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Kamal Haasan threatens to move overseas

On Wednesday afternoon, Vishwaroopam banned again; Haasan agrees to make cuts in the film

Image Credit: REUTERS
Indian actor Kamal Haasan, star of the film 'Vishwaroopam' poses during an interview with Reuters Television in Los Angeles.

After vandalism was reported in seven Chennai theatres on Wednesday, Kamal Haasan met with Muslim leaders and agreed to delete some scenes from his banned film, Vishwaroopam. The Madras High Court also set aside Tuesday’s single judge order which had overturned the ban, banning again in Tamil Nadu. Rajkamal Films, Haasan’s production house has been asked to file counter on the case on Monday.

The union territory of Pondicherry, however revoked the ban. Pondy, as it is better known, is just an over an hour’s drive from Chennai and often a weekend destination.

Earlier on Wednesday at a press conference at his house, the veteran actor said that if the ban on his big-budget film was not lifted, he might have to look for a “secular state” and leave the country.

“I have lost all my property for the film, so I have nothing to lose, but choose now. If the judgment is not favourable for me, I have to look out for a secular state abroad. We will get away from this place but will have lot of good memories,” the 58-year-old told reporters.

“If there is no secular state in India, I would go overseas. I think Tamil Nadu wants me out. What would change is my passport; I would still be an Indian. I have pledged all my property for the film. I have lost my house because of the delay in release,” he added. Referring to late artist, M.F. he said, “Hussain had to do that. Now Haasan will do that.”

The Madras High Court on Tuesday ruled in favour of Vishwaroopam and lifted the ban by the state government. It, however, said the administrative step was to be taken by the government. On Wednesday morning and Tuesday evening in several parts of Tamil Nadu, the screenings had to be cancelled with reports of burning of posters and vandalism. The state government moved the bench on Wednesday challenging the single judge order.

“The fact is that I have yet to get interim relief as some of my friends have reported in [the] press,” said Haasan.

“The film shows are stopped again and the police have sent away fans, asking for a court order copy. I have been thrashed in a political game, monetary loss is not important,” Haasan added.

“The film can be released in theatres tomorrow and the Section 144 order issued by the district collector will be kept in abeyance,” said Justice K. Venkatraman in Tuesday’s interim order. “I have watched the film and it has no scenes that hurt the sentiments of [the] Muslim community.”

The verdict on the ban was issued after actor-filmmaker Haasan was requested to settle the matter amicably with the government of Tamil Nadu on January 28. This was after a judge saw the movie in a private screening on January 26.

The Rs950 million (Dh65 million) espionage thriller was originally scheduled to release in Tamil and Telugu on January 25. However, a day before the screenings, the Tamil Nadu government imposed a two-week ban on the film after some Muslim groups complained some scenes portrayed the community in a bad light.

Haasan described the ban as “cultural terrorism” and added: “Any neutral and patriotic Muslim will surely feel pride on seeing my film. It was designed for that purpose.”

Vishwaroopam was banned from being screened in Kerala, parts of Hyderabad, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh on January 25, soon after the first show. The film resumed playing in as many as 40 cinemas amid police security in Karnataka on Tuesday morning. It was released with the tagline included in the credits, “All Muslims are not terrorists and the characters depicted in this film are imaginary”.

Distributors and theatre owners who had to remove the film fear losses of Rs300 million and above.

Chandra Haasan, Kamal Haasan’s brother and a producer on the film, said: “We are anticipating a loss of Rs30 crore to 80 crore due to the initial delay in the release of the film.”

The film was also banned in Malaysia on January 26, where it released on January 24, after the Malaysian ministry intervened and requested the distributor to stop the screening the film. The film is doing well in other markets overseas. “[The] Tamil film Vishwaroopam is superb in the US and very good in Britain,” tweeted trade analyst Taran Adarsh.

Superstar Rajinikanth, filmmaker Bharathiraja and producer Mukta Srinivasan have requested Muslim organisations to allow the peaceful release of the film. The film is under review in the UAE by the National Media Council.