Tamil nationalist political parties Naam Tamilar Katchi and Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, led by Seeman and Vaiko respectively, opposed the show. Based on a few shots from the trailer, they concluded that The Family Man Season 2 can only hurt the feelings of Tamil speaking people across the world. And these parties urged the Center to ban the show. The political controversy escalated when the government of Tamil Nadu also wrote a letter to Minister of Information and Broadcasting Prakash Javadekar asking for the show to be banned.
This is not the first time that political parties in Tamil Nadu have raised the banner of protest against works of art dealing with sensitive political and social issues. It is worth noting that Seeman and Vaiko earlier protested against director Shoojit Sircar’s 2013 film Madras Cafe, which followed the events that led to the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
Here are five Tamil films that have courted major political controversies over the past decade:
This 2013 spy thriller was considered a threat to law and order in the state and was banned by the government of Tamil Nadu led by J Jayalalithaa. And the authoritarian power of government has challenged freedom of speech, expression and creativity. Kamal Haasan, who wrote, directed, produced and starred in Vishwaroopam, was accused of portraying Muslims as “terrorists” and in a “bad light”, based on assumptions made while watching the trailer of the movie. The series of negotiations with protest groups by the production house of Kamal did not bear fruit. And finally, the actor pushed the court against the government to lift the ban. Hurt by all the problems, Kamal had said he was considering leaving Tamil Nadu and the country. When Vishwaroopam finally hit theaters, it became one of the highest grossing films of that year.
Inam alias Ceylan
The 2014 film Inam was pulled from theaters just days after its initial release, following protests from political parties, including Vaiko’s MDMK. The film, which was written, directed, produced and shot by Santosh Sivan, revolved around the plight of a group of young orphaned children from Sri Lanka’s civil war. Inam, however, was described by Vaiko as “pro-Sinhala” and theaters showing the film in Pondicherry had also been attacked by other political parties. Distributors were forced to stop showing the film just three days after its release.
Vijay’s Mersal had led to a big political brawl in Tamil Nadu when it was released in theaters in 2017. The BJP were relentless in their attacks on the film and even demanded a few cuts. Reason: In a fiery monologue towards the end of the film, Vijay’s character criticizes central government initiatives like GST and Digital India. It did not suit the national party. A Madurai lawyer also filed a complaint against the film for allegedly “hurting the feelings of Hindus”. How do you ask? In one scene, one of Vijay’s characters says, “We don’t need to build temples, we need to build hospitals.” And the matter took a community turn when BJP leader H Raja tweeted a photo of Vijay’s ID to call attention to the star’s Christian identity. In response to the controversy, Vijay issued a statement thanking his friends, fans and colleagues for their support of Mersal on letterhead bearing his full Christian name, C. Joseph Vijay. All of the controversy helped the film as people flocked to theaters, making it one of this year’s biggest box office hits.
Vijay’s Sarkar sparked huge fireworks in Tamil Nadu politics. The film was attacked by the then ruling AIADMK party for its stance against the gift culture, which is central to state politics. And the cunning antagonist with the name of Komalavalli infuriated the ruling party even more. Komalavalli was the birth name given to the late leader of AIADMK, J. Jayalalithaa. Party workers even engaged in vandalism by attacking theaters showing the film. The issue also prompted a late-night visit by cops to Director AR Murugadoss’ residence in Chennai, raising fears of his arrest. The manager, however, was not at his residence. Murugadoss then obtained the protection of the Madras High Court against arrest. The film was more successful when Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan expressed solidarity with Mersal, while criticizing the ruling party’s franchise. Amid all the political turmoil, the film managed to hit moolah at the box office.
The biopic of Sri Lankan spin legend Muttiah Muralitharan crashed into the ground before it even took off. Vijay Sethupathi was roped up to play the role of Muttiah Muralitharan in the film. However, soon after the film was announced, pro-Tamil groups and a few high-profile members of the Tamil film industry opposed the project. Reason: Muttiah Muralitharan is widely viewed by political groups in the state as a pro-Sri Lankan government. He is also accused of failing to criticize the government’s alleged atrocities against Tamils during the civil war in Sri Lanka. Repeated calls from the producers and Muttiah Muralitharan not to politicize the film have fallen on deaf ears. And Vijay Sethupathi succumbed to political pressure and withdrew from the project.