Thursday, January 31, 2013

Amazing. All parties gang up against AIADMK on Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroopam ban….

It’s amazing what’s happening in India these days. It looks like political parties first gauge the public mood, and then decide what stand they should take on issues. Gone are the days when they would take predictable “principled (?)” positions and fall in or out of line with public opinion. We saw this first with the Delhi rape case, where every party demanded the death penalty. Likewise, on the border skirmish with Pakistan, all parties demanded the government take a tough stand. But those were open and shut cases where taking an opposite viewpoint was unthinkable. But now, even on a controversial subject like Kamal Haasan’s film, it appears all parties are united. All except AIADMK of course. What’s going on??!

All the politics has put Kamal Haasan in trouble. A creative guy, who wants nothing more than to see his film released, and hopefully some profits made, he is having to run from pillar to post just to keep his head above water. In a world in which the first week-end is the only chance a film has of recovering its investments, his film has been canned by the AIADMK Government in TN and then by the HC of the state. While he battles it out, in frustration and anger, the state government has kept him guessing. The AIADMK government’s lame duck excuse is that the film could cause a law and order problem. Not even 100 protesters have demanded the movie be shelved; but that’s enough for the state government. Out of disgust, Kamal Haasan is contemplating self-exile out of TN, and even India, a la MF Hussain.

The crisis has clearly been fabricated by the AIADMK. It really has nothing to do with the content of the film per se. That is just the excuse. Apparently, it is to do with the fact that Kamal Haasan refused to part with the TV rights to Jaya TV of Jayalalitha, presumably because the channel wanted it for a song. Miffed at this, the party deployed a few Muslims connected with it to lead the charge against the film. Such strong arm tactics is hardly uncommon in Tamil politics.

The matter appears to have united the political parties, making them unlikely bedfellows.
Usually, the Congress would be expected to take a line against the film, considering that it is the Muslims who have taken offence. However, strangely, the party has actually come out in full support of Kamal Haasan. Taking an unusually supportive line on the actor, Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tewari has indicated that the government may consider amending the law. He tweeted on Thursday that it's time the Cinematograph Act is revisited to ensure that state governments cannot question a certificate that is once given by the censor board. He tweeted that this is necessary as each state would otherwise be its own censor." 

The possible reason for this unusual Congress stance is that Kamal Hasaan is considered close to the party. He is also close to the DMK, which is why the problem has happened in the first place. Not surprising then, the party’s support for him; and the attack on the AIADMK government. Through a press statement DMK chief Karunanidhi said, "I know Kamal and Rajnikanth won't hurt the feelings of any religion. Even I don't tolerate anything that is against Muslims. I urge them to hold talks with Kamal Haasan. Also state government should cooperate in maintaining law and order.” He further added “Though the Madras High Court judge has suggested an amicable solution, Tamil Nadu government has not taken any initiative," he said writing in the party organ 'Murasoli'.

In a similar vein, criticising the ban on the movie, DMDK (a party that is getting close to the Congress) leader Vijaykanth warned if Jayalalithaa government continued to take 'anti-people' stand, it would face the fury of the people.”

The Left parties also took a liberal view, surprising, considering the size of the Muslim population in West Bengal. The state executive council of the CPI(M) asked the ruling AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu to lift the ban for the actor-director Kamal Haasan’s fim Viswaroopam, saying it was “morally unjustifiable” to ban a movie after the Censor Board gave its clearance. “The (two-week) ban on the movie by the Tamil Nadu government is legally and morally unjustifiable,” CPI(M) state secretary G Ramakrishnan said in a statement here, adding the Supreme Court had in the past observed that it was not right to ban a movie after Censor Board certification.

The BJP took an expected view on the subject, opposing the ban, since the objection to the film came from Muslims, not Hindus. Rajnath Singh has made a statement asking the state government to lift the ban on the film. I wonder why the party wasn’t this liberal when Hussain was being targeted by its ranks and when its ally in Maharashtra, Shiv Sena, routinely rampaged other films in Mumbai. As always, the BJP is being opportunistic.

Even the Samajwadi Party (SP) has taken a comparatively mild line, only saying that the party will decide after watching the film. Usually, they would have demanded a ban first, then thought later! 

So in a strange way, Kamal Haasan has become a unifier of political parties. All of them are aligned against the AIADMK. Maybe that’s what made Jayalalitha soften her stand. And offer to facilitate talks between Kamal Haasan and the Muslim groups. 

The real truth is that it’s difficult to explain this bizarre alignment of parties against the AIADMK. I would have thought that the Congress would have kept mum or supported the ban; and I would have expected the BJP to remain mum or oppose the ban. But like I said, its truly a bizarre situation!

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