Relief for Kamal Haasan, ban lifted on 'Vishwaroopam'

Chennai, Jan 29 (IANS) The Madras High Court Tuesday ruled in favour of Kamal Haasan's banned controversial film "Vishwaroopam" and lifted the ban by the state government.

"The film can be released in theatres tomorrow and the Section 144 order issued by the district collector will be kept in abeyance," said Justice K. Venkatraman in an interim order. The film will be released without any cuts or edits.

"I have watched the film and it has no scenes that hurt the sentiments of Muslim community," Justice Venkataraman had said earlier in the day.

The verdict on the ban was issued after actor-filmmaker Kamal Haasan was requested to settle the matter amicably with the government of Tamil Nadu Jan 28. This was after a judge saw the movie in a private screening Jan 26.

The Rs.95 crore espionage thriller was originally scheduled to release in Tamil and Telugu Jan 25. However, a day before the screenings, the Tamil Nadu government imposed a two-week ban on the film after some Muslim groups complained that some scenes in it portrayed the community in bad light.

Haasan, 58, described the ban as "cultural terrorism" and added: "Any neutral and patriotic Muslim will surely feel pride on seeing my film. It was designed for that purpose."

"Vishwaroopam" was banned from being screened in Kerala, parts of Hyderabad, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh Jan 25, soon after the first show.

The film resumed playing in as many as 40 theatres amidst police security in Karnataka Tuesday morning. It was released with the tagline included in the credits, "All Muslims are not terrorists and the characters depicted in this film are imaginary".

Distributors and theatre owners who had to take off the film fear losses of up to Rs.30 crore and above.

Chandra Haasan, Kamal Haasan's brother and one of the producers of the film, said: "We are anticipating a loss of Rs.30 to 80 crore due to the initial delay in the release of the film. Since it has become a matter of law and order, we worry if theatres will screen the movie or not."

The film was also banned in Malaysia Jan 26, where it released Jan 24, after the Malaysian ministry intervened and requested the distributor to stop the screening the film.

However, according to trade pundits, the film is doing exceptionally well in the overseas region.

"Tamil film 'Vishwaroopam' is superb in the US and very good in Britain. In the opening weekend the film collected Rs.81.23 lakh in Britain and Rs.3.43 crore in the US", tweeted trade analyst Taran Adarsh.

Following the ban in Tamil Nadu, actors such as superstar Rajinikanth, Ajith Kumar, Parthepan and filmmaker Bharathiraja and producer Mukta Srinivasan opposed the ban and urged members from Muslim organisations to allow peaceful release of the film.

Produced and directed by Kamal, "Vishwaroopam" features him in the title role. Other members of the cast include Pooja Kumar, Andrea Jeremiah, Rahul Bose, Shekhar Kapur and Jaideep Ahlawat.

Its Hindi version "Vishwaroop" is slated to release Feb 1.

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