The makers of ‘Sarkar‘, a political thriller starring actor Vijay, have reportedly agreed, under pressure from the state government, to cut out or mute parts of the movie apparently critical of the ruling AIADMK and former chief minister J Jayalalithaa, who died in 2016. The film by noted director AR Murugadoss released on Tuesday.
Yesterday, the film’s banners and cut-outs of Vijay were damaged by AIADMK supporters who protested outside theatres in Tamil Nadu.
The AIADMK has objected to scenes in the film showing the state government handing out mixer-grinders to voters as freebies and people setting them on fire, apart from lines they say are critical of the establishment. “They are showing freebies given by the elected government being burnt. This amounts to indirectly inciting people, and comes under sedition,” said state minister CV Shanmugam, comparing the screening of ‘Sarkar‘ to “terrorist activity”. Another minister, Kadambur C Raju, had threatened action against the filmmakers unless the scenes were removed.
Even theatre owners targeted by AIADMK protesters urged Sun Pictures, the makers of the film, to delete the portions.
The production house has not officially confirmed any cuts, but the AIADMK “welcomed” the decision. Minister RB Udhayakumar thanked the filmmakers for agreeing to drop the scenes and also warned the film industry to be “careful” in future.
“AIADMK cannot accept scenes that demean Jayalalithaa. Freebies help to improve socio-economic status of the state. Even fans of actor Vijay will have freebies given by Jayalalithaa. The film industry should be more careful in future,” Mr Udhayakumar said.
Produced by media baron Kalanithi Maran, the film is pulling in big crowds and has already crossed the Rs 100-crore mark in two days, claim theatre owners.
In the film, Vijay plays an NRI who returns to India to vote, only to learn that his vote has been cast illegally. He then digs deep and ends up stirring up a political controversy.
The DMK has accused the AIADMK government of trying to crush dissent. “The ruling party and its ministers are indulging in intimidation. People are dying of dengue and the impact of demonetisation is felt even today, but the state government is trying to divert attention by picking on films,” said party spokesperson A Saravanan.
The film – starring Vijay, who is keen on joining politics – comes just before crucial bypolls in 20 constituencies.
The AIADMK denied that it is intolerant to criticism. “If we were intolerant, we would not have allowed the film to be screened. Instead, we gave permission for seven shows daily,” said Mr Shanmugam.
This is not the first time Vijay’s films have run into political trouble. Last year, the BJP objected to his film ‘Mersal‘ for promoting “misconceptions” about central government policies including GST or Goods and Services Tax, demonetisation and the Digital India campaign.