There is apparently no end to the super sensitivity of politicians. Taking offence at every little thing has become such a fad that it has become commonplace to see issues being whipped up out of seemingly nothing.
Recently we saw VIjay’s film Mersal being mired in controversy over dialogues knocking the new composite tax system GST. And now another movie —Suriya’s Thaana Serndha Koottam — is kicking up a furore in K’town. A song out of the movie — Sodakku Mela Sodakku Poduthu — composed by Anirudh Ravichander, is in focus. The lines ‘veratti veratti velukka thonuthu, athigara thimira, veratti veratti velukka thonuthu’ (which roughly translate as — “to banish and bleed authoritative arrogance”) seems to have rubbed members of the ruling party the wrong way.
Petitioner Satish Kumar has moved the high court seeking to have the objectionable lines removed. He claims they are defamatory as the song portrays politicians and those who are in power in very bad light. The High Court, somewhat stumped by the plea, has asked for an English translation of the lyrics of Sodakku… so that the plea may be understood.
Courts do, however, tend to take the view that freedom of artistic expression cannot be taken away as seen most recently in the Padmaavat case in which the Supreme Court flatly refused to have any scenes deleted. Once a film is certified, it must be allowed to run unhindered is the judicial pronouncement on this matter.
The trend tends to run deeper in Tamil Nadu where several movies are facing the wrath of extra constitutional powers, politicians and even religious organisations in Tamil Nadu. We speak to industry people on whether creative freedom is being trampled upon, with film people seen as a soft target of everyone.
Dhananjeyan, producer, historian and national award winning author says, “I feel people are overreacting to such things. In what way it is going to affect society? These days the life of films is a maximum of four to five weeks. And it is just momentary. They are making an issue out of nothing.”
Sura, a trade analyst and writer, says that the problems have been there from olden days itself, but only sporadically. “With the advent of social media and technology, it is on the rise these days.
There is a dialogue in Parasakthi (1952), written by Kalaignar Karunanidhi and starring Sivaji Ganesan saying this, — Ambal endha kaalathilada Pesum? Muttaal!’ (Fool! When has goddess Ambal spoken to anybody?). This passed without crating any controversy in those times and the film was a super hit.
On the other hand, MGR succumbed to pressure when he was asked to remove the word ‘Anna’ from the song Nalla Nalla Pillaigalai Nambi which had a line ‘Medaiyil Muzhangum Anna Pol’. The line was thought to refer to the late leader and CM, CN Annadurai. To satisfy critics, MGR changed it to ‘Medayil Muzhangum Thiru Vi Ka Pol’.”
Echoing Dhanajeyan’s views, Sura says, “At the end of the day it is publicity for the film only.”
Earlier, just merely watching a song from the teaser of Kamal Haasan’s Dasavatharam, R Bakthavatsalam and Swami Govinda Ramanuja Dasa from Chennai alleged that the film would hurt religious sentiments of 50 crore Vaishnavites and filed a case to stay the film itself. Nothing of the sort happened and the movie ran its course.
Yet another Kamal movie Viswaroopam ran into trouble in Tamil Nadu, facing angry outbursts from Muslim groups over his portrayal of the community as “terrorists”. The government stopped the screening for two weeks in the state, but it was released elsewhere and ran to full houses in neighbouring states and the rest of the world. Later, with additional cuts from the Censor Board, the film got released in Tamil Nadu. Once again, Kamal’s film Utthama Villain was caught in problems with Vishwa Hindu Parishad demanding a ban since they claimed it would hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus.
Karthi’s Komban had problems with Puthiya Thamizhagam president K Krishnasamy, who objected to the release of the film and he wanted it banned, alleging it would lead to caste clashes between scheduled caste communities and the Thevar community in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu. The censor initially cleared it with U certificate, but it went to Revising Committee and was awarded UA certificate with cuts.
More recently, Vijay Antony, composer turned actor/producer had to remove few lines in the form of religious chants, which appeared as background voice in the teaser of his film Saithaan. A few religious heads said they were upset about the Sanskrit chants, and demanded that they be removed.
“There is a body called Censor Board where the entire script including the dialogues, every movement of the camera and every line of every song is being submitted by each and every producer. When they have cleared Thaana…, who are these people to object to it? Moreover, it goes with the storyline and hence it is justified that way. Treat and view cinema as an entertaining medium,” a big producer remarked on condition of anonymity.