Manithaneya Makkal Katchi president M.H. Jawahirullah, who recently urged Chief Minister M.K. Stalin to impose a ban on actor Vijay’s recent release, Beast, for broad-brushing Muslims as religious extremists, has defended his demand, saying the film has belittled the Muslim community. In an interview with The Hinduon Monday, he contended that the call for a ban on the movie was a ‘warning’ to the film industry to avoid such depictions in the future. He argued that films cannot be seen as just that, in a State where cinema had a major influence on politics. Excerpts:
Why are you calling for a ban on Beast?
I haven’t seen the film, but many members of my party have seen it and briefed me about it. Films are a powerful medium, and they can have a deep impact (on the psyche of the people), either in a good or a bad way. The argument that this is just a movie (and hence people should ignore it and move on) is not acceptable, as we all know how movies have created a huge change in politics in Tamil Nadu. This film cultivates a negative image of Muslims, that they are terrorists. Muslims are an intrinsic part of Tamil society, and to show Muslim terrorists taking over a mall is to sow anti-Muslim sentiment in the minds of young people. It has the potential to destroy the social fabric of the State.
Can the public be prevented from watching a movie through a simple ban, in the age of OTT?
There are many platforms today, and it is true that a ban cannot prevent people from watching it. It is a symbolic call, and could serve as a warning against making such films in the future.
The earlier protests by your party against Vishwaroopam and Thuppakki were quite fierce...
The people seem to have already rejected the film (Beast). If the movie was doing well, there would have been a need to rally against it. Many are strongly criticising the film for its content. I am talking not only about Muslims, but others as well.
Is it [the muted protest] also because the film is produced by Sun Pictures and distributed by Red Giant Movies?
No. I have written to the Chief Minister about it, and I think it is an even more powerful message than organising a protest against it. The news channels debated the issue because of my letter to the Chief Minister. It doesn’t matter who is producing or distributing the movie. It has not become a big box office hit, and hence, we didn’t want to organise a protest against it.
Apart from calling for a ban on movies, are Muslim organisations engaging with filmmakers to ensure meaningful representation of the community in films?
We already have a good relationship with many filmmakers, and we routinely exchange ideas. The protests against Vishwaroopam were a turning point. After Thuppakki, not many films portrayed Muslims negatively. In fact, we had appreciated films like Maanaadu for the positive depiction of Muslims.