Kaala ban: governments should ensure that art isn’t held hostage by politics
Superstar Rajinikanth’s latest movie Kaala will hit theatres on June 7. Even before release, the movie has run into several controversies. Pro-Kannada activists in Karnataka want the movie, not to be released in the state because of some comments made by the actor. Rajinikanth had said that the Centre should implement the Supreme Court order to constitute a Cauvery Management Board, at the earliest. Vatal Nagraj, a self-proclaimed Kannada activist, has threatened that the movie will not be allowed to be released in Karnataka. This has been supported by Sa Ra Govindu, the president of Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce, which has said the movie will not be shown in Karnataka.
Similarly, Rajinikanth’s comments on the Thoothukudi violence where he said that a few anti-social elements had infiltrated the protests leading to attacks on police, destruction of property and ‘..that protests for every issue, will make Tamil Nadu into a graveyard,’ didn’t go down well with a number of people. Self-appointed Tamil activists as far as Switzerland and Norway have opposed the release of his movie and asked that it be boycotted.
To be sure, this is not the first time that a Rajini film has got into trouble in Karnataka. In 2008, Kuselan, another of his movies was in the news for exactly for the same reason – comments made by him on the decades-old festering Cauvery dispute. But it is not Rajini movies alone.
Last year pro-Kannada activists had called for a ban on the release of Bahubali 2: The conclusion. The grouse then was that the Tamil actor Satyaraj who played the role of Kattappa in the movie, had made some statements a decade earlier, which were perceived to be against Karnataka’s interests in the Cauvery water dispute. Satyaraj was eventually made to issue a grovelling apology before the movie was allowed to be released in the state by self-appointed guardians of Karnataka’s interests.
Violent protests and enforced boycotts because of an artist’s ideological or political positions are reprehensible. However, this is not limited to a single movie, actor or a state. In the name of regional pride based on language, ethnicity, caste, class or religion, fringe elements are dictating choices for the silent majority. Nothing can prevent them from choosing not to watch a particular movie because they disagree with the actor’s politics. However, this doesn’t give them the right to force this choice on others, especially with a threat of implied violence. It doesn’t help that pusillanimous administrations usually choose to keep quiet for political gains instead of reining in such fringe elements. Governments should ensure that art isn’t held hostage by politics.