Hyderabad: Actor-director Kamal Haasan's controversial film 'Vishwaroopam', facing a two-week ban in Tamil Nadu amid protests by Muslim community, was released in Kerala on Friday but its screening was stopped by police in Hyderabad over security concerns.
As per the initial reports, the film was screened in 86 theatres in Kerala, where about 25 per cent of the population comprise Muslims. "It is mainly screening in B-class theatres run by KCEA. But, some theatres run by the Federation also screened it today," V Mohanan, President, Kerala Cine Exhibitors Association (KCEA) said in Thiruvanthapuram.
He said Haasan's home production Rajkamal Films International was releasing the movie directly in Kerala. In Hyderabad, the police moved to stop the release of the film on a day coinciding with Milad-un-Nabi.
According to Home Minister Sabita Indra Reddy, police commissioners of Hyderabad and Cyberabad approached her to allow them to stop the screening the movie to avoid disturbances.
"Yesterday some religious leaders approached me to stop the screening of the movie expressing apprehensions. There is no ban from government side. City police commissioners have requested me to postpone the movie screening by a day in the city," Reddy told PTI in Hyderabad.
Information and Broadcasting minister Manish Tewari supported Haasan over the ban issue. The Minister said he did not want to say much since the matter was sub-judice but said the larger question is whether a state has the right to ban a film once it has been cleared by Censor Board.
Haasan, 58, moved the Madras High Court seeking an interim injunction against the 15-day ban imposed on the film by the TN government. The court will decide on the matter by January 28 after watching the film on January 26.
The actor, who is currently in Los Angeles, said he had faith in the Indian judicial system. Police asked distributors to refrain from screening the film in communally sensitive zones only for Friday.
Kamal Haasan reacts
In a scathing criticism of those who protested against his latest film, 'Vishwaroopam', Tamil actor Kamal Haasan said that they did not represent the majority. "My brothers have misunderstood me.. I think they must have more tolerance and must understand work of art, where it is coming from. I am sure these few do not represent the majority... Like how you said... how can one judge make a call for so many people? How can a few Muslims talk on behalf of the community?" he asked.
"I know Muslims who have liked the film.. There have been many Muslims in the censor board and they have no complaint," he added.
Bharatiya Janata Party leader Rajiv Pratap Rudy said: "If the state government feels that this movie can cause law and order, the state government can take that decision. The release of the movie has been stayed for 15 days. The central government must look into this."
Rajinikanth comes to his aid
Rajinikanth backed the embattled director and appealed to the Muslim fraternity to allow him to release his film Vishwaroopam without majorly affecting the storyline of the film. In a passionate statement issued to the media Rajini asked Muslims "to sit with Haasan and discuss the issue and allow its release without affecting its storyline".
After the Tamil Nadu government put its release on hold. Haasan approached the Madras High Court calling it cultural terrorism. This came a day after the Madras High Court put a stay on 'Vishwaroopam' till January 28. The judge is expected to watch the film on January 26 and then decide.
"I have been ruthlessly used as a vehicle by small groups who seek political profile. Icon bashing is a great way to be noticed when you are not one yourself. It is happening again and again. Any neutral and patriotic Muslim will surely feel pride on seeing my film. It was designed for that purpose," Haasan said in a statement on Thursday.
"I am not only hurt by these accusations of denigrating a community but my sensibilities are truly insulted. Now I will rely on law and logic to come to our support. This kind of cultural terrorism will have to stop," he said.
The actor had already courted controversy with screen-owners uniting against the tech-savvy actor's decision to release the high-budget movie on DTH platform ahead of its release in theatres.
A group of 20-odd organisations under a common banner submitted a memorandum to Home Secretary R Rajagopal to press for their demand, a day after taking up the matter with city police. MH Jawahirullah, MLA and president of Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam, told reporters that the movie "targets Muslims and their beliefs".
Made in Tamil, Telugu and Hindi, 'Vishwaroopam', which revolves around the adversities of war, is produced and directed by Haasan who has also acted in it.
The delay in the film's release would mean it loses its crucial weekend earnings. Around 500 theaters were booked for the mega release. The protests angered the film fraternity, who stressed on the need for unity amongst communities. Muslim organisations, however, held their ground.
Reacting to reports of a ban on 'Vishwaroopam' in Tamil Nadu, Bollywood director Sajid Khan said cinema will never create communal divides or hurt anybody's sentiments. "You don't know who is from which community when everyone is watching the cinema. Any person from cinema, a self-respecting person from cinema, will never make a communal divide or hurt anybody's sentiments," Sajid told reporters.
Karaikal bans Vishwaroopam
Taking a cue from Tamil Nadu, Karaikal, an enclave of the union territory of Puducherry, banned the screening of Kamal Haasan's controversial film 'Viswaroopam' for two weeks from tomorrow for its alleged portryal of the Muslim community in negative light.
District Collector-cum-District Magisrate J Ashok Kumar in a release said the decision to ban the film's screening in theatres from January 25 was taken due to objections by the outfits over alleged portrayal of their community in bad light.
Earlier, reports said the Telugu version of 'Vishwaroopam' would be released on Friday and remain unaffected by a Madras High Court order restricting the screening of the Tamil version of the movie till Jan 28. (With inputs from IANS and PTI)