Whether Kamal Haasan's mega-budget thriller Vishwaroopam
will remain banned in Tamil Nadu could be decided later tonight. The Madras High Court is expected to deliver its verdict at around 10 pm.
In court today, the Tamil Nadu government defended the ban it ordered last week, just days before the film's scheduled release, over-ruling the clearance granted to the 95-crore film given by the country's censor board. The state's Advocate General Navaneedakrishnan described that sanction as "a scam" and said it appeared to have been granted "without application of the mind."
Kamal Haasan's lawyer argued that the ban is "unconstitutional." A lawyer representing the film board agreed. "It is absolutely unacceptable. We have certified hundreds and thousands of films...only with Vishwaroopam
, you find it has not been done with due diligence? This is an infringement on freedom of expression," said Leela Samson, who heads the Central Board for Film Certification.
The government introduced the ban citing the need to protect communal harmony after Muslim groups said the film's portrayal of the community is offensive. Before going to court, Kamal Haasan, who stars in the film which he has also directed and produced, described the government's intervention as "cultural terrorism" and said Vishwaroopam
is "one of the most Muslim-friendly films in recent times." (Case timeline: How Kamal Haasan fought 'cultural terrorism'
The judge hearing the case had reviewed the film over the weekend. Yesterday, he advised Kamal Haasan to compromise with the government. Last night, reports emerged that the actor had rejected suggestions by government representatives to edit the film by an hour.
The controversy engulfing the film has impaired its release in other Southern states. In cities like Hyderabad, the film's screening in theatres has been punctuated with protests outside. In Karnataka, the film has been released today with police protection. (Read)