Vishwaroopam controversy: The good, the bad and the ugly

Last Updated: Fri, Feb 01, 2013 10:14 hrs

​While the Vishwaroopam controversy was something Kamal Haasan, Tamil Nadu and the rest of the country could have done without, it has indeed yielded its share of good, bad and ugly moments.

The good

Jayalalithaa's speech

It took some time for the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu J Jayalalithaa to say her piece on the issue, but when she finally did, boy was she good.

Not only did she join the debate - something few expected her to - but she also took the trouble of marshalling her facts and presenting a spirited defence of her government's actions.

More impressively, she succeeded in that delicate trick of being seen as reaching out to Kamal, even as she was landing some blows in her favour - all this without turning cloying or crass at any point.

While not everybody might agree with her arguments, it was no doubt a classy performance from the lady.

With her intervention, she managed to defuse a situation that was threatening to spiral out of control as far as she was concerned - one that could even have wrecked her prospects in the upcoming 2014 Lok Sabha elections.

The Tamil Nadu film fraternity's reaction

From the spontaneous Rajinikanth to Mani Ratnam to Sivakumar to many other stars, the Tamil Nadu film fraternity was quick to spring to the support of Kamal.

Unity is strength. This show of solidarity was the best answer the film community could have given to fringe elements hoping to hold movies to ransom.

Kamal and Jaya's English

Both Kamal Haasan and Jayalalithaa might hold doctorates, but neither of them has been to a university.

Yet, they are both proficient in the queen's tongue. Their English is of such a high order that they could put many of our English Phds to shame.

This makes them both luminous ambassadors of self-education in an India where education to most is only a means to one fancy degree or other.

The bad

An over-the-top Kamal

Kamal has a lot riding on this movie into which he has poured his life's savings. So, yes, him turning emotional can be understood. But at times, he has gone over the top.

His statement on January 30 being a good day for him to die, for instance.

"Yes, I was warned. I wouldn't want to name the kind gentleman since his life would also be jeopardised. But yes, I was told not to travel alone," he told a news agency.

A retired police officer telling a star under siege not to travel alone is a common-sense tip, not a death-threat tip-off that could jeopardise the ex-cop's life, Kamal sir.

The reaction of the political parties

The reactions of the Congress, the BJP, and most other parties were weak at the best.

The Tamil Nadu CPM was the only party which asked Jaya to lift the "legally and morally unjustifiable" ban.

Even the DMK Chief Karunanidhi only went so far as to say that "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 the state government should cooperate in maintaining law and order."

The ugly

The bumbling Advocate General

The Tamil Nadu Advocate General A Navaneetha Krishnan, who cut a sorry figure right through the controversy, by saying that "it is the legal contention that I have taken, in the course of my argument, in my submission. Film certification process is not taking place in accordance with the law, something otherwise is going on" did no favours to himself or the office he holds.

He went on to defend the statement later by adding that "definitely the film industry people wanted to get the certificate as early as possible by by-passing the rules and regulations. An inquiry can be conducted by the court pointing some person, so nothing can be done against me for making this kind of argument in the court of law."

The question Mr Krishnan then needs to answer is this: If film certification process is not taking place in accordance to the law, why weren't the courts approached earlier? Why single out Vishwaroopam?

As the attorney representing a government, a more responsible line of argument was certainly expected from him. Here is one man who could learn a lesson or two in communication from his Chief Minister.

Super censors emerging

If fringe/minority groups are allowed to question the wisdom of the Censor Board and demand cuts, where are we headed?

It is not a question that has an easy answer, but like the piracy threat, this is one threat that won't vanish immediately. Thankfully, unlike piracy, only certain films here and there are going to be affected by it.

And if, when such isolated instances occur, filmdom and the media rise up to the challenge like they have done this time around, there is hope aplenty still.

More from Sify: