The Madras High Court has deferred a decision on whether a ban imposed by the Tamil Nadu government on the release of actor Kamal Haasan's Rs 95-crore film Vishwaroopam in the state should stay or not. The judge, in observations made today, asked the actor-filmmaker to explore all possibilities to arrive at an "amicable settlement" with the state government, which had banned the release of the film following allegations by some organisations that the film shows Muslims in poor light. The High Court judge had watched the film on Saturday to review it.
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Kamal Haasan returned to Chennai early this morning after attending the premiere of Vishwaroopam in the US. The actor's brother and film's producer Chandra Haasan said, "Mr Kamal Haasan is yet to look into the matter. Depending upon the way in which the judgment goes, the loss will be between Rs 30-80 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."
While making observations today, the judge also observed that the court was "concerned about the unity of the country." The court has posted the case for tomorrow. "The court's observations have to be taken only as observations and not as order," the actor's lawyer said.
The film has stirred controversy with some groups protesting against the film's portrayal of Muslims. They claim that the movie is anti- Muslim. The Indian Certification Board, as the censor board is known as now, has, however, cleared the film.
Kamal Haasan has denied all allegations. He described the ban as "cultural terrorism" and the movie as "Muslim-friendly." He also held a special screening of the film for the protesting groups but failed to win their approval.
The Tamil Nadu government fears of law and order trouble while banning the film. Police personnel were deployed outside the high court today.
The blackout of Vishwaroopam has spread from Tamil Nadu to other neighbouring states as well. The movie was initially released in Andhra Pradesh on Friday, but the distributor later decided to cancel screenings in the state capital of Hyderabad. The film has not screened at all in Bangalore. However, it continues to run in Kerala despite protests.
On Saturday, the movie was removed from local cinemas in Malaysia a day after its release following a directive from the Home Ministry. Sri Lanka too has ordered a delay in the release in favour of a review by censors.
DMK chief M Karunanidhi has urged Muslim groups that have protested against the film to hold talks with Kamal Haasan to resolve their differences. PMK founder S Ramadoss criticised the ban on the movie saying, "The Tamil Nadu government has been indulging in acts against the freedom of expression. If there is a law and order situation, it is the responsibility of the government to handle it. It is not appropriate to ban a movie."
Southern superstar Rajinikanth too appealed to Muslim groups to work with Kamal Haasan by suggesting that changes that would not "affect the storyline". Lobbying against the ban on the film, he said on Friday, "I have known Kamal for 40 years. He would not hurt anyone." Veteran Tamil film director Bharatiraja said the ban would not only affect Kamal Haasan but that of all artistes.
The actor has received huge support on social media. In his statement after the Tamil Nadu government banned the release of his film, Kamal Hassan had thanked fans for their support saying, "This kind of cultural terrorism will have to stop. I thank those who rose to the occasion and to my support on the Internet."