A high-voltage political drama is playing out in Tamil Nadu over a few punch-lines delivered by lead actor Vijay in his latest film Mersal. The film has drawn the wrath of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders for mocking the Centre’s pet projects such as Goods and Services Tax (GST) and Digital India.
The controversy was also given a communal spin by senior BJP leader H Raja, who has cited Vijay’s Christian origin for criticising the Modi government in his film. He said he is even trying to find out the religion of producer Hema Rukmani of Thenandal Studios.
The filmmakers are under pressure to remove the dialogues from the film, which are deemed “incorrect” by the BJP leaders. And if the reports are to be believed, the producers are axing the scenes. The controversy has drawn a lot of attention to the dialogues in Mersal in question, which would have otherwise been forgettable quotes.
Here is everything that happened so far:
- In one scene in Mersal, Vadivelu’s character tells robbers that he has no money in hand, courtesy demonetisation and “Digital India.” In another scene, Vijay’s character makes an impassioned speech ruing the government charging 28 percent GST.
- The Mersal controversy began on Thursday when BJP state president Tamilisai Sounderarajan slammed Mersal filmmakers for references to GST in the Vijay film. “When you make films, you do not follow rules but you criticise the government and the tax regime. They (actors) can’t fix the price of their movie tickets honestly. They can’t reveal the salaries they get paid. Or, they don’t pay taxes correctly. But they criticise PM Modi who faces no corruption charges and works 24 hours a day for people’s welfare,” she said.
- Soon Sounderarajan was joined by other state BJP leaders making it a full-blown political controversy. “The film producer should remove the untruths regarding GST from the film,” Union minister Pon Radhakrishnan told on Friday.
- BJP leader H Raja upped the ante by raking up the religious origins of the filmmakers of Mersal to project seemingly harmless movie dialogues into an anti-Modi campaign. “Vijay dared to say that we should build hospitals instead of temples, will he say the same about churches, too? Why are only temples being referred to? In the last 20 years, some 17,500 churches and some 9,700 mosques were built in Tamil Nadu compared to just 370 temples built during the same period,” Raja told The India Express when asked why he made a reference to Vijay’s Christian name.
- Mersal is also receiving support from the members of the film fraternity. “When all those controversial dialogues are being accepted in the theater with huge applause, it means the movie has succeeded in voicing the sentiments of the people. Why should they be removed?” director PA Ranjith said.
- Vijay’s father SA Chandrasekhar threw his weight behind his son. He remarked that many BJP leaders have termed GST and demonetisation as failures but why attack only his son.
- The leaders of Tamil Nadu political parties including Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, Congress, Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi, Pattali Makkal Katchi and others have also come out in support of Mersal.
- Actor Kamal Haasan also supported Mersal. “Mersal was certified. Dont re-censor it. Counter criticism with logical response. Dont silence critics. India will shine when it speaks,” Haasan said in a tweet.
- “BJP demands deletion of dialogues in ‘Mersal’. Imagine the consequences if ‘Parasakthi’ was released today. “Notice to film makers: Law is coming, you can only make documentaries praising government’s policies,” tweeted former finance minister P Chidambaram.
- Congress Vice-President Rahul Gandhi came out in support of Mersal. He took to Twitter and said, “Mr. Modi, Cinema is a deep expression of Tamil culture and language. Don’t try to demon-etise Tamil pride by interfering in Mersal.”
- “Re-Censoring #Mersal will be a shame on all of us livin in a democracy😠,” tweeted actor Shanthnu.
— Glamour Sathya (@glamour_sathya) October 21, 2017