By Hindustan Times
Filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt feels actor-director Kamal Haasan is a victim of state terrorism. "He is a victim of state terrorism. Are we living in a state where there is no law and order? This is a question, which not only a filmmaker should be asking, but the people of India must be asking," he added. Bhatt calls Kamal a pride of the country.
"Kamal is a national asset. He has made a film by putting his everything at stake. He showed that film to the censor board members and after taking a legitimate censor certificate the film goes to the cinema halls. And after spending so much on the PR, and then state stops it," Bhatt said. "In a country where you have the right for freedom of expression, there having a censor certificate and even high court, if he had to beg here and there, then what is the point," he added.
Bollywood actor Salman Khan also opposed the ban on Vishwaroopam in Tamil Nadu and requested his and Kamal Haasan's fans to lend support to the film-maker. "Hope each and every fan of his (Kamal Haasan) supports him like I am doing and want all my fans to fully support him. Bhool gaye kya Ek Duuje Ke Liye (Have you forgotten Ek Duuje Ke Liye)," Salman tweeted Thursday.
The 47-year-old added that the decision to watch a film lies with the people who buy tickets, not anyone else. "Dekho yaar (Look buddy), it is a movie and there are only two kinds of movies - good or bad. Hit and flop. And (the) only people who (should) decide (that) are the ones who buy tickets", he added.
Salman Khan says the audience must insist on watching a movie meant for entertainment. "Go stand outside the cinema hall and insist on seeing the film. It is a movie dude... for entertainment! What law and order problem on a movie? Go there (cinemas), insist that you want to see it," he said.
Mahesh Bhatt has urged the film fraternity to come forward and support Kamal. "This is the time when everyone should raise their voice and be on his side. It's a very dark moment in our history. Each and every person should fight for his (Kamal Haasan) justice."
Commenting on what is happening with him and superstar Shah Rukh Khan, Bhatt feels film industry is an easy target. "Film industry is a soft target. Recently, Shah Rukh Khan also found himself in trouble when his statement was twisted and presented for political benefits. What is happening in our country?" he said.
The mega-budget film was due to release Jan 25, but the Tamil Nadu government banned the film following fears of law and order situation. The ban was further extended to Kerala and Andhra Pradesh. The Madras High Court Tuesday ruled in favour of Vishwaroopam and the ban was revoked. It, however, said the administrative step was to be taken by the government. In another ruling on Wednesday, a two-judge bench of the high court re-imposed the ban on the film.
The Rs. 95 crore espionage thriller was originally scheduled to release in Tamil and Telugu on Jan 25, but a day before the screenings, the Tamil Nadu government imposed a two-week ban on the film after some Muslim groups complained that some scenes in the film portrayed the community in a bad light. Kamal on Wednesday also agreed to cut a few scenes that were pointed out as controversial to him by his Muslim brothers. Vishwaroopam was also initially banned in places such as Karnataka, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Malaysia.
Written, produced and directed by Kamal, Vishwaroopam features him in the title role. Other members of the cast include Pooja Kumar, Andrea Jeremiah, Rahul Bose, Shekhar Kapur and Jaideep Ahlawat. Its Hindi version Vishwaroop is slated to release on Friday.
Actors, movie makers and other members of the film fraternity have also reacted strongly to the ban imposed by the Tamil Nadu government on Kamal Hassan's controversial film Vishwaroopam. This is what they had to say:
Shabana Azmi: The Supreme Court ruled in the case of Prakash Jha's film "Aarakshan" that once a movie was cleared by the Censor Board Of Film Certification no state can impose a ban on a film. It is the government's business to give value to its own certification and ensure the film is shown. Those who protest have the right to do so. But if they do so violently then the law of the land must apply to them.
If people are offended by "Vishwaroopam" let them not watch the film. How can they take away the right of others who want to watch it? The Tamil Nadu government is being unfair to "Vishwaroopam" and to the minorities it claims to protect.
For starters, have they even watched the film? India's audience is not a monolith. Some may be moved, some may be offended, or claim to be offended for political gains. So be it. Nobody is forcing the film down anyone's throat. The space for freedom of expression is shrinking and we must act now to stem the tide.
Shyam Benegal: What is happening to Kamal's film is very peculiar. It reeks of some kind of a vendetta. It doesn't make any sense. The fact is the hero of the film plays a patriotic Muslim doing good things for the country.
They've simply gone against their own rules. Once the censorboard clears the film and if any section of the audience has any doubts or fears, the matter must be referred back to the censor board. You (the state) cannot do things entirely on your own. If you are doing things on your own then why have the censor board in the first place? A censor certificate is valid in the entire country, and should not be disregarded in one state. A censor certificate has semi-judicial status.
R. Balki: What if all the people, Muslims or Hindus, who have no issues with the film want a ban on the government? Will the courts hear that? We are scared of law and order issues because of the government.
Kalpana Lajmi: Once the certificate of release is issued by the censor board and after the film is released, no private or judicial institution or government, be it the state or centre, should exercise its diktat and influence to ban the film, whatsoever be its content. A ban is also tantamount to curbing the freedom of expression.
Hansal Mehta: All a big farce. After the hullabaloo dies down Kamal Haasan would be left counting his losses. Sad that an icon is treated so shabbily in our country.
Ketan Mehta: This is complete nonsense. The government is succumbing to cultural terrorism in spite of the censor board clearing the film. Isn't freedom of expression a fundemantal right? Democracy is meaningless without it. Please stop this recurring blackmail of creativity and the arts.
Rensil d'Silva: I think it's time we got some rules firmly in place. If the censor board passes a film for screening, the government shouldn't bow down to vested interests. Mobs cannot decide what films we should make.
Priyadarshan: Nobody has the right to ban the freedom of expression.
Subhash Kapoor: I think this is an attack on freedom of expression of a filmmaker. It is not only undemocratic but also sets a dangerous precedent. The state should not succumb to such pressure tactics by politically motivated groups.
Umesh Shukla: Freedom of expression is a must for every filmmaker.
Anusha Rizvi: The ban is ridiculous and needs to be condemned in the strongest possible terms. Our cultural space is increasingly being taken over by the right-wing discourse. All of us need to be on guard against this invasion of freedom and we must protest against it. I stand by Kamal Haasan and am deeply alarmed at the decision taken by the Tamil Nadu government.
Siddharth: Vishwaroopam must be edited beyond recognition if it wants to be screened in Tamil Nadu. This is the death knell for democracy, secularism and cinema. The ban on Vishwaroopam is regressive. It's a back-to-the-dark ages blow by the Tamil Nadu government. How do we make a change? My deepest condolences to Kamal Haasan.
Khushboo: If this can happen to a man who has put in 50 years and every penny he has earned into films, and someone who eats, drinks, breathes and lives for the love of cinema, I wonder what lies in store for others.
Mani Shankar: It's a gross travesty of creative freedom. I can't understand how any state government can usurp power from the CBFC which has cleared Vishwaroopam. Is one censor board not enough? Do filmmakers have to please every government and non-government body to release a film?
Abbas Tyrewala: Our land cannot be governed by the perpetual fear of someone objecting to everything because everyone will object to something.
Ananth Mahadevan: I haven't seen "Vishwaroopam" as yet. But from what I've gathered after its Cochin and New York shows, the film is as much an entertainer as any mass appeal film.