The ongoing row over Vishwaroopam is not simply due to some Muslims of Tamil Nadu alleging that the film shows the community in a bad light. At the root of the controversy lies a political angle that is much more intriguing.
Kamal Haasan's speech at a recent book launch and his decision to release the film on the Direct-to-Home platform seem to have proved detrimental to the actor. Incidentally, the satellite rights of Vishwaroopam were first bagged by Jaya TV. A subsequent dispute between the channel and Rajkamal Films meant that the rights were given to Vijay TV.
Kamal Haasan had by then entered into an understanding with Airtel DTH and Vishwaroopam was supposed to premiere at 9.30 p.m on Jan 10, 2013. However, objections raised by the Tamil Nadu Exhibitors Association and the Tamil Nadu Theatre Owners Association forced him to announce on Jan 14 that the film will be released on the DTH platform only on Feb 2.
Prior to these developments, the actor who has so far stayed away from politics made a statement with significant connotations on Dec 30, 2012. That day, a book about Finance Minister P Chidambaram was released at a function in Chennai. After DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi handed over the first copy of the book to Chidambaram's mother Lakshmi Achi, the Kollywood icon remarked that Tamils are very capable of leading the nation and pointed to the finance minister.
Kamal Haasan probably did not realise that by praising Chidambaram, he had unwittingly incurred Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa's displeasure. According to political observers, the AIADMK supremo was irked by the actor's words as she harbours ambitions of becoming the prime minister one day. This apparently contributed to the actor's present woes.
The alacrity with which the state government accepted the plea of pro-Muslim outfits to ban Vishwaroopam suggests that there is definitely a subtext. Last year, another film faced similar protests. Nevertheless, the Vijay-starrer 'Thuppakki' enjoyed a successful run even though a few organisations in Tamil Nadu railed against its unfavourable depiction of Muslims.
Despite both megastar Rajinikanth and Karunanidhi urging members of the minority community to let people peacefully watch Vishwaroopam, the outfits which are opposed to its screening have refused to budge from their stand. The DMK chief is avowedly secular, he would not have backed Kamal Haasan if the latter is in the wrong.
The actor believes he is being unfairly targeted. Considering the aforementioned aspects, one cannot help agreeing with him. Fanatics once forced renowned painter Maqbool Fida Husain to settle abroad. It remains to be seen whether Kamal Haasan would feel compelled to leave not only Tamil Nadu but also the country.