Kamal threatens to quit India, 'Vishwaroopam' ban stays

Chennai, Jan 30 (IANS) An emotional Kamal Hassan Wednesday threatened to quit India if the ban in Tamil Nadu on his controversial film "Vishwaroopam" wasn't lifted but the Madras High Court reimposed the ban.

As controversy swirled over the Rs.95 crore multilingual espionage thriller, the acclaimed actor said he had agreed to make cuts in the movie that some Muslim groups found objectionable.

Kamal, 58 and one of southern cinema's most successful stars, said if the ban on his Tamil-Telugu film was not lifted, he might have to look out for a "secular state" abroad.

Saying he was fed up with the opposition to the movie, Kamal said here: "If there is no secular state in India, I would go overseas. I think Tamil Nadu wants me out.

"M.F. Husain had to do it and now Haasan will have to do it. It's fine. What would change is my passport. I would still be an Indian.

"I have pledged all my property for the film. I have lost my house because of delay in (its) release," he said.

He said he had invested his lifetime's savings, including all his assets, on the film that has also been dubbed in Hindi and which has been released in the US and Canada.

Soon afterwards, he met Muslim leaders here and announced he was ready to make cuts said to be maligning India's largest religious minority.

"There is no (more) difference between me and my Muslim brothers. It is our duty to take care of them. There are four scenes that are being pointed out and I am willing to remove these scenes from the movie," he said.

The lavishly mounted film, which stars Kamal and is written, produced and directed by him, was banned by the Tamil Nadu government after some Muslim groups complained that it portrayed the community in poor light.

The film was to release Jan 25 in Tamil Nadu but saw the light of the day only in a few places in Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.

It was banned in these places too after the first show. As the protests became vocal, it was also banned in Malaysia and Sri Lanka after two days of run. But the movie is now running in the other southern states.

Kamal said he was still trying to understand why "some members with strong political backing" were against his film.

"The film is running successfully in other states and the feedback from the audience has also been positive."

On Wednesday, the Madras High Court overturned Tuesday's single bench ruling revoking the ban on "Vishwaroopam", which revolves around the story of an Al Qaeda plot in the US and an Indian couple.

The high court bench chaired by Justice Dharma Rao asked the filmmaker and the Tamil Nadu government to respond by Monday.

The film fraternity are backing Kamal and his film, cleared by the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC).

CBFC chairperson Leela Samson said Wednesday that the ban was "an infringement on freedom of expression". "This is hounding of an artist, an icon of Tamil Nadu," Samson told CNN-IBN.

Said Actor Siddharth: "What a sad day. What a horrible week. Taliban Tamil Nadu."

Director Mahesh Bhatt said Kamal was a victim of state terrorism.

As Kamal's critics and fans took to the streets, sporadic violence was reported in Tamil Nadu.

Miscreants attacked with petrol bombs a theatre planning to screen "Vishwaroopam" in Ramanathapuram, 310 km from here. Tyres were set on fire outside a Chennai theatre.

In Chennai, DMK chief M. Karunanidhi wondered whether the ban was linked to Kamal's comment obliquely supporting Finance Minister P. Chidambaram as India's prime minister.

In New Delhi, Congress spokesman P.C. Chacko said Kamal's threat to leave India "was an unfortunate statement".

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