Kamal Hassan almost wanted to leave India after what he termed as “Cultural Terrorism” stalled the release of his mega budget film Vishwaroopam for 10 days before it finally released on 7 Feb. Demanding some scenes to be cut in the movie, Muslim Groups lodged a protest with the CM and a Censor Board certified film’s release was stopped by Tamil Nadu Government. Hassan went to Supreme Court where one-judge bench ruled in his favour but the decision was overturned by a Two-Judge bench. Ultimately, a consensus was reached between the two parties and the film released with the controversial scenes muted.
According to Supreme Court, if a film has been approved by Central Board of Film Certificate (CBFC), no state government or central govt can stop it from releasing. Fearing law and order problems, Jayalalitha stopped the film in Tamil Nadu, though it released all over the country without much hassle. This was not the only controversy Kamal Hassan had to face, his film was to release on 11 Jan and he wanted to simultaneously release it on DTH as they do in US. But the Distributors protested against it and release was postponed to 25 Jan.
Vishwaroopam is not the only film to face such a political blockade before the release, Prakash Jha’s Aarakshan and Karan Johar’s My Name is Khan(MNIK) too faced political ire. Aarakshan was banned in Punjab and Uttar Pradesh, despite orders from Supreme Court. In case of MNIK(12 Feb 2010), Maharashtra Home Minister R R Patil himself watched the movie in a multiplex to assure citizens of safety on day of its release after Shiv Sena has gone violent in protest against Shahrukh Khan’s comment on Pak players’ participation in IPL 3.
Prakash Jha is not new to controversies, his films Raajneeti, Gangaajal and Mrityudaata too faced a lot of resistance before its release. For Raajneeti’s release Jha had to clarify that the film was not based on Gandhis. Before Wake Up Sid’s release, Karan Johar had to personally visit Raj Thackeray and reconcile to make sure the film comes out. The reason was the use of word ‘Bombay’ in the film. Arindam Chuadhari’s Big B starrer The Last Lear’s posters were torn by MNS workers after a statement by Jaya Bachchan that she was proud of being a UPite.
After the Vishwaroopam controversy, Director- Actor Farhan Akhtar opined that Bollywood has become a soft target for making a political statement. He is right, because of the huge money involved, Bollywood producers bow down to pressure and hence some political outfits get cheap publicity and in process show us that Freedom of Expression is sham. One can’t forget what happened to Aamir Khan starrer Fanaa in Gujarat, a man killed himself in the parking of theatre screening the movie in Jamnagar, Gujarat. This all happens despite Supreme Court’s order that CBFC’s approval will be final. The Central Govt kept giving lip service while fans made sure that Kamal Hassan enjoyed houseful opening right from the first show at 5am.