The fragile society

'Vishwaroopam' has been banned by a state not known for communal disharmony

Even Kamal Haasan's worst critics cannot question his secular credentials. He has always been controversy's child, making films he was convinced about. Haasan has so far been attacked by Hindutva and casteist Hindu groups. But his films have not been banned. His only religion is his art. One can understand when a deeply hurt Haasan says he wants to move to a more secular state in India or to a secular country where he will be left in peace. From all accounts, his film Vishwaroopam does not deserve such a violent reaction from either fringe minority groups or the state government. The protagonist of the film is a heroic Indian Muslim. It is an action thriller that takes place in Afghanistan and New York. The film apparently does not have any major romance, comedy or item numbers. So those who are objecting to the film are confused by its somewhat stark documentary-like look. They apparently have no problem in allowing the release of an out-and-out commercial thriller like Vijay's Diwali movie Thuppakki, which also depicted Muslims as terrorists.

This film had also upset sentiments of people in the minority community. Following the protests, the film's producer and director immediately agreed to delete the so-called "objectionable" scenes. The movie was released without more controversy and went on to become the blockbuster of the year. In Vishwaroopam's case, there have been too many twists and turns. There was a ban on the film, which was lifted by a single judge of the high court. The state government went on to appeal, invoking Section 144, and had the ban restored. An overwrought Haasan has been calmed down by his film industry colleagues. He has met with the minority groups again and has agreed to make some cuts to their satisfaction. But it does not appear as though Vishwaroopam will release within the next day or two. The state government says it is worried about the law-and-order problems the release could create.

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