The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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New name caps Kamal film row

Chennai, June 20: Actor-cum-producer Kamal Hassan today agreed to change the name of his latest Tamil film, Sandiyar, to shake off the title’s caste overtones after a 30-minute meeting with chief minister Jayalalithaa.

“My fairly long-felt suggestion to change the name Sandiyar, when broached to the chief minister during our discussions, was found acceptable to Amma. The shooting of the film will resume soon in Tamil Nadu,” Hassan said after the meeting at the secretariat.

Sandiyar denotes a domineering upper caste man prone to picking up fights. Dalits objected to the film because they thought it applauded upper-caste violence.

The controversy is over, the actor announced, adding that even by any other name, his film would be successful.

The shooting at a village in picturesque Theni district was called off after Puthiya Tamizhagam leader K. Krishnaswamy threatened to stall it, claiming that the film would revive caste clashes in the sensitive southern districts.

Kamal Hassan had sought police protection but last week Jayalalithaa rejected the request, saying no “protracted police protection” could be given to one film unit for deliberately “choosing a controversial theme”, particularly when the force was under-staffed and over-stretched.

Though the Padma Shri awardee declined to reveal details of his meeting with the chief minister, he said there would be no need to seek police protection now.

Krishnaswamy, a Dalit leader, had opposed the film immediately after it was launched in Madurai. He said such films could only aggravate the tension between the upper caste Thevars and Dalits. Today, he thanked the actor and hoped that the renamed film “will not reflect the sickle culture”. He was referring to photographs that have been released, showing the lead actor with sickle in hand.

Even at the height of the controversy, when the Dalit leader threatened to disrupt the shooting, Kamal Hassan did not have many vocal supporters. In Tamil Nadu, there were few takers for the argument that denial of police protection to the film unit was an infringement of artistic freedom.

Only the CPM, in its state executive meeting on June 18, adopted a resolution urging the Jayalalithaa regime to provide protection for the shooting and appealed to Krishnaswamy to give up his protest.

But Krishnaswamy hit back yesterday saying “art should help to bring about social cha-nge and not institutionalise violence”.

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