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Explained Ideas: Why stalling the film on Muralitharan will not help Tamils in Sri Lanka

Will Sri Lankan Tamil political aspirations and post-war reconciliation advance now that the movie has been axed, asks M R Narayan Swamy.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: October 30, 2020 5:43:44 pm
Muttiah Muralitharan, Muttiah Muralitharan biopic, Muttiah Muralitharan controversy, Muttiah Muralitharan Sri Lankan Tamils, Vijay Sethupathi, Indian ExpressMuttiah Muralitharan, one of the finest bowlers, has a compelling personal story. (File Photo)

Tamil film star Vijay Sethupathi’s decision to opt out of a biopic on legendary Sri Lankan Tamil cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan is another tragedy to befall Tamil Nadu’s love-hate relations with the island nation, according to M R Narayan Swamy, a historian of the LTTE.

“Tamil nationalists, sections of Tamil Nadu politicians, and personalities from the Tamil film world can claim victory, but it is doubtful if the axing of the movie (for now) will do any good to Tamils in Sri Lanka,” he states in his opinion piece in The Indian Express.

Muralitharan, one of the finest bowlers ever (800 wickets in Tests and 534 in ODIs), has a compelling personal story. If identity is so crucial to Tamils, they should be celebrating his storied life. Here’s a Tamil with a contribution to cricket that is inspirational.

The charge against Muralitharan is that he supported then defence secretary and now President, Gotabaya Rajapaksa, who presided over the military destruction of the LTTE in 2009. The cricketer has been accused of describing 2009 as the best year in his life, which was read as supporting the killing of the many innocent Tamils in the war. Muralitharan’s refutation that he never supported the killings has made no difference to his critics.

“Will Sri Lankan Tamil political aspirations and post-war reconciliation advance now that the movie has been axed?” asks Swamy.

Explained: Why a planned biopic of Muttiah Muralitharan has upset some Tamils in India

Muralitharan, in any case, does not belong to the North or East of Sri Lanka, which formed the geographical territory of Eelam. He belongs to the Hill Tamil community (also known as Indian-origin Tamils) which also suffered at the hands of Sinhalese chauvinists even though it had no role in the Eelam campaign.

“The Tamil nationalists in Tamil Nadu remain in thrall of the LTTE, even though Sri Lankan Tamils have had mixed feelings about them. There is only one Sri Lankan Tamil hero for them. The danger, in the eyes of Tamil nationalists, is this: The biopic, 800, would have shown up a different Tamil hero.

“Is this why he had to be called a traitor?” asks Swamy.

There is still time for Tamil nationalists to rethink their position on Sri Lankan Tamil nationalism. The more they shout from Chennai, the less it is going to help the Tamils in Sri Lanka.

“What Tamils want today from the Sri Lankan government is accountability, justice, equality. Nixing a movie on a Tamil cricketer is not going to get them that,” concludes Swamy.

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