The Madras High Court has begun hearing arguments on whether the ban on actor-director Kamal Haasan's film Vishwaroopam should be lifted. Mr Haasan's lawyer told the court that it is unconstitutional to stop the screening of a movie cleared by the censor board.
A judge who watched the film last weekend had advised Mr Haasan, who has also produced the film, to settle the matter amicably with the government.
Yesterday, reports emerged that Mr Haasan has been asked to edit his mega-budget thriller by nearly an hour to ensure it releases in theatres. However, sources say the actor is unlikely to agree.
The editing was reportedly suggested by representatives of the Tamil Nadu government, which banned the film on the eve of its release last week after Muslim groups alleged that the film's portrayal of Muslims is offensive.
The actor has described the ban as "cultural terrorism" and had said, "Any neutral and patriotic Muslim will surely feel pride on seeing my film. It was designed for that purpose."
The censor board, which cleared the film, has also criticised the state government's intervention. "Even if there is any discrimination or any such against a community we are here to raise our voice even before the state government. Once we certify, I think the public should be allowed to watch the movie," said Leela Samson, Chairperson of the Central Board of Film Certification.
The controversy around the Rs 95-crore film has hampered its release in other southern states like Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.
"Depending upon the way in which the judgment goes, the loss will be between Rs 55-80 crore. We don't know if the theatre will take up the movies, this is a matter of law. If the movie had to hurt the sentiments of any community, we wouldn't have made it," said Chandra Haasan, the film's producer and Kamal Haasan's brother.
Hardcore fans of the actor from Tamil Nadu have been taking buses to watch Vishwaroopam in neighbouring Kerala where some cinemas managed to screen the film.