Chennai, Jan. 30: Harassed, hounded and heavily mortgaged, actor Kamal Haasan today spoke of quitting Tamil Nadu and even India if his creative freedom continued to be curtailed under the guise of disrupting religious harmony.
“It happened to M.F. Husain. It will happen to Haasan,” he said during an emotive interaction with the media this morning.
A few hours later, a division bench of Madras High Court reimposed the ban on his Tamil movie Vishwaroopam after the state government appealed against a single judge’s order last night that had granted interim stay against its ban on the movie.
The bench set aside the interim stay but posted the case before the same judge with the condition that he pronounce the final orders by next Wednesday.
After initially considering to approach the Supreme Court, Kamal’s lawyers decided to wait for the final orders of Madras High Court. This means further delay in the release of the movie, which has already been screened in the neighbouring states of Karnataka, Kerala and Andhra Pradesh without much ado.
Elsewhere across the state, there were attempts to screen the movie this morning but the police stalled the shows by demanding physical copies of the high court order passed on Tuesday night.
While Kamal’s fans protested and blocked traffic, a few miscreants attacked six theatres in the state that had readied to screen the movie.
In Ramanthapuram town, from where TMMK leader Jawahirullah has been elected, a theatre was attacked with a petrol bomb. No one was injured in the attacks and the police said that the attackers would be arrested. In Chennai, banners of the movie were burnt in two theatres.
Bollywood and the Tamil film industry today lined up behind Kamal in full force, five days after Rajinikanth had spoken up for him.
But for Kamal, there was no end to the trauma as he narrated to reporters how the continuing delay in releasing the movie could see him go completely bankrupt. “I have mortgaged all my property to the film’s financier and could end up losing all of it if I do not start paying him from a particular date. I am willing to do that if that will ensure the unity of the country as the single judge had observed,” Kamal said.
He added he would look for a secular state in India, since Tamil Nadu had ceased to be one, and relocate there and build a home from scratch.
“If I do not find such a state, I will settle down in a secular country. In that case, only my passport will change but I will continue to be a Tamil and Indian in my heart,” he said.
The remarks drew a horde of bigwigs from the Tamil film industry to his office — actually his ancestral home — in Alwarpet in south Chennai where they expressed their support for him.
“Kamal belongs to Tamil Nadu and vice versa,” said actress Khushboo. Hundreds of his fans gathered outside the gates and shouted slogans demanding the film’s release.
Kamal felt that he and the Muslim friends who were ranged against him had been dragged into a political game.
Although he refused to elaborate, DMK president M. Karunanidhi came up with his conjecture for the Jayalalithaa government stonewalling the movie.
“Kamal Haasan’s refusal to sell the satellite rights of the movie to a channel close to the ruling party and instead selling it to another channel for a more profitable amount is being cited as one reason. Another reason appears to be Kamal’s recent speech in which he had praised P. Chidambaram and wanted him —a dhoti-clad Tamil — to become the Prime Minister,” Karunanidhi reasoned.
He also pointed out that the state government showed no interest in talking to the film’s producer to evolve a compromise but was ready to knock on the chief justice’s door at midnight in an attempt to get a stay on the movie.
The ruling AIADMK had not reacted to Karunanidhi’s statement till late tonight.
Kamal tried to reach out to the protesting groups by offering to remove certain scenes in which terrorists are shown reciting from the Holy Book before carrying out an attack. But since this promise was made to a Congress Muslim MP and the state president of the Indian National League, the protesting groups led by the TMMK, an ally of the ruling AIADMK, refused to take cognisance of the gesture.
Union home minister Sushil Kumar Shinde said in Delhi: “We are a free society. There is freedom of expression. There is liberty for artists. We have a Constitution.”
In response to a question on the developments in Tamil Nadu, Shinde said: “We will see. We will enquire about what has happened.”