Facing flak from Tamil Nadu BJP, Vijay-starrer ‘Mersal’ producer says ready for cuts

Chennai: Facing flak from the Tamil Nadu BJP over dialogues allegedly flaying the GST in “Mersal”, the film production house on Saturday said that if needed, it would delete scenes that have caused “misunderstanding”, even as the Congress slammed the saffron party for demanding cuts.

The producers also said that the BJP’s opposition to some dialogues in Vijay-starrer “Mersal” was “just” from its own perspective.

Giving indication that a truce had been reached between the production house and the state BJP, the producers claimed that BJP leaders have accepted their explanation.

Sri Thenandal Films head Murali Ramaswamy said, “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.”

Earlier in the day, Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi and senior party leader P Chidambaram had hit out at the state BJP for demanding cuts in “Mersal”.

“Mr Modi, Cinema is a deep expression of Tamil culture and language. Don’t try to demon-etise Tamil pride by interfering in Mersal,” Rahul Gandhi said in a tweet which was retweeted by Chidambaram.

The comment came a day after Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan demanded removal of dialogues which he termed as “untruths” about the Goods and Services Tax (GST), rolled out by the BJP-led NDA government on July 1.

The BJP leaders have appreciated “our honest approach to meet them in person, we thank them all”, the film’s producer said after a meeting with state BJP chief Tamilisai Soundararajan and the party’s leaders, here.

“We explained the movie’s objective, our stand and that this movie has not been produced with an intention to hurt anyone and they have generously accepted it,” he said.

“‘Mersal’ is not against anyone. It is not a film that expresses opinions against the government either. Even an ordinary person should get access to proper medical amenities and this is the story line of the movie,” Ramaswamy said in a statement

However, he did not elaborate whether the BJP leaders insisted on removing views they found “objectionable” or whether the producers will effect the cuts or not.

Even before the movie was released there were some “controversies”, which were “set right”, he said, adding “it is anguishing that the film has courted several controversies within a few days of its release”.

Noting that “Mersal” was the company’s 100th production, Ramaswamy said that the entire team worked hard for a year to make the film and it was screened after overcoming several hurdles.

“… There is an investment of many crores of rupees and the labour of thousands of workers,” he said.

The goal of the firm is to produce movies of good entertainment value. “If anyone was hurt because of our production, I consider it as my own regret”, the producer said, adding that the film was running successfully.

Sri Thenandal Films is a well-known film production house in Tamil Nadu.

Tamil Nadu BJP leaders, including Soundararajan and national secretary H Raja, have strongly opposed references to the GST in the just-released Tamil movie and claimed dialogues in it were “highly inappropriate”.

Against the background, Chidambaram tweeted, “Notice to film makers: Law is coming, you can only make documentaries praising government’s policies.”

“BJP demands deletion of dialogues in ‘Mersal’.

Imagine the consequences if ‘Parasakthi’ was released today,” the former Finance Minister said in another tweet.

“Parasakthi” was the debut film of yesteryear top star Sivaji Ganesan in 1952 and the dialogues were written by DMK chief M Karunanidhi, who was then a budding leader in the party and a screen writer.

The super-hit movie had powerful dialogues espousing reformist and egalitarian ideals. Chidambaram had asked what would happen if the movie were to be released today.

Replying to the tweet, Tamil Nadu BJP leader and national secretary H Raja said if that were to happen, people would not allow the government to run temples by quoting a popular dialogue from it.

Raja was reiterating the stand of the BJP and right-wing outfits that the state government should stop administering temples and hand them over to devotees.

Raja also claimed that the film exposed Vijay’s “hatred” for Modi.

Soundrajan, who has been opposing the references to the GST, in a tweet said, “MERSAL ridicules Dedicated Doctors disheartened/ambulance drivers shown corrupt/doctors should take 5rupees while the actor gets crores??”

AISMK chief and actor Sarath Kumar tweeted: “A film which is CERTIFIED by censor board cannot be questioned. If questionable, why censor board at all?#Mersel.”

Taking to Twitter, Tamil film actor Kamal Haasan said, “Mersal was certified. Don’t re-censor it. Counter criticism with logical response. Don’t silence critics. India will shine when it speaks.”

Former Union minister Shashi Tharoor said the Congress stood for freedom of expression.

“Remember: @INCIndia stands for freedom of expression, in or out of power. Creative freedom is only safe in the hands of those who value it,” he tweeted, tagging Rahul Gandhi

Meanwhile, in a statement, the Tamil Film Producers Council and South Indian Artistes’ Association opposed cuts as the movie had already been censored.

They claimed that it went against the right to freedom of expression and will set a bad precedent.

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