Vijay and Diwali releases go hand in hand, but it seems so too do the controversies around these films. While Mersal last year faced objections from the ruling party of the nation, Sarkar has come under fire from the cadre of the state’s ruling party, asking for certain scenes they found objectionable to be removed. With the protests turning more violent by the hour on Thursday, the film’s makers agreed to remove these scenes, and a new edited version was played in theatres from Friday evening.
We reached out to people involved in different spheres of cinema and asked them what this kind of ‘voluntary censoring’ means for the industry — in the short and long terms and whether there is any solution in sight.
Khushbu - Actor-politician
This is not the first time this is happening. We have seen it for multiple Vijay films. From issues raised by fringe elements things have come to the point where we now have the ruling government causing a ruckus over a film. And they scare, beat up and stoop to any levels to get their points across. The film industry is the biggest in terms of economic output in the country and some of the highest tax payers are from here, but we have absolutely no protection.
What use is the CBFC then? You might as well screen to every single person and then keep removing the objectionable scenes. In the Malayalam film industry, they openly name the parties — be it Left or Congress — and talk about their failures. No one bats an eye, but here the insecurity is so much that a scene about freebies prickles them because it shows their policy for the failure that it is.
Parthiban - Actor-director
It is unfair that problems creep in after the censor certification, and this is now becoming more and more frequent. This is one of the perspectives that I came across. There are laws that regulate the number of shows screened per day and the price of each ticket. As an industry we expect the government to be lax on these rules when we skirt them, in the case of a big film. We seek the government’s assistance to make our money. So when criticism against the government comes in such a film, how will they allow it? I found this perspective to be interesting and think it needs to be analysed.
Ameer - Director-actor
What has happened in this specific case is that two groups had problems with the film and my biggest disappointment is that both parties did not take the legal route. The ruling government should have filed a case against the film talking about the objectionable portions, while the producers could have filed a case alleging pressure to cut scenes. I don’t see any solutions for this. If you have the strength to make a film against the ruling government or any contentious political issue, you should stand by your film.
T Siva Producer - Amma Creations
The CBFC issues guidelines that we have to follow, and we make films taking these into account. It can take months, and sometimes years, to produce a film. And we have at most two weeks to recover the cost we put in. So every single show that is cancelled is like a death knell for the producer and the distributor. Therefore, as a fellow producer, I am thankful that this issue got sorted out at the earliest and thank the production house for the same. But I don’t see any new solution for this issue aside from letting CBFC be the last word.
Abirami Ramanathan - President, Tamil Nadu Theatre Owners and Distributors Association
I have seen a lot of issues over the years, including 21 years back when Iruvar came and it took more than 25 days for the film to actually release after lots of cuts. I am just grateful that the makers did what they did at the earliest possible moment to help all theatres and distributors without a huge loss of revenue. I am responsible for the health of 148 theatres in the city and I am just happy that they all can peacefully screen the film without any further issues.
Rajinikanth - Actor
I strongly condemn the protests demanding the removal of certain scenes from a film that has been cleared by the censor board for release, and the damaging of the film’s banners and other such illegal acts.
CS Amudhan - Director
The film has been censored. There’s nothing more that needs to be said. In fact, the government should be protecting the film from people who are protesting against it. They have no argument in their favour. Even if a film criticises the government, it is free speech and the film has to be protected. That is their job. They are reacting to something that they think is affecting their reputation in the most primitive possible way, similar to a dictatorship. That’s now how democracy works.
Sashikanth - Producer, YNot Studios
We live in a pluralistic society that is not only diverse, but also one that is increasingly sensitive to the smallest of things. I still remember the pressures we faced when we made Tamizh Padam. What might have worked in our favour is that we treated it in a lighter vein and I think Tamil cinema stands evidence to the fact that, from the times of MR Radha, NS Krishnan to Vivek now, if said with a dollop of humour, even the most important of messages get through. In fact, it is all the more powerful. We just held up a mirror to the society and every single thing that is there in Tamizh Padam 1 and 2 were real happenings.
SR Prabhu - Treasurer, TFPC
Films are being censored, and later released, according to the laws and norms of the government. Censoring is a long process and we finish the several formalities involved. So when that process is being disrespected and questioned, it is the duty of the government to protect the film. If the state government isn’t doing that, then the central government should confirm their support. Any attack on censored films is a kind of terrorism, in my opinion.
Ajay Gnanamuthu - Director
I feel even the changes that were made to the film shouldn’t have happened in the first place. A censor certificate is all a film needs. This is happening very often recently; someone or the other takes up arms against every film that is released. If this continues, we won’t have any freedom of expression. It makes us soft-targets. A long-term solution has to be arrived at. But there are limitations to what can be done. Producers and distributors lose business when screenings are stalled and we can’t afford to let a released film be stalled for even a day. Hence, compromises are forced. There has to be a legal solution for this.
Kamal Haasan - Actor
It is nothing new for the ruling state government to interfere and pressurise a film which has already been properly certified by the censor board. A government that does not have the guts to accept criticism will definitely derail.