Chennai, Jan. 28: The suspense over the release of Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroopam continued today with Madras High Court deferring till tomorrow a decision on whether to lift the state government’s ban on screening the film’s Tamil version.
The high court premises were teeming with people because Justice K. Venkatraman, who had watched the movie on Saturday, had declared he would give his verdict today.
But when the court met in the morning, the judge suggested “the petitioner (Kamal Haasan) explore all possibilities to find an amicable solution to the issue with the government”.
The state government banned Vishwaroopam for the time being following some Muslim group’s claim that the film defamed the community.
“We need to keep in mind the law-and-order situation in the country, (and the) unity of the nation,” Justice Venkatraman said.
“Because of this, there should not be any disharmony among the communities. That is the primary consideration.”
After finding out whether Kamal Haasan was back in the country — the actor-director arrived in Chennai this morning — the judge suggested he speak to state government officials.
Kamal Haasan’s counsel P.S. Raman described the court’s advice as only an observation and not an order. Kamal Haasan’s elder brother Chandra Haasan, also a lawyer, said he would explain the court’s sentiments to his brother.
State home department officials said this evening that Kamal Haasan had till now not sought any appointment with home secretary R. Rajagopal.
While many saw the judge’s observation as an attempt to throw the ball back into the state government’s court, some lawyers suggested he possibly expected the actor-director to trim some scenes from the film.
But M.H. Jawahirullah, president of the Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam which is spearheading the campaign against the film, said Muslim groups would not compromise on a complete ban.
“Just a few token deletions of a few scenes will not alter the intent of the movie, which is to besmirch the entire Muslim community,” he said.
Kamal Haasan has, however, found support from political leaders such as the DMK’s M. Karunanidhi and Ramadoss of the PMK, who have cited how the actor had worked for Muslim-Hindu harmony after the demolition of the Babri Masjid.
The DMK had found itself on the defensive since Muhammed Jinnah, the Muslim representative on the censor panel that cleared the movie, happens to be its member. Jinnah had lost the May 2011 Assembly election from Chennai’s Thousand Lights constituency.
Jinnah has now clarified in a statement that it’s the majority view on the censor panel that is taken into consideration, and that this was done in the case of Vishwaroopam as well. Since the Hindi and Telugu versions of the film had already been given a censor certificate, the Tamil version too got one.
“It should also be noted that many Hollywood films with scenes depicting the acts of al Qaida and the Taliban had been released in India after being cleared by the censors though Indian Muslims have never subscribed to the ideology or acts of these groups,” he said.
With Rajinikanth rallying behind him, Kamal Haasan has received more support from filmdom. Actors Prakash Raj, Ajith and Jeeva and award-winning director Bharati Raja have criticised the ban as an assault on creative freedom.
In another case involving a Tamil film, a division bench of Madras High Court has directed that the “U” (universal viewing) certificate given to Thuppakki be changed to an “A” (adult) certificate.
The Indian National League, a political party, had challenged the “U” certificate arguing the film contained too much violence. It had also demanded the deletion of a few scenes showing Muslim terrorists.
The court’s order will have little impact now since the movie, released during Diwali, has had a full run. The producer and director had removed a few scenes after the release following objections from Muslim groups.