Chennai: Actor Vijay Sethupathi stepping out of the ‘800’ film project without precipitating the situation, despite getting open support from sections of people urging to go ahead with his plans, is likely to turn him into a darling of the Tamil people.
The award winning actor, who had been silent when the issue raged like wildfire with several leading politicians and film personalities like director Bharathiraja and lyricist Thamarai personally requesting him to bow down to popular demand, has at last decided to call it off, at least through Muthiah Muralidharan.
Apart from the hashtags, #ShameOnVijaySethupathi and #BoycottVijaySethupathi, trending for one full day, the entire social media was continuously filled with scorn for the actor, who had agreed to play the role of the ace Sri Lankan bowler Muthiah Muralidharan in the biopic titled after the number of wickets he took in international cricket.
Of course, there were many, in cinema, politics and in the public domain, who elucidated on Vijay Sethupathi’s right to choose his films, how the public demand that he should not don the role of Muralidharan was an infringement of freedom of expression and so on and so forth.
Then there was another section that tried to justify the past actions of Muralidharan that were the primary cause for the plethora of objections that came from different quarters and thus trying to say that the cricketer was not such a bad guy as he had been made out to be and he should be judged by this proven talent.
The cricketer himself came out with his explanations in a bid to prove wrong the allegations against him that he was against the LTTE and did not support the Eelam cause and instead cosied along with the Sinhala establishment.
But the demand that Vijay Sethupathi should not play the role of Muralidharan in the biopic was based purely on sentiments. For many Tamil people, the LTTE and the people of Eelam were denied justice and the Sri Lankan government ran roughshod over them in the last days of the war.
Since Muralidharan did not condemn the excesses of the Sri Lankan army, a Tamilian should not play his part in a Tamil film was all that the people felt. The request to abandon the project was based more on Tamil sentiments. Perhaps that was the reason that Vijay Sethupathi, too, could not cock a snook at it as some ‘progressive’ and ‘intellectually inclined’ people did.
The resolution to the issue should have come as a great relief to the actor who had gone into a shell after the controversy broke out in Tamil Nadu. Perhaps he was caught in a dilemma to choose between a lucrative plum assignment and respecting the sentiments of the people.
That Muralidharan himself stepped in to help him put an end to the controversy by making the announcement was a good thing. For, the anger among the people, as it was evident in social media and elsewhere, threatened to not only derail Vijay Sethupathi’s film career but also the prospects of the film ‘800’ in the State.
Now the biopic could be taken with some other actor and perhaps in some other language. For in Tamil it may not get the patronage required for a box office hit, going by the rancor and bitterness that it generated in the past few days.