The only Muslim in the film is the hero; he is a good man, says Kamal's counsel
Counsel for actor-director Kamal Haasan contended before the Madras High Court on Tuesday that Vishwaroopam did not even remotely deal with any Indian Muslim or the Indian Muslim community.
Arguing against the ban imposed through orders issued by the authorities in different towns and cities, senior counsel P.S. Raman said, “The only Muslim in the film is the hero [played by Kamal Haasan.] He is a good man.”
Mr. Raman said the producer did not receive a single order issued by the Collector. The communication was sent directly to theatres. He wondered as to how identical, stereotyped orders were issued by Collectors the same day. “Definitely, there should have been a directive.” The orders had grave constitutional implications. He asked whether the constitutional machinery had broken down in the State. This was nothing but pre-censorship. “What you cannot do directly, you do it indirectly.”
Film certification was covered by central legislation. Neither the State legislature nor the executive had the power to pre-censor feature films. As regards the present film, the Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) had applied its mind and granted certification for its release. The State government had no power to nullify the Board’s decision. The Cinematograph Act did not deal with any kind of power to the State government for pre-censorship, he said.
The film was running to full houses in Kerala, which had a large Muslim population. At a distance of nearly 60 km from Chennai, on the Tamil Nadu-Andhra Pradesh border, people were watching it.
Referring to the losses incurred by the producer, Mr. Raman contended that Mr. Kamal Haasan had invested his lifetime earnings. The film was released all over the world, including other parts of the country. It has already come in Torrent file-sharing websites. “There was some sort of an attempt by the State government to gag the film. Theatres were not going to wait indefinitely. Let the State deposit Rs.100 crore,” he said adding “that is not going to happen.”
Advocate-General A. Navaneethakrishnan alleged that the film was not certified by the competent authority. There was no application of mind on the film by the CBFC. Only the ‘examining committee’ had seen the film. The board could not delegate its power to any body. The certification for the film was not in accordance with law. At one stage, he said that “film certification is a very big scam.” It required an investigation.
This remark drew strong objection from Mr. Raman, who said if it were so, all films should have been banned. Why Vishwaroopam alone, he asked.
The AG said the ban was clamped because had the film been released, there were some apprehensions about what would follow. The government was examining all possible legal means to maintain public order. Art.19 (2) empowered the State government to take all appropriate action or impose restrictions in the interest of public order, decency or morality.
P. Wilson, Additional Solicitor-General of India, appearing for the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and the CBFC, said the State government could not impose a ban once a censor certificate was duly issued.
Counsel for the Federation of Tamil Nadu Muslims’ Social and Political Organisations R. Sankarasubbu said the entire contents of the film affected the sentiments of Muslims.
Heavy police deployment
There was heavy police deployment at important junctions on roads leading to the court complex. At every entrance to the court building, the police frisked the public and litigants. Just hours before the arguments began, the police thoroughly checked the court premises using handheld devices.
Six hours of heated arguments and counter arguments with twists and turns preceded the court decision. Stakeholders and fans too waited anxiously for the verdict.
The arguments commenced by 11.30 a.m. and ended only at 6 p.m.