Vishnu Vishal’s latest film FIR opened to an encouraging response. But, while the actor is busy organising special screenings for friends and industry colleagues in Chennai, the Manu Anand directorial has received a setback — the All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM) has expressed some objections.
The AIMIM says the film’s poster includes the Shahadah in Arabic — an integral part of Islam — and has approached the Telangana Cinematography Minister to initiate necessary action.
Youths belonging to the community also staged a protest at the Shanth Mahal theatre in Tandur where the film was to be screened.
Speaking about the controversy, Vishnu Vishal says there was no intention to hurt anyone’s religious sentiments. "There was a small design on the poster in Arabic; they wanted it to be removed, and we immediately made the changes," says Vishnu, adding that he had apologised for unintentionally hurting some people’s sentiments.
There was also a demand to remove certain dialogues from the film, Vishnu says, but explains that "If I remove them, the film loses its intensity." He has urged people to watch the film, as only then they will understand what was meant to be conveyed.
"Perhaps, some people may have misunderstood that we are portraying a certain religion in the wrong light. To clear all such apprehensions, we want people to come and see the film so that they’ll understand," explains Vishal, adding that those who watched it were okay with it.
"Several of my Muslim friends watched the film and were happy with the way it was," he asserts. FIR focuses on how people of one community are blamed for incidents of terror. Vishnu Vishal plays Irfan Ahmed, a Chemical Engineer who gets entangled in a mission by investigative agency to nab a terrorist.
"We are super thrilled with the response we have been getting for the film; we are hoping that more audiences will come to the theatres and experience it," shares Vishnu, who, however, admits that he had not expected a backlash, and acknowledges that the repercussions had had a bearing on the film’s collections.
Meanwhile, the actor is quite thrilled with the response he has been getting from the Telugu people.
"The audience has known me for a decade," he says. "FIR is my major Telugu release, and I got the highest openings." His Tamil films Vennila Kabadi Kuzhu, Ratsasan, etc., were remade in Telugu, and he now wants to do straight Telugu films.
Vishnu describes his 12-year journey in films as ‘a difficult one’. "I am the first person from my family to enter films. My father is a cop, and so people think that I am arrogant, don’t listen to producers, and have an easy life. But the going wasn’t easy," he says. "When I achieved success, people would say it was because of my father. But I have dug deep to defy all odds to support myself."
His biggest learning in the industry is ‘never give up’, says the actor. "Success brought happiness, but failures taught me the most. I analyse what went wrong with my film and learn the right way," he shares. He also believes in constantly updating himself, saying that’s the only way forward in the industry.
Last year, Vishnu married former badminton champion Jwala Gutta at Hyderabad. He lives in Chennai, while Jwala lives in Hyderabad. Is that what makes him keep coming to Hyderabad, we ask? "Of course," he replies with a smile, stating that married life has been bliss.
"Jwala has been busy with her academy and coaching stint. Both of us are focussing on our respective careers. In fact, at times things were so hectic that we weren’t able to meet for over 25 days. But we always kept each other updated over phone," he reveals.
Does he have anything planned for Valentine’s Day, we ask Vishnu in conclusion. "I generally don’t celebrate the Day as such, but we are always there for each other," he signs off.