feels that with so many pressing issues on hand like lack of food and water, education, women’s safety, shortage of electricity, issues related to road and transport to name a few; watching, assessing and opposing a film must come nowhere near the to-do list of politicians. There is a censor board to do this ‘watchdog’ duty and above all there are fans and responsible media personnel who wouldn’t spare a movie if it portrayed our ‘other religion’ brothers and sisters in a degrading light.
So, Mr. Respected Politician and Mr. Social Organization member: stop aiming at soft targets like films and movie stars and challenge yourself by donating your attention to issues which really affect the layman of the state. The film industry is already one with a very negligible year-on-year growth rate thanks to plaguing issues like pricing, piracy, ticket rates and advent of other entertainment options. We don’t need alien elements like politicians and the judiciary to peep into our niche arena.