Now that the Tamil version of Vishwaroopam—vetted and pre-censored by alarmist Muslim groups in Tamil Nadu—has been released, what are the apparently inflammatory and incendiary content Tamil viewers will be spared? These are scenes that have already been seen by everyone elsewhere in the country and haven’t, so far, provoked rioting or communal outrage. But in Tamil Nadu, the film prompted: violent protests even before its release, state’s subsequent abdication to maintain law and order and a dramatic threat of self-imposed exile by Kamalahaasan. This wasn’t the first time the actor has courted the ire of Muslim groups, some of whom had expressed concern with how earlier movies Hey Ram and Unnaipol Oruvan had depicted Muslims.
Outlook spoke to two Muslim leaders, M.H. Jawahirullah, MLA, of the Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam (TMMK) and A.K. Mohhammad Hanifa, coordinator of the Federation of Islamic Organisations and Political Parties in Tamil Nadu, who were among those to have met with Kamalahaasan and the state’s home secretary R. Rajagopal in backroom parleys to discern specific instances from the film that had caused the controversy and the changes were finally promised to smooth things over.
Roadblocks A protest in Madurai
What follows is a listing of the edits sought by the protestors against those actually made by Raaj Kamal Films International to clear the way for Vishwaroopam’s release in Tamil Nadu:
Cut made: Muted Quranic verses
Cut made: Muted the words “Tamil Nadula” and “Coimbatore, Madurai”
Cut made: Muted the words “Tamil Pesura Jehadi”
Cut made: Muted the words “Allah Ho Akbar” in one instance
Cut made: Visual distortion of the banner in the backdrop
Cut made: Muted euphoric words
Apart from these modifications, Jawahirullah says, the film will now carry a disclaimer stating explicitly that it is a work of fiction and not intended to hurt the sentiments of the members of any religious community. When asked whether this confrontation could have been pre-empted had the film carried such a disclaimer from the get-go, he replies that all filmmakers have a social responsibility. “And more so in a state where cinema is so powerful, so much so that the industry has produced five chief ministers. People here have confessed to committing crimes after being inspired by films. Without these changes, Vishwaroopam would have made it seem as though the Quran is a textbook in the hands of terrorists and the namaz a motivation for terrorist attacks.”
It has also emerged that the Muslim groups wanted more changes, including the deletion of all scenes where terrorists are reading the namaz, especially one where a Nigerian terrorist is shown readying himself for martyrdom and praying before he attempts to explode a nuclear bomb in New York (they had no problem with Kashmiri reciting the namaz when he is faced with the threat of a nuclear explosion). However, Kamalahaasan managed to strike a compromise after offering the changes listed above, arguing that further changes entailed high costs and delays.
As to why Muslims in neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka or Kerala haven’t taken similar umbrage with the film, Hanifa argues that Tamil Nadu’s Muslims are far better organised. “We expressed our anger collectively and reaped a successful result,” he says.
I followed the controversy over Kamalahaasan’s Vishwaroopam with much unease. It’s incredible that the film got censor clearance in Tamil Nadu only after some forced changes and cuts, a result of threats from Muslim bodies in Tamil Nadu (The Littered Floor of the Cutting Room, Feb 18). It's also disappointing that Kamalahaasan agreed to the unjustified demands made by these fundamentalists. If the film can run across India without cuts, why not in Tamil Nadu? Kamal was wrong to buckle down, he would have only risen in the esteem of his many fans worldwide if he had not done so. With all the cuts, the film’s now a failure.
V. Edakkazhiyoor, Yaduvaram, Kerala
With reference to the ‘unjustified’ cuts in his film, I just want to ask Kamal if he would have dared to make a movie portraying Tamil Hindus as LTTE supporters who assassinated Rajiv Gandhi. In fact, that would have been more relevant in the Indian context than this 9/11 nonsense.
Nawazish Khan, on e-mail
8D 73 Ramki sir,
Let me confess first that I deligently ollow ur posts and
do appreciate your libera thinking. You aways stood for
Independent EC,Judiciary and Press. Ok then why not creative freedom?
In Tamilnadu The 100cr invested film's TV rights was understood ha gained
by JAYA tv. But Kamalhasan adventurously tried to release the film
through DTH. The ban came that moment Delhi has nothing to do abt this.
why other states didnt ask Ban?
Creative freedom is paramount like you said abt Hollywood and Bush. Thanks
If a movie causes law and order problems, these eminent personalities aka friends of the ruling party @ delhi will not come and own responsiblity. The fact is there was big organized protest in TN and the CM panicked since she did not want even a 1% chance of repeat of gujarat 2002.
Which brings again to the point - India is a diverse nation, diverse in every sense. Why should one board sitting @ Delhi decide what is right and wrong?
You are telling democratically elected govt is deciding censor board. Fine, then do we allow the govt to decide how Election Commission functions or how judges give judgements?
Just notice that in last 65 years,one dynaty has ruled us for over 50 years but why is that we have very few movies made about the dark deeds of this family/dyansty?
In US, hollywood is bold and makes movies critical of bush right when he was president .
That is why, Censor board should operate independent of executive just like judiciary and EC. And friends of sonia madame like sharmila tagore should not be seated there. These boards are not post retirement clubs for some feudal elite.
6 D 119 thanku Ramki for response. Censor board
members are appointed by Democratically elected Govt
and certain laid down norms are observed. Mostly
eminent pesons from film industry are listed as members.
How can ruling party of Delhi interfere in each and everyfilm
that sensor passes? Ramki tell me why only AIDMK ruled state
banned the release While Karnataka (BJP ruled) and Kerala did not ban??
Marxist and left parties supported KAMAL Why?
VNK Murthi >> Once censor board has cleared the film
that need be the final.
Not necessary. Censor Board is always stuffed with appointees of ruling party @ delhi and there is no need for our country's entertainment to be decided by some political dynasty.
Once censor board has cleared the film
that need be the final. Bowing to the pressure of some group
then after and muting or cutting the film is creating
a bad precedence. Tomarrow another offnded group
may sprung up demanding deleting to a film paased by censor
jury. Art and culture need to be a medium beyond the reachof group
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