At a press conference this morning, Kamal Hassan, patently tired, confused and exhausted with the developments preceding the ban of his film Vishwaroopam in Tamil Nadu and the developments following the Tamil Nadu High Court staying the ban, said, “I am part of a political game, which I do not know who is playing.” He said he feels that Tamil Nadu wants him out. This reaction was made shortly after screening of the film was stopped by the police this morning.
Just last night, Kamal Hassan must have been breathing easy. “In a relief to actor and director Kamal Haasan, the Madras High Court on Tuesday night lifted the stay on Vishwaroopam, overriding Tamil Nadu government’s order of banning the film from theatres in Tamil Nadu. The ban itself was illegal because none of the orders were served in the court, said the two-page judgement,” reported IBNlive.
But that was last night. This morning, in complete defiance of the court order, police halted screening across Chennai.
“I have no religion, no caste, perhaps no money now. But I have my talent. I have pledged all my property on this film. I have nothing to lose, so I may as well choose.”
“I have interpreted this entire country through Tamil. If I don’t have place here, I will find a place without religion. Kerala, Hyderabad, some other secular state. But if I don’t find a secular state, which I will know in the next two days, I will move to another secular country like MF Husain”, he said.
Sadly, Kamal Hassan is not alone. There are many citizens of the country who feel as he does; he’s just the most notable Indian to have articulated the thought.
Ashis Nandy, his family, friends and supporters must be wondering what has happened to India today, as every innocuous sentence and statement is twisted and transformed into one laced with danger, capable of being divisive and disturbing communal harmony.
“Author Salman Rushdie says India needs to ask itself why it’s becoming a culturally intolerant country that bans books and movies that offend some people. Rushdie was talking to CNN-IBN news channel about Vishwaroopam, a Tamil language film recently banned in the southern state of Tamil Nadu after Muslim groups said it was offensive to Islam. Rushdie said in the interview shown Thursday that India needed to ask itself why it was “so easy in this society to shut things down,” reports Calgary Herald.
In a country where we were once proud of the plurality of languages and religions, and in a country that was congratulated in international fora for the freedom of speech we enjoy, the last few weeks have been major embarrassments at best and worrying signals of an anarchy at worst.
When there is no respect for the law or the courts, or when the police department supports the wrongdoers rather than the victims, it’s an immediate erosion of the confidence with which citizens lead their daily lives. The Vishwaroopam episode has demonstrated a despot-like rule rather than an administration in a democracy.
To the average citizen who sees someone with the stature Kamal Hassan, who has followed the law to the letter, can still be bullied by the government hours after a court order supporting Kamal Hassan’s position, the writing is on the wall: The whims and fancies of the politicians are supreme. Not the law, not the courts, not the constitution.
And perhaps, like Kamal Hassan, they’ll think: let’s look for a place, away from here, where democracy and law are not mere words but are ideas and practices.