Updates from : The Hindu.
With the BJP objecting to “incorrect references” in Vijay’s Mersal, here’s a look at some films that hit a roadblock due to objections raised by political parties and groups, before and after they hit the screens.
The Supreme Court declared categorically in the case of the film, Ore Oru Gramathile (which won a national award and produced by S. Rangarajan, former Chairman of Kasturi and Sons Limited, proprietors of The Hindu group of publication), that if speech cannot be constitutionally restricted on any of the grounds specified in Article 19(2), “freedom of expression cannot be suppressed on account of threat of demonstration and processions or threats of violence.” Despite the 1989 ruling, there is a constant threat to artistic freedom.
Deepa Mehta’s Fire (1996) met with stiff opposition from Bal Thackeray’s Shiv Sena. The film dealt with love between two sisters-in-law (characterised as Radha and Sita) from a traditional family. However, Thackeray said he had no objection if the characters’ names were changed to Saira and Shabana! Mehta’s subsequent film Water also faced stiff opposition. The shooting was stopped in Varanasi, following a suicide bid by a Shiv Sena activist and protests by the Kashi Sanskriti Rakshan Sangharsh Samiti, which alleged “insulting references” to Hinduism in the movie.
However, topping the controversy charts were Kamal Haasan’s films. Hey Ram (2000) was not the first Kamal Haasan film to be embroiled in controversy. Much before its release, Hey Ram was opposed by the Chhatra Parishad, which said the film had derogatory references to Mahatma Gandhi. Incidentally, the parishad blamed the then BJP government at the Centre for deliberately giving clearance to the film.
Virumandi (2004) — Initially titled Sandiyar, the film ran into rough weather after it was alleged that the title of the movie would incite caste violence. Puthiya Tamizhagam, a political party from Tamil Nadu, opposed the title Sandiyar on the grounds that it would glorify the upper caste Thevars. The shooting of the movie was stopped in Theni, near Madurai, as the police refused security for the crew. The title was changed after the actor’s discussion with Chief Minister Jayalalithaa.
There was an agitation against Mumbai Express (2005) too, because part of it is an English word! Kamal was sarcastic when he remarked that there is no Tamil word for Mumbai Express.
Viswaroopam (2013), which was cleared and certified by the Censor Board, was stopped in Hyderabad and Tamil Nadu following opposition by Muslim groups over alleged poor portrayal of their community. There were reports of attacks on cinema halls in north Chennai. The ban on the film spread from Tamil Nadu to neighbouring Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. Kamal’s statements that “good Muslims in the film are Indians”, did not cut ice with the opposing groups. Finally, following agreements reached by Haasan with the protesting Muslim groups at a tripartite meeting convened by the Tamil Nadu government, the film, which was originally planned for release on January 11, hit theatres across Tamil Nadu on February 7.
The song ‘Kannodu Kannai Kalandhal‘ from Kamal’s Manmadhan Ambu (2010) that has come under attack by a section of Hindus for hurting religious sentiments was removed from the film though it was approved by the Censor Board. Since the producer of the film (Udhayanidhi Stalin) wanted to ensure that the film is loved by every section of society, it was removed, Kamal said.
Uttama Villain (2015) was in the eye of a storm when the Vishwa Hindu Parishad demanded a ban on the film, alleging that the lyrics of a song were insulting Hindus. According to them, the lyrics belittled a conversation between Prahalada (a staunch devotee of Lord Vishnu) and his father Hiranyakashipu (a demon) and this hurt the feelings of Hindus. However, the film was released without any cuts.
The Da Vinci Code (2006) was banned in at least five States — Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Punjab, Goa, Nagaland — following objections from the Christian community for ‘hurting religious sentiments’. The movie, and the book by the same title, question the Christian belief that Jesus never committed the original sin. According to the book and the movie, Jesus married Mary Magdalene and had a daughter from her.
Thuppaki (2012) — Muslim groups objected to the Vijay-starrer. The Federation of Muslim Organisations and Political Parties, comprising 24 Muslim organisations, alleged that Thuppaki portrayed the whole community as terrorists. Bowing to pressure, the filmmakers removed the objectionable portions. The film was released after the film’s director, A.R. Murugadoss, and producer Kalaipuli S. Thanu offered a public apology to the members of the community and deleted certain scenes. The names of the negative characters in the film were muted on screen.
Innocence of Muslims (2012) — A section of Muslims demanded a ban on the short film, uploaded on YouTube, which is said to have blasphemed against the Prophet. The protest started in Yemen, Tunisia, and sparked off in Chennai too. The U.S. Consulate-General in Chennai was attacked during a protest by Muslim outfits. US Embassies in Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan were also targeted.
Rajini’s Baba (2002)
Even before its release, the Dravida Kazhagam (DK) objected to the lyrics of a song — Rajiyamma Illai Imayamaa, ….adhisayam Adhisayam Periyarthaan Aanadhaena Rajaji (It’s a miracle how Periyar turned into Rajaji) — that had to be partially deleted from the film. On the eve of the release of the film, PMK chief Ramadoss said that Rajnikanth was a bad role model (a poster showed him smoking with the ‘Baba symbol’) for the youth of today. On the day of release, a print of Baba was taken by force by armed intruders from a theatre in Jayamkondam in Tiruchi district.
Madhur Bhandarkar’s Indu Sarkar (2017), a period drama, portraying the Emergency, was opposed by the Congress. The Congress objected to the film, set during the Emergency, saying it had portrayed Indira Gandhi and her son Sanjay Gandhi in a bad light. Admitting that he had received death threats, Bhandarkar said Jagdish Tytler wanted to “suitably edit” the film before it hits the theatres to ensure his portrayal is not negative. A woman claiming to be Sanjay Gandhi’s daughter also moved the CBFC against clearing Indu Sarkar.