Those who have watched the live press conference of J Jayalalithaa on news channels on Thursday, Jan 31, to clarify her government's position surrounding the controversial multilingual film "Vishwaroopam" must have noticed how the head (Chief Minister) of Tamil Nadu behaved like a dictator. Rather than expressing remorse for failing to provide adequate security to help the film get released in the state, Jayalalithaa was sarcastic about actor-director Kamal Haasan.
At a time when 58-year-old megastar of south Indian cinema has gone public to tell the world that delay in release of his multi-crore film is pushing him to bankruptcy and penury, Jaya was heartless enough to mock at his condition.
Citing Kamal Haasan's revelation that his property was at stake over the film, Jayalalithaa said, "Kamal Haasan says he has his property at stake in this movie, he is old enough to make a responsible attempt, I am sure it's a calculated risk, it's a gamble. How can the government be accountable for the risk Kamal Haasan has taken?"
Yes, Chief Minister you are right, Kamal Haasan is old enough (58 years of age) and responsible (his art works amply prove it), but isn't it the responsibility of your government to ensure that a film should not be banned just because fringe groups are opposing it?
Her body language and use of words smacked of revenge against an icon who has refused to bow down before her.
"I have been accused of having personal grudge against Kamal Hasaan on his remarks at an event about a 'dhoti clad to become the PM'. I am experienced enough to know that Mr Kamal Hasaan doesn't select the PM." Jayalalithaa added, "These are ridiculous pieces of fiction and most absurd charges in the media."
But, in Tamil Nadu everyone knows if someone dares to defy the ruling government and its chief minister then the person has to pay a heavy price for it.And, indeed the four time national award winner is paying a heavy price for his ideology of standing alone in Tamil film industry without any political backing. Actor Kamal Haasan on Friday, Feb 1 said he suffered losses to the tune of Rs 60 crore due to problems in the release of his magnum opus 'Vishwaroopam'.
"The film ( Vishwaroopam) is made on a budget of Rs 95 crore. Due to the delay in the release of film, I have suffered a loss of Rs 30 to 60 crore," the superstar said.
Jayalalithaa cried hoarse in the press meet that for the sake of maintaining "law and order" in Tamil Nadu, the movie was banned. Even if we buy her contention for stopping the release of the film in Tamil Nadu to avoid untoward incidents, then how come the same film is garnering appreciation from all sections of the society in neighbouring states Kerala and Karnataka.
"This film was proposed to be released in 524 theatres in Tamil Nadu, various Muslim organisations submitted a memorandum to the government, they had demanded the ban on the movie. These Muslim organisations also announced various demonstrations, there was every apprehension that this could turn violent," Jayalalithaa said.
So, Chief Minister, if any Tom, Dick and Harry opposes a film, book or piece of art work, your government will ban it? But, unfortunately voters have not voted Jayalalithaa to act as a weak leader who cows down at the slightest of threat.
The 58-year-old actor's most ambitious film ran into trouble after Muslim groups took objection to certain scenes in the movie as hurting their religious sentiments. Muslim leaders opposing the film say that Vishwaroopam portrays Muslims as terrorists.
Not only Jayalalithaa threatened Kamal Haasan to follow her leadership if he wants his film to see the light of day, but in the same breath she targeted her most prominent political rival DMK supremo Karunanidhi.
The Tamil Nadu Chief Minister terrorised the DMK chief Karunanidhi with legal action for blaming her behind the entire fiasco.
"I have been accused of having a personal motive, one motive is said to be business motive. It's a wild reckless charge against a constitutional authority. Since Karunanidhi has made a charge, we will take a legal view against him and media," Jayalalithaa said.
Pointing out the Tamil Nadu Cinema Regulation Act, Jayalalithaa said that the state government had all the power to ban a movie. "It is a total misconception that the state cannot ban movies. I could have banned the movie straight away, we did not do that. I haven't banned the movie. We wanted tempers to cool down, so that both sides come to an agreement," she said.
Instead of taking action against Muslim organisations who are resorting to threat and bullying to score political points over a film, she suggested Kamal Haasan to reach an agreement with Muslim groups to help his film get released. "Kamal Haasan was not willing to cut any part of his movie, so in order to protect the state government had no other option but to issue Section 144 for 15 days. If the Muslim organisations and Haasan are ready to sit down, and he agrees for cutting some portions, then we will screen the movie," she said.
After her press conference, a visibly tired actor said he will not approach the Supreme Court over the release of the film.
"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.
Earlier an emotional Kamal was candid enough to tell journalists that ban on the film in his home state will push him to complete bankruptcy. "I have mortgaged all my property to the film's financier and could end up losing all of it if I do not start paying him from a particular date. I am willing to do that if that will ensure the unity of the country as the single judge had observed," Kamal said.
He added he would look for a secular state in India, since Tamil Nadu had ceased to be one, and relocate there and build a home from scratch. "If I do not find such a state, I will settle down in a secular country. In that case, only my passport will change but I will continue to be a Tamil and Indian in my heart," he said.