An emotional Kamal Haasan's threat to leave the country, if required, following the raging row over his controversial movie Vishwaroopam today stunned the film fraternity which said the actor-filmmaker is being "humiliated".
As members of the film fraternity including superstar Shah Rukh Khan spoke out in support of Haasan, Censor Board chief Leela Samson also threw her weight behind 58-year-old Haasan, saying he is beng hounded despite the film getting the panel's clearance for release.
The Centre also backed Haasan, saying everyone in the country enjoys the freedom of expression and that artistes have full liberty to continue their choice of work.
"What he (Haasan) is going through amounts to hounding," Samson said. Filmmaker Shyam Bengal endorsed her views.
Samson also said she will take up the matter of how state governments can ban a film after the movie gets a certificate from the Censor Board. The Tamil Nadu government has imposed a two-week ban on the release of the film in the state and Hassan is locked in a legal battle to get the ban lifted.
"Kamal Haasan is a national treasure, an immaculate artiste. He has been subjected to humiliation. It is one of the darkest moment for the entire film fraternity," said filmmaker Mahesh Bhatt. He also called for strengthening the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).
"We have all gone through this, we have all faced this. To say the least, it is the most unfortunate thing to happen to a film," Shah Rukh said.
Actor Siddharth, who has starred in films down South as well as Bollywood, took to Twitter in support of Haasan.
"Heartbreaking to see the greatest Tamil actor of all time talking about leaving Tamil Nadu, about bankruptcy and about unfair persecution. Vishwaroopam screenings cancelled before starting & even stopped mid show all over TN. What a sad day. What a horrible week. #TalibanTN," he tweeted.
Union Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde said there is freedom of expression in India.
"We are a free society. There is freedom of expression. There is liberty for artists. We have a Constitution," he told reporters in New Delhi.
In an emotional outburst, Haasan said, "If I can't find it within India, which I will know in another couple of days, I will find hopefully another country which is secular than mine that might take me in...when M F Hussain can do it, Kamal Haasan will do," the actor said, drawing comparisons to the country's best-known artist,
Husain fled India in 2006 and died in exile in London after his depictions of naked Hindu goddesses angered right wing groups.