Actor Kamal Haasan's film Vishwaroopam will not release in Tamil Nadu as scheduled tomorrow, the Madras High Court has ruled. On Saturday, a judge will review the film which was banned by the state government for two weeks because of protests by Muslim groups. The ban on the Rs. 95 crore movie will remain in place till Monday, when the judge delivers a verdict.
"Whether the film has got any scenes affecting the sentiment of the people, who have given complaint, or not could be decided only after viewing the film," Justice K Venkataraman said.
Kamal Haasan, who is abroad, had described the ban as "cultural terrorism" and appealed in court today after the government said, on Thursday evening, that it would not allow the film to release in 500 theatres across the state as scheduled tomorrow.
Kamal Haasan had invited the leaders of Muslim organisations to a special screening of the film recently, but the viewing did not change their opinion that the movie "could disturb communal harmony." They disagree with the portrayal of Muslims in the film. "The movie shows Muslims in bad light, as terrorists and we want a total ban on the movie," SM Hidayathullah, Chairman, Council for National Integration told NDTV. His organisation is among several which are opposing the movie.
"Vishwaroopam is the most Muslim-friendly film I have seen in recent times," the actor countered.
He said in a statement this morning, "My sensibilities are truly insulted. I've been ruthlessly used as vehicle by small groups seeking political profile. Icon bashing is a great way to be noticed when you are not one yourself. It is happening again and again. Any neutral and patriotic Muslim will surely feel pride on seeing my film. It was designed for that purpose." (Read full statement)
The filmmaker has found support in the social media but the response of the Tamil film fraternity has been largely muted.
The run-up to Vishwaroopam's release has so far been chequered. Kamal Haasan's dream to premiere the movie on the Direct to Home (DTH) platform didn't take off after theatre owners in the state opposed the move, apprehending revenue loss. However, the actor had decided to release the film on DTH a week after its release in theatres. Tamil Nadu accounts for a major chunk of the revenue with around 500 screens originally scheduled to screen the movie from tomorrow.
But insiders in the Tamil film industry say there is more to what meets the eye. The real battle, many say, is over the acquisition of television rights of the movie which is presently held by a private channel.
The film, which is to be released tomorrow in other parts of the country, is a spy thriller starring Kamal Haasan in the lead alongwith Rahul Bose, Pooja Kumar and Jaideep Ahlawat.