Society

When movie fans fought back

After Monday night’s violent episodes at a couple of cinema theatres in the city, Tuesday presented a picture of contrast. Multiplexes saw long queues of eager fans waiting to book tickets of Deepavali releases. Photo: R. Ravindran

After Monday night’s violent episodes at a couple of cinema theatres in the city, Tuesday presented a picture of contrast. Multiplexes saw long queues of eager fans waiting to book tickets of Deepavali releases. Photo: R. Ravindran   | Photo Credit: R RAVINDRAN

As the city reels from attacks on its theatres by radical outfits objecting to the release of Vijay’s film Kaththi, irony has it that 75 years ago, film lovers in the city were held to ransom in much the same way. Well, almost.

On May 12, 1939, The Hindu announced that the much-awaited film Thyaga Bhoomi was to release at Gaiety and Star theatres on May 20.

Directed by K. Subramanyam, and starring S.D. Subbulakshmi, Papanasam Sivan and Baby Saroja, the nationalist film ran to a full house for weeks on end.

N. Krishnaswamy, a 90-year-old producer of Tamil television and film, says, “I had just passed my SSLC exams when the movie was released. It was a huge hit.”

However, in the 22nd week of its triumphant run, the British government that was back in power (with the Congress having resigned over the World War II issue) ordered that the film be banned across Madras Presidency.

This was a first in Indian movie history — never before had a film been banned after its release in the country. There were scenes in the film that portrayed people participating in demonstrations, and songs that exalted the Father of the Nation. These made the colonial powers that be particularly uncomfortable.

However, the city did not bow down to the ban without a fight. According to reports in The Hindu, when director Subramanyam heard about the proposed ban, he conducted free shows at Gaiety cinema for 24 hours until the ban order reached the theatre management.

With people flocking the cinema house, it is said the police found it extremely difficult to stop the screenings. The audience collectively protesting held fort, keeping the police at bay till the film ran its course.

Seventy-five years on, not much has changed. The exhibition of films continues to be dictated by different political stakeholders. One can only hope the city shows the same spirit in resisting such censorship as it did back in 1939.

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Printable version | Aug 12, 2020 12:45:29 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/chen-society/when-movie-fans-fought-back/article6524373.ece

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