Chennai: Tamil superhit "Mersal" has extended its star turn in a controversy over censorship. The Madras High Court today rejected a petition to ban the film, stating, "It is only a film and not real life. Freedom of expression is for all."
The ban was sought by a Chennai advocate who claimed the film the "shows India in a poor light" through its comments on health care and the new national sales tax or GST.
The victory over the ban apart, "Mersal" which means "stunning", did not release in the neighbouring states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana today) as scheduled because the censor board has not yet cleared the dubbed Telugu version, though the producers have removed the dialogue that is critical of the GST, as demanded by the BJP. The Telugu version, titled "Adhirindhi", was to release in 700 screens across the two states. The producers have not indicated the new release date.
"Mersal", starring Vijay, released on Diwali in Tamil Nadu and has earned nearly 180 crores worldwide after it bounced into controversy with a union minister and state leaders of the BJP demanding that the references to GST be edited. Artists and political parties like the Congress said the BJP was seeking a blatant impediment on the freedom of artistic expression. The Tamil version remains unaltered. But for the new release in Telugu, "the producers are under pressure from the BJP and hence they've decided to mute (the criticism)," a source from the "Mersal" team told news NDTV today.
The film's producer Murali Ramaswamy, who has invested about 130 crores in the movie, suggested earlier this week that the BJP could win the row. "From their perspective, their opposition is just. If opinions (expressed in the movie) that may lead to misunderstanding need to be removed, we are ready for that too," he said.
Actor Kamal Haasan, opposing edits to the film, advised, "Don't re-censor it. Counter criticism with logical response. Don't silence critics."
Tamil superstar Rajinikanth tweeted, "Important topic addressed, Well done. Congratulations team".