Chennai: Actor-director Kamal Haasan has agreed to run seven scenes that Muslim groups had found objectionable in his movie Vishwaroopam without audio. This paves the way for the movie, which was banned for two weeks by the government, to be finally released in Tamil Nadu, its biggest market. The compromise deal came after a six-hour meeting on Saturday between Mr Haasan, government officials, and representatives of Muslim groups in Chennai.
Emerging from the meeting, Mr Haasan said, "I will let you know the date of the release soon," and thanked Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa and the home secretary for facilitating the meeting. The chief minister had mooted conciliatory negotiations on Thursday.
Mr Hassan and his elder brother Chandra Haasan, who is also the co-producer of the movie, met with 13 representatives of various Muslim organisations in Chennai on Saturday. Sources say the protestors wanted 15 scenes in all to be audio edited. After tough negotiations, which were mediated by Home Secretary R Rajagopal, Mr Haasan agreed to edit seven scenes.
Mr Haasan said, "We will take back our petition and hope that the ban on the film would be lifted."
It will take some time though before the movie can be screened in the state. For starters, the state government will need to formally lift section 144, which it imposed in all 31 districts of the state along with the movie's ban last month. District collectors will have to be notified that the movie has been cleared for screening.
Mr Chandra Hassan told NDTV that the process of audio-editing and finalising the revised version of the film would take about six hours, after which digital reprints would be ready. But, the movie will now have to compete for screen time with two other big weekend releases - Mani Ratnam's Kadal and actor Vikram's David. Both are running to packed houses and have advance bookings for the next three days.
Mr Haasan has refused to reveal which portions of the movie will be edited. He said that a list identifying the audio edits would be sent to the censor board, which would formally declare them.
The Rs. 95-crore blockbuster, which has been cleared by the censor board, first ran into trouble in Tamil Nadu after some groups alleged that it portrayed Muslims in poor light. The state government put its release on hold for two weeks on January 23 citing law and order concerns. The order was upheld by the Madras High Court. Soon protests against the movie spread to neighbouring Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, and Kerala and screenings of the movie were affected.
Meanwhile, the movie's Hindi version, Vishwaroop has been well-received in north India, barring some minor protests in Lucknow.