Chennai, Jan 28: Suspense over the release of actor-filmmaker Kamal Haasan’s mega budget ‘Vishwaroopam’ today continued as the Madras High Court deferred till tomorrow its order on his plea questioning the Tamil Nadu government’s ban on screening the controversial film, opposed by Muslim groups.
As the court met this morning to decide on the ban, Haasan’s counsel filed petitions challenging prohibitory orders imposed by District Collectors’ under Section 144 of CrPC across the state and sought hearing on it along with the main case.
Deferring the matter till tomorrow, Justice K Venkataraman, who had watched the movie on Saturday, suggested that the petitioner “explore all possibilities” to find an “amicable” solution to the issue with the government. The judge suggested to the petitioner to “keep in mind, the law and order situation in the country.. unity of the nation..because of this there should not be any disharmony among the communities.. That is the primary consideration.” Talking to reporters outside the court, petitioner’s counsel P S Raman said, “We challenged the District Collectors’ orders and sought to be heard along with the main petition.”
On the court’s advice for an amicable situation, Raman said, “The court only made an observation that since Kamal Haasan has returned to town, he can try to find a compromise. That is not a Court order. You shall not consider it a court order.”
“We have got some 7-8 orders (District Collectors’), we are challenging only them now. The rest we can challenge only after we receive it.. We are going to do separately for Puducherry,” he said.
To another query on reports of release of pirated DVDs of the movie, he said, “We have not made any submissions on that in the court. Only you (media) should say none should get pirated DVDs,” he said.
Talking to reporters outside the court, Haasan’s brother Chandra Haasan said the loss during the weekend holidays could be “anywhere between Rs 30-80 crore. We don’t know if theatres are available... We don’t know if they will be willing to exhibit it in the middle of the week or even if they are available in the next week, we don’t know.” Asked if the ban was a curb on freedom of expression, he said, “This is a matter of law, judges are there to do the interpretation.”
On whether he believed that the film in no way hurts sentiments of Muslims, he said, “Yes. Even at the time of making the movie, we were sure that it wouldn’t affect the sentiment of any community.”
Asked if they are open to removing scenes that the Muslim outfits may find objectionable, he said, “One, I cannot envisage anything objectionable that they may find. Two, it is the director’s prerogative to agree to cut or not to cut. That will be the decision of Kamal Haasan, not the producer.” “As a common citizen, we have two venues open for us— one, we can appeal to the state, two—we can appeal to the court. We will have to limit our options to these two. There are no other venues for us. One of these or both should help us,” Chandra Haasan said.
The court had on January 24 declined to grant any interim stay on the two-week ban imposed on the movie that has angered Muslim outfits who claim it depicts their community in a negative light.
The actor has missed two deadlines for the film, a spy thriller starring Haasan in the lead along with Rahul Bose, Pooja Kumar and Jaideep Ahlawat.
The film first ran into rough weather after some theatre owners resisted the tech-savvy actor’s decision to premiere the movie, made in Hindi and Telugu as well, on a DTH platform ahead of its screening in theatres on January 11. The actor-director landed in Chennai late last night from Los Angeles, but refused to comment on the matter. Haasan had held a special screening of the film, reportedly made on a Rs 100 crore budget in three languages, for the Muslim outfit leaders, but failed to win their approval.