Film after film in Tamil Nadu seems to be hitting road blocks. After Kamal Hassan’s Viswaroopam and Santosh Sivan’s Inam, the latest to run into troubles is Vadivelu-starrer Tenaliraman.
Some Telugu groups have claimed that Tenaliraman disrespected the 16th century Vijayanagar emperor, Krishnadevaraya. They have moved the Madras High Court seeking a ban.
The movie’s producer, AGS Entertainment, said that Tenaliraman was not a historic representation of Krishnadevaraya or his reign. Rather, it was piece of fiction inspired by the extremely popular folk tales of Tenaliraman, one of the gems in the Vijayanagar court who used wit and humour to intelligently drive home morals and messages. In fact, the film does not mention the name Krishnadevaraya at all.
Now, Vadivelu – after a two-year hiatus (perhaps forced by political compulsions) -- has been a staunch supporter of the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, and he had during the 2011 Assembly elections lambasted Tamil actor Vijaykanth and his Desiya Murpokku Dravida Kazhagam, an ally of current Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam.
There have also been legal battles between Vadivelu and Vijaykanth, who had even been accused of trying to murder the comedian. So, it is suspected that the Telugu dissatisfaction stems from political considerations, and has little to do with Tenaliraman’s historic authenticity.
Earlier, while Kamal’s film ran afoul of a virtually unheard of Muslim group, and Viswroopam’s release was delayed by several weeks, Inam had pro-Tamil organisations up in arms. The protest against Sivan’s work was downright silly, for the movie was undoubtedly sympathetic to the Tamil cause.
In brief, Sri Lanka saw a 30-year civil war between the majority Sinhala population and the minority Tamils, who demanded a separate homeland under the leadership of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam. The strife is now over, but the Tamils, who did not quite get what they wanted, are still unhappy in a way. And Tamils in Tamil Nadu share a close rapport with their Sri Lankan counterparts and are overly sensitive to anything they perceive as anti-Sri-Lanka Tamils.
Inam was not allowed to screen even for a week. Kamal’s Viswaroopam had nothing to antagonise Muslims, but the real cause is said to have been his attempt to sell television rights to coincide with theatrical release. And he reportedly did not negotiate with the channel close to the ruling party.
In the ultimate analysis, with such demonstrations and discouragement against cinema and the demands for ban, the role and authority of the Central Board of Film Certification is steadily being eroded by fringe or mainstream groups – which feel that they have a right to decide what the masses should see.