Vishwaroopam row ends; Kamal, Muslim groups reach accord

Actor Kamal Hassan addresses media after meeting Home Secretary R Rajagopal and some Muslim organisation regarding the controversial movie ‘Vishwaroopam’, in Chennai on Saturday. PTI Photo

Chennai, Feb 2 (PTI) : Ending a week-long suspense and drama, Kamal Haasan’s controversial Tamil film Vishwaroopam is finally poised for release in the state with some cuts after the actor and Muslim groups opposed to it reached a settlement during the state-government brokered talks here today.

Emerging after the marathon talks lasting six hours in the presence of Home Secretary R Rajagopal at the Secretariat, Haasan said they have agreed to remove certain audio portions and hoped the government would revoke the ban imposed in the wake of protests by some Muslim outfits which considered the film offensive to their religion.

“We will immediately arrange to announce the date of release after consultations, including with technical team,” the actor who produced the mega-budget Rs 100 crore film told reporters ending nearly two-month long uncertainty marked by twists and turns over its release.

Haasan said they would withdraw their petition in the Madras High Court challenging the two-week ban and expressed hope that the government would revoke its action that drew nation-wide criticism for stifling freedom of expression.

Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam representative M H Jawahirullah, MLA, said Haasan has agreed for some cuts in the film, portions of which Muslims had deemed to be offensive.

“The outcome of the meeting is fruitful,” he said as the tri-partite meeting came after Chief Minister Jayalalithaa offered to facilitate it to pave the way for the release of the film though she had strongly justified the ban.

The multi-lingual film, originally slated for release on January 11, has been released and running smoothly in other states including Kerala with a 25 per cent Muslim population, and Andhra and Karnataka. Its Hindi version “Vishwaroop” hit theatres in north India yesterday which, according to Haasan, had evoked ‘fantastic’ response.

Haasan, who made a brief statement and refused to take questions, thanked Jayalalithaa for facilitating the solution to the issue which sparked a major controversy.

“In the talks with my Muslim brothers, I heard their grievances and explained technical problems. The censor board would be informed,” he said on the mutually accepted cuts.

The talks were to be held yesterday but did not materialise as the Muslim organisations insisted on the presence of Haasan who was in Mumbai for the release of the film’s Hindi version.

A spy thriller set in the US and Afghanistan with the plot centring around terror, the film hit the first roadblock after tech-savvy actor’s faceoff with exhibitors over his insistence on releasing it on Direct-to-Home platform a day ahead of the theatre release, forcing him to put it off indefinitely.

Another hurdle came when Muslim outfits expressed apprehensions over the content of the film and sought a preview for them, which the actor obliged but failed to win their nod leading to the government’s ban on grounds of law and order problems.

Haasan took the battle to the court challenging the ban and got a relief with a single judge allowing its release, but it was shortlived as a division bench on an appeal by the government struck it down.

The case is coming up on February 6 for hearing before the single judge to whom the division bench reverted the matter.

Anguished and hurt, a “fed up” Haasan threatened ‘self-exile’ to move to a ‘secular place’ in the country excluding Tamil Nadu, or overseas as done by late painter M F Hussain following opposition by right wing groups to his nude paintings of Hindu gods and goddesses.

As Haasan spoke of ‘cultural terrorism’ and poured out his heart explaining pledging of his entire property to make the film, support flowed for him from the film industry in Tamil Nadu and Bollywood as also the Centre which questioned the state government’s ban after the censor board’s clearance.