A big Tamil release during Diwali is nothing surprising. A controversy surrounding a big Tamil film isn’t either unfortunately. This time around it’s the Vijay starrer Mersal which released last week amid much hype and anticipation.The movie touches on the problems of GST, the Digital India campaign, healthcare in India and corruption that. The Tamil Nadu unit of the BJP is not happy at the way the party and their leader are portrayed in the film as they feel it ridicules or makes ‘incorrect references’ about some of the policies of Narendra Modi; the Tamil Nadu BJP Chief TN Soundarrajan saying, “Scenes that convey wrong impression about GST and Digital India should be removed”.
Truth is bitter pic.twitter.com/woFdxOntRn— H Raja (@HRajaBJP) October 22, 2017
Mr. Modi, Cinema is a deep expression of Tamil culture and language. Don't try to demon-etise Tamil pride by interfering in Mersal— Office of RG (@OfficeOfRG) October 21, 2017
Arguably the two most respected and admired names in the Tamil film industry gave their blessings for the film praising it for tackling important issues –
BJP's attempt to muzzle criticism is contrary to democratic principles. The DMK always stands for freedom of speech & creative expression— M.K.Stalin (@mkstalin) October 21, 2017
Important topic addressed... Well done !!! Congratulations team #Mersal— Rajinikanth (@superstarrajini) October 22, 2017
The comment from Kamal Haasan comes on the heels of him backtracking on his support of demonetization where he issued an apology for supporting the central government's demonetization policy in a hurry. In a column for Vikatan, he also called for the Prime Minister to accept his mistake of introducing the policy and stated that once he heard criticisms of the policy from economists he changed his mind. Kamal Haasan is also someone who isn’t new to controversy of this type as his film Vishwaroopam a few years back was criticized for having scenes hat were offensive to Muslims. He eventually agreed to cut scenes from the movie giving in to the pressure he faced after the movie was banned in the state. Journalist Sudha G Tilak in a column for The Indian Express writes on how fans aren’t taking into consideration the noise surrounding the film and how Tamil films in a way have been political and tackled societal problems – “Like the best films in Tamil cinema, Mersal has a distinctive take on the current political and social problems in Tamil Nadu, including corruption, the government’s apathy to the poor as well as the ongoing problems with GST”. “There have been enough Tamil filmmakers who have made movies on vigilantism and criticized public institutions like hospitals or colleges and schools for not serving the public well. Tamil films have openly criticized religion and caste too”. “In recent months the two aging superstars of Tamil Nadu, Kamal Hassan and Rajnikanth, have made public speeches indicating the possibility of their entry into politics and speculation is rife that history could well repeat itself in the state as yet another movie star turns politician”. Looking at it from a time frame point of view, the BJP is pushing south looking to expand its map. Tamil Nadu is certainly a state where they have struggled to gain a footing. TS Sudhir in a column for the Huffington Post India writes on this – “On the face of it, it may seem that having control over the AIADMK would make BJP a force to reckon with in Tamil Nadu. However, what the party did not factor in, in its quest to gain power over Tamil Nadu's politics, is the resistance it faced from the film industry”. “Considering that both Vijay and Kamal Hasaan have considerable influence of thousands of Tamilians, open criticism against the Centre could make an impression on the electorate. The narrative around BJP's move to re-censor Mersal has been cast in a way that suggests that the party has hurt Tamil pride. That can't be good news for the party”. This isn’t necessarily a BJP versus Congress issue. Every political party that has a certain community as its base can/will object to art that they see as depicts them in a bad way or subtly criticizes. In a country of over a billion, it’s bound to happen. In Tamil Nadu especially, where film stars are practically gods and film is like a religion often bordering into sycophantic like behavior from groups, the passion is undeniable. Picking a fight may not be the best option for the BJP in this instance. Financially, Mersal is not having any trouble. Perhaps any publicity is good publicity.
Mersal was certified. Dont re-censor it . Counter criticism with logical response. Dont silence critics. India will shine when it speaks.— Kamal Haasan (@ikamalhaasan) October 20, 2017
More columns by Varun Sukumar