- Director AR Murugadoss went to court for protection from arrest
- AIADMK furious over scene in film
- Party objects to name of villain, played by actor Varalaxmi Sarathkumar
The makers of 'Sarkar', a Tamil political thriller starring actor Vijay, have under immense pressure from the Tamil Nadu government edited out parts of the movie seen as critical of the ruling AIADMK and former chief minister J Jayalalithaa, who died in 2016. The film, released on Tuesday, will be screened with a five-second video cut and audio muted at three points after protests and vandalism by AIADMK supporters.
The film's director AR Murugadoss, who tweeted last night about the police banging at his door when he was not at home, has been granted protection from arrest by the Madras High Court, which made strong observations about "interference" from the government.
"If censor board has certified the film why is there interference from the government," asked the court, stating that the director cannot be arrested till November 27. The court also questioned whether the government had taken any action against the protesters.
The AIADMK is furious over a scene in the film in which Mr Murugadoss, playing a cameo, flings a mixer-grinder given as a freebie into the fire. The party also objected to the name of a villain - Komalavaalli - which is the original name of Jayalalithaa.
"They are showing freebies given by the elected government being burnt. This amounts to indirectly inciting people, and comes under sedition," said state minister CV Shanmugam, comparing the screening of 'Sarkar' to "terrorist activity".
In protests over the past two days, AIADMK workers ripped apart banners and damaged cut-outs of Vijay outside theatres in Tamil Nadu. Theatre owners urged Sun Pictures, the makers of the film, to delete the portions.
"AIADMK cannot accept scenes that demean Jayalalithaa. Freebies help to improve socio-economic status of the state. Even fans of actor Vijay will have freebies given by Jayalalithaa. The film industry should be more careful in future," said minister RB Udhayakumar.
Produced by media baron Kalanithi Maran, the film is pulling in big crowds and has reportedly crossed the Rs 100-crore mark in just two days.
In the film, Vijay plays an NRI who returns to India to vote, only to learn that his vote has been cast illegally. He then digs deep and ends up stirring up a political controversy. For the AIADMK, some scenes were too close to home.
Freebies offered by both AIADMK and DMK in elections over the years have ranged from colour TV sets and mixer-grinders to fans and laptops.
The DMK has accused the AIADMK government of trying to crush dissent. "The ruling party and its ministers are indulging in intimidation. People are dying of dengue and the impact of demonetisation is felt even today, but the state government is trying to divert attention by picking on films," said party spokesperson A Saravanan.
The AIADMK denied that it is intolerant to criticism. "If we were intolerant, we would not have allowed the film to be screened. Instead, we gave permission for seven shows daily," said Mr Shanmugam.
The film row comes just before crucial bypolls in 20 constituencies.
This is not the first time Vijay, who is believed to be keen on politics, has faced trouble over his films. Last year, the BJP objected to his film 'Mersal' for promoting "misconceptions" about central government policies including GST or Goods and Services Tax, demonetisation and the Digital India campaign.