Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Kamal Hassan’s Vishwaroopam as ‘Bhasmasura’.


Some quiet churning is happening in Tamilnadu over the Vishwaroopam controversy. We are witnessing some peculiar change of roles in the last few days. The until now die-hard supporters of Muslims have demonstrated to their Muslim friends that when it comes to their money, they would not mind to let them down; the Tamil people have demonstrated that their craze for cinema and matinee idols had not diminished a bit ever since DMK started nurturing it 40 years ago; Jayalalithaa is determined to see that she pulls out the Muslims completely from the DMK and make them loyal to her, but how Muslims of Tamilnadu are going to behave is something we must watch out.


At the outset I would say that the Tamil Muslims must have been genuinely aggrieved at the impact created in the film that their Holy book preaches them to go on war. Some people may not agree with me if I quote in this context the banning of Bhagawad Gita in Russia on the pretext that it instigates one to go on war. Gita was preached with the intention to make Arjuna to war with his own relatives. But that intention was no longer valid after the Mahabharata war was over. We don't look at that intention but look at the core preaching as a way to fight in the battlefield of samsara and against one's own innate nature that stifles our spiritual growth.


In the case of Islam, the jihadi elements in Koran are no longer valid in the present world is what we and Muslims must understand. That realization has not yet set within the Muslim community, with the effect that Islamic militancy fed by the jihadi indoctrination has become a challenge globally. Kamal Hassan has chosen to showcase it in his movie to an extent to make it realistic and appealing to his Western audience. In the process he has failed to foresee how this would be taken by the Muslims in his home land, whom he had previously petted well, against all sensibilities of nation's welfare.


A precedence has already been created by Harmony India with which Kamal Hassan is associated, when it stopped the exhibition of the paintings of atrocities of Aurangzeb titled "Aurangzeb – As he was" in Lalit Kala Academy in March 2008. None of the Muslim organizations which are now in the forefront of the protest against Vishwaroopam were even aware of that exhibition, but when the Prince of Arcot visited that exhibition, he grew angry for showing Aurangzeb in poor light and brought in these Muslim Organisations to protest. He, on his part used his clout with Karunanidhi, the then Chief Minister of Tamilnadu to stop that exhibition. (Read:-  http://francoisgautier.wordpress.com/category/aurangzeb-exhibition-chennai/ )



The atrocities of Aurangzeb were real and part of history. He was an invader who subjugated our nation. The paintings on show were not newly made ones, but taken from the old historical chronicles. The same exhibition was held in other metros before coming to Chennai, but no one protested in those places. But Harmony India which Kamal Hassan spoke about to express his solidarity with Muslims in the wake of Vishwaroopam controversy, was responsible for closing that exhibition.  If that was not cultural terrorism, how can Kamal term the present opposition to his portrayal of current events involving Muslims as Cultural terrorism?



Where was Kamal Hassan then when that exhibition was stalled? What did Kamal Hassan do to safeguard freedom of creativity then? Where were the art lovers at that time?  What were the magazines and general public who are recording their comments now in support of Kamal Hassan, doing at that time?


That act by Harmony India had given an idea of what to do in similar circumstances. If portrayal of Aurangzeb as a bad guy can be condemned without inviting any opposition, why find fault with them now if they condemn the portrayal of Muslims of contemporary world in a bad light?  Where is Prince of Arcot now? Did he speak a word for his community and against Kamal Hassan? Does he think that Kamal did nothing wrong in his 'creative' portrayal in his film? If so why did he stall the Aurangazeb exhibition then?


The Tamil Muslims do not object to the portrayal of Al Qaeda or Taliban. What they object to is connecting the atrocities to the reading of Koran. It is true that the terrorists use Koran as the inspiration for their atrocities. But a powerful depiction of it for a considerable time in a movie can create strong impressions in the minds of the average viewer, particularly in a place like Tamilnadu. Tamilnadu is already heavily polarised in terms of communities and castes. An average Tamilian who has viewed this movie can easily imagine stereo types from the film on seeing a Muslim who reads Koran devoutly. This is what the Muslim community is worried about. Even I am worried about this. The need of the time is such that we must encourage Muslims to come out of the influence of mullahs and engage in free thinking. The suspicions on the Muslims by their neighbours and exploitation of such a situation by the mullahs must not be allowed to develop.  

Writer Gyani told in a TV show that people would not perceive that way. I am sure he is wrong. Today the Brahmin continues to be seen as an oppressor among many Tamils, thanks to the persistent propaganda against Brahmins for nearly 100 years. The average Muslim is also experiencing a similar situation. By creating a stereotype impression about him by others and even by himself, we are only precipitating the alienation. 


This impact would be seen in grass root levels, not in cities. Note the way the Prince of Arcot had not spoken anything against Kamal or his movie. Feeling of brotherhood exists only among equals, not with others even if they are their own community. He used the Muslim organisations when he needed them – this is something Muslims themselves must understand.  For the rich and the affluent there is no religion. For the economically empowered there is no religion. They think that they are successful due to their efforts and there is no role for God there. It is for this reason, Kamal Hassan did not need a religion, the same with Prince of Arcot for whom his religion is an identity and a vehicle to establish his status and superiority. That is why they had not exhibited the relevant  sense of discrimination and judgement in the issues they had taken up. But the majority people are commoners who have some faith in God as a redeemer. The sincere adherence to their rituals by a Muslim can be easily construed as a demon in the hiding, by a local Tamilian who has seen this movie.


Adding credence to this view is the depiction of the most wanted terrorist as having got shelter in Coimbatore and Madurai in the Tamil version, in Kadappa in Telugu version and some North Indian Muslim populated city in Hindi version. You and I may not read any meaning in that. But an average person living close to a Muslim would see him under the lens of suspicion.


Viewed from this angle, I truly stand for making amends in the scenes. Kamal has been a habitual offender of sensibilities of Hindus in particular. I am sure he would have added some scenes depicting the Brahmins in bad light in this movie too. He cannot be expected to behave otherwise. In the interview given after the ban, he abused Ganesh chathurthi while trying to extend olive branch to the Muslims. That is how Kamal's secularism works.