When a visibly tired and deeply hurt Kamal Haasan faced the media at a multiplex in Juhu on Thursday, he was hopeful and grateful.
Hopeful because his Rs100-crore film Vishwaroopam that curiously managed to offend sensibilities, may be screened in entirety in Tamil Nadu with the state government, especially chief minister J Jayalalithaa, softening her stand and the agitators appearing confused over exactly what they are protesting against.
The film has already hit the screens in the US and Canada and is being shown in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala, where it was taken off the theatres earlier.
The Hindi version, Vishwaroop, will hit the cinemas in Mumbai on Friday.
Haasan thanked Jayalalithaa for her intervention and insisted there were no “bad Muslims” in his film.
In Uttar Pradesh, however, the ruling Samajwadi Party said it won’t let Vishwaroop to release in the state until it ceased to be controversial.
The iconic actor is grateful to the film fraternity in Mumbai and Chennai, his thousands of Muslim fans (some of whom recited prayers for his well being and apologised for the conduct of the protestors) and the media for standing by him in his hour of crisis.
“The mobs have been incited by rabble-rousers. They have been playing politics with both religion and art. If a sachcha Muslim after watching the film tells me that his religious sentiments have been hurt, I will explain my artistic stand. Why should I make a film, which is meant to entertain and engage, to show Muslims and Islam in poor light?” asks Haasan.
He has a point. The furore has already cost him dearly in both financial and emotional terms. As of now, Haasan pegs the losses between Rs30 and Rs60 crore, precipitated by the delay in releasing the film. Shocked and anguished, he had even contemplated leaving his home state and moving to a secular state. “When I spoke about leaving my state, it wasn’t a threat. I will stand by my statement. It was an artiste and a human being’s response to the humiliation he has suffered, the pain all this has caused.”
Now, coming to his much-maligned labour of love, which was screened at the multiplex after the media meet, one gets the feeling that all the negative reactions and stone pelting were manufactured. Parts of the film portray the grim reality in some parts of Afghanistan where terror networks, recruit and train jihadis and operate. It also shows the plight of the ordinary Afghanis in the face of deadly US drone attacks.
Most of this is already known to us through newspapers and television. Vishwaroopam doesn’t dwell upon religion to ascribe deadly motives. It doesn’t show Islam in poor light. If anything, Haasan, the central character, shows Indian Muslims battling al-Qaeda operatives.
It does get violent once in a while, but such bloodletting is now part and parcel of cinema — hardly the stuff to frown upon or even cringe.
Let Mumbai watch it and deliver its verdict.