The Tamil film makers of ‘Sarkar’, a political thriller starring actor Vijay, have reportedly agreed, under immense pressure from the state government, to cut out parts of the movie seen as critical of the ruling AIADMK and former chief minister J Jayalalithaa, who died in 2016.
The film’s director AR Murugadoss went to the Madras High Court today for protection from arrest; in a tweet last night, he had alleged that the police banged on his door when he was not at home.
The AIADMK is furious over a scene in the film in which Mr Murugadoss, playing a cameo, flings a mixer-grinder given as a freebie, into the fire.
“They are showing freebies given by the elected government being burnt. This amounts to indirectly inciting people, and comes under sedition,” said state minister CV Shanmugam, comparing the screening of ‘Sarkar’ to “terrorist activity”.
Another minister, Kadambur C Raju, had threatened action against the filmmakers unless the scenes were removed.
The party has also objected to the name of the villain, played by actor Varalaxmi Sarathkumar. Her name is Komalavalli, the original name of Jayalalithaa.
The film was released on Tuesday. AIADMK’s protests started a day later and yesterday, banners and cut-outs of Vijay were damaged by workers outside theatres in Tamil Nadu. Even theatre owners urged Sun Pictures, the makers of the film, to delete the portions.
The production house has not officially confirmed any cuts, but the AIADMK “welcomed” the decision. Minister RB Udhayakumar thanked the filmmakers for agreeing to drop the scenes and also warned the film industry to be “careful” in future.
“AIADMK cannot accept scenes that demean Jayalalithaa. Freebies help to improve socio-economic status of the state. Even fans of actor Vijay will have freebies given by Jayalalithaa. The film industry should be more careful in future,” Mr Udhayakumar said.
Produced by media baron Kalanithi Maran, the film is pulling in big crowds and has reportedly crossed the Rs. 100-crore mark in just two days.
In the film, Vijay plays an NRI who returns to India to vote, only to learn that his vote has been cast illegally. He then digs deep and ends up stirring up a political controversy. For the AIADMK, some scenes were too close to home.
Freebies offered by both AIADMK and DMK in elections over the years have ranged from colour TV sets and mixer-grinders to fans and laptops.
The DMK has accused the AIADMK government of trying to crush dissent. “The ruling party and its ministers are indulging in intimidation. People are dying of dengue and the impact of demonetisation is felt even today, but the state government is trying to divert attention by picking on films,” said party spokesperson A Saravanan.
The AIADMK denied that it is intolerant to criticism. “If we were intolerant, we would not have allowed the film to be screened. Instead, we gave permission for seven shows daily,” said Mr Shanmugam.
The film comes just before crucial bypolls in 20 constituencies; its star Vijay is keen on politics.
This is not the first time Vijay’s films have run into political trouble. Last year, the BJP objected to his film ‘Mersal’ for promoting “misconceptions” about central government policies including GST or Goods and Services Tax, demonetisation and the Digital India campaign.>