Chennai: In a dramatic turn of events, actor-director Kamal Haasan said on Thursday he would not move the Supreme Court against a stay on his film 'Vishwaroopam' by the Madras High Court even as Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari indicated that the government may consider amending the Cinematograph Act 1952.
The High Court stayed on Wednesday the screening of the Hindi-Tamil bilingual film on international terrorism even after Haasan agreed to remove certain scenes that purportedly offended Muslims from some fringe groups. He threatened to exile himself from Tamil Nadu.
But a visibly calmer Haasan said on Thursday that he was still hurt at the treatment being meted out to his film. The talks with various stakeholders are still on, he said.
I&B Minister Manish Tewari indicated that the government may consider amending the Cinematograph Act of 1952.
"Even yesterday I was calm, I'm only hurt, I'm still hurt. Talks are still underway. I am not moving the Supreme court," he told reporters.
"I still have hope things may be settled with Tamil Nadu government. For now, I may wait before moving to Supreme Court," said Haasan.
The Rs 95 crore espionage thriller was originally scheduled to be released in Tamil and Telugu on January 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.
"My Muslim brothers have pointed out few scenes in my film which I'm ready to cut in order to settle the matter between us amicably," he said.
Haasan, 58, described the ban as "cultural terrorism" and added: "Any neutral and patriotic Muslim will surely feel pride on seeing my film. It was designed for that purpose."
The relief given to him by Justice K Venkataraman late last night was short lived as a division bench comprising acting Chief Justice Elipe Dharma Rao and Aruna Jagadeesan overturned a single-judge order, effectively stalling the film's release.
Congress spokesman Abhishek Manu Singhvi reacted strongly to the ban. "Just because some sections don't like a film, it can't be banned, especially when it was cleared by the censor board," he said. Censor Board head Leela Samson said "it's unheard of religious groups watching films before them being screened; the trend has become very exaggerated. Afraid we are moving to an intolerant nation."
Tewari tweeted that amendment of the Cinematographic Act is necessary as each state would otherwise be its own censor. "Time Cinematograph Act revisited to ensure implementational integrity certification decisions Otherwise each state would be its own censor 9sic)," he said.
Government sources have said that the Information and Broadcasting Ministry will set up a committee to study the amendments. The government wants to set up an appellate body where state governments can take appeals.
Samson said, "If the government comes up with this, it is the best news I have
heard in a long time. We have been defending ourselves in Chennai against what the attorney said in court defending the state government. I am delighted by Manish Tewari's announcement."
This came even as the Tamil Nadu Advocate General A Navaneetha Krishnan said the interim order was against public interest and that the censor board itself was flouting norms when clearing films. Speaking to CNN-IBN, Krishnan said, "The administrative authorities have taken the decision to uphold the rule of law and to maintain the law and order. The honourable division bench accepted our condition, set aside the order of the honourable single judge, which is against the larger public interest."
Blaming the censor board, Krishnan said, "It is the legal contention that I have taken, in the course of my argument, in my submission. Film certification process is not taking place in accordance to the law, something otherwise is going on."
Samson threatened to sue Krishnan for telling the High Court that the censors didn't follow procedures in certifying 'Vishwaroopam'. "I am shocked at the language used in court. First of all, he said that the certificate is not valid and the advocate for the 23 Muslim group said that the CBFC is a purchasable commodity. Now I object very strongly to this," Samson said.
Reacting to Samson's threat, the Advocate General said, "Definitely the film industry people wanted to get the certificate as early as possible by by-passing the rules and regulations. An inquiry can be conducted by the court pointing some person, so nothing can be done against me for making this kind of argument in the court of law."
Meanwhile, urging his fans to maintain calm, Haasan on Wednesday evening said that he was upset and not angry over the row surrounding his latest film, 'Vishwaroopam'. Addressing the media, Haasan said that 'Vishwaroopam' was "just a movie, not worth a public agitation'. (With additional information from PTI and IANS)