Tamil director Vetri Maaran’s film Visaranai’s gritty, yet powerful take on corruption and brutality on the Tamil Nadu police force was critically well-received despite its controversial theme. In fact, it is considered a good film to be selected as India’s entry into the Oscar Awards’ foreign languages category this year.
In a recent interview, the director said that because it is a Tamil film, he has had the liberty to portray a controversial topic. Compared to Bollywood, Tamil filmmakers have a lot more freedom of expression. Vetri used the heavily censored Udta Punjab (it was about Punjab’s drug addiction issue) as a point of reference.
Films down South show that the audiences seem to be more open to accepting films with subjects such as caste, and corruption amongst others. From Pokiri and Ram Gopal Varma’s Rakht Charitra series to Antahpuram. Balaji Tharaneetharan, director of critically-acclaimed film Naduvula Konjam Pakkatha Kaanom, says, “In Tamil, like Vetri Maaran opines, it is not that difficult to touch sensitive subjects. However, we also have issues in depicting the reality regarding issues like caste and religion. We can attempt to deal with those subject but it would need a refined approach, since producers would also want to make movies which will come out with ease devoid of problems with censors and other issues.”
Telugu director Krish agrees, but thinks that it’s the distribution market that plays a heavy hand in the films as well. “I think we have more of a free voice, rather than freedom of expression. Bollywood is mostly determined by the market and the stars, because of the huge corporate structure, which is good for them in terms of revenues. In Telugu, there are more individual producers. It’s more of the corporate versus individual, money versus passion,” he says.
Tollywood director and writer Dasarath adds, “It’s the Tamil audiences that tend to watch such films (like Visaranai), but here too we’ve had filmmakers who come out with stories, such as K. Viswanath. It depends on the director — if he’s good and people believe in him, he’ll get the creative freedom to make such films.” However, Madhur Bhandarkar, who directed the critically and commercially successful Fashion, says that Bollywood cannot be generalised — and points out that the Censor Board’s certification is seen as what really makes or breaks the ‘controvers’.
“Kamal Hassan’s Marudhanayagam faced problems during shooting, his Hey Ram also faced some issues. During the Emergency, Aandhi was banned; the prints for the film Kissa Kursi Ka was burned — the backlash can come from anywhere,” he says, adding, “I think, if the Censor Board passes it, the film should see an easy release, since it comprises of people from different walks of life.”...