Ignoring Muslim groups, UP govt releases Vishwaroopam

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Police security outside a cinema hall screening Vishwaroopam. Photo: PTI

Lucknow, Feb 1: Ignoring protests and threats of agitation by Muslim clerics, UP government today allowed the screening of the Hindi version of controversial mega-budget film Vishwaroopam. The film was released today in Uttar Pradesh under tight security cover. However, the first show of the film, scheduled to start at 9 am, at different multiplexes in the state capital could not be screened as it could not be downloaded, owners of the multiplexes screens said.

The film has attracted huge media attention with the Tamil Nadu government banning the screening of the film, following protest by Muslim organisations in the state. The Madras High Court also upheld the ban. Film producer, Kamal Haasan irked by the ban on the film in his home state had threatened to migrate to another country like the painter MF Hussain.

The first show of the film in Lucknow started around 12:30 hrs in the noon. It drew a huge crowd in state capital, and in all the multiplexes, tickets were sold out much before the starting show.

On Thursday, there were intense speculations that the UP government could ban the film, after a senior SP leader Ramasrey Kushawaha said the film had anti-Muslim content; and the UP government would allow screening only after the film is watched by an official committee.

Chief minister Akhilesh Yadav on Thursday had refused to answer queries of the media about banning the film. “I have not seen the film, nor has anybody so far made any complaint to the government against the film. I will l comment only after watching the film”, Yadav said.

Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Arum Kumar said today that the government has imposed no restrictions on the film’s screening. He mentioned, “Additional police forces were deployed at all the multiplexes and single screen cinema halls where the film was screened today; no untoward incident has been reported from any part of the state.”

Maulana Khalid Rasid Firangi Mahali, the Naib Imam of Idgah,Lucknow, under his banner Islamic Center of India has opposed the release of the film. He said, “UP government should not permit screening of the film without deleting the controversial scene which hurts religious sentiments of Muslims’’. Some Muslim organisations like All India Sunni Board and All India Muslim Youth Federation had also opposed the release of the film.

Shia cleric Maulana Yasoob Abbas had also opposed release of the film in UP. He said that without deleting the objectionable part of the film, it should not be released.

Last Wednesday, a Madras High Court bench headed by Justice Dharma Rao re-imposed the ban and nullified the revocation of an earlier ban on the film by Justice K Venkataraman on January 29. The final hearing on the case is due on February 6.  The film was originally scheduled to be released in Tamil and Telugu on January 25, but a day before its screening, the Tamil Nadu government imposed a two-week ban after Muslim groups complained of some scenes in the film portraying the community in bad light.

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Special Correspondent (Lucknow)

Virendra Nath Bhatt is a post graduate in Economics. Started career as journalist in 1982, by contributing for a couple of Hindi dailies of Lucknow and Bareilly and also Jansatta of Delhi. Joined the English daily `The Pioneer in 1990 and later shifted to National Herald. After one year joined as correspondent for the Onlooker Magazine published from Bombay in 1991. In 1995 again joined The Pioneer in 1995 and worked till 2007. In December joined Indian Express Luck now. In September 2011 joined Tehelka. Bhatt has extensively covered parliament and assembly elections in Uttar Pradesh since 1985 and also the Ramjanma Bhoomi-Babri Masjid dispute in Ayodhya and the movement for social justice – the social strife against the implementation of the Mandal commission report in August 1990.