October 21, 2017
Has the TN BJP unit bit more than it could chew on the Mersal film row it kicked up? What began as a protest about a Tamil film has now grown into a national issue that kicked off a debate on political interference in artistic freedom of expression.
Slowly but surely the controversy has snowballed into a major political issue with opposition led by Congress vice president Rahul Gandhi spearheading the attack on BJP’s efforts to muzzle democratic right to criticise the government.
If Rahul Gandhi tweeted against Modi for his party’ efforts to stymie voices criticising government policies, his alliance partner, DMK working president MK Stalin hit out against the BJP for muzzling freedom of speech and expression.
Rahul Gandhi in a hard-hitting tweet, lashed out against the prime minister. He said, “Mr Modi, cinema is a deep expression of-Tamil culture and language. Don’t try to demon-etise Tamil pride by interfering in Mersal.” The film also speaks out against demonetisation and GST as also Digital India project.
Former union finance minister P Chidambaram said film makers had freedom only to make documentaries praising the government. Answering him, union minister of state Pon Radhakrishnan wondered if the film was funded by Congress leaders as it was seemingly against only one party.
But DMK working president stepped up the ante with charges against the BJP for its anti-democratic demands of removal of few scenes that it found not to its liking. Stalin said in a tweet, “BJP’s attempt to muzzle criticism is contrary to democratic principles. The DMK always stands for freedom of speech and creative expression.”
Film stars like Arvind Swami have also justified the criticism of the policy. “By consolidating taxes, GST is making ppl aware of their contribution Now people will ask the government of their due. What is wrong,” he questioned. Actress and Congress leader Khushboo questioned the BJP mind set in its efforts to try to muzzle voices of criticism.
Superstar Kamal Haasan, who is eyeing at an entry into politics, echoed the sentiments of the film fraternity when he questioned the “double censorship” of the film. “Mersal was certified. Don’t re-censor it. Counter criticism with logical response. Don’t silence critics India will shine with it speaks,” Kamal Haasan tweeted.
The TN Film Producers Association general secretary and actor Vishal in a statement said political leaders cannot dictate what scenes to be in a film and what to be deleted. “If that is the case, then what is the use of having a censor board,” he questioned.
BJP TN unit chief Tamilisai Soundarrajan, union minister of state Pon Radhakrishnan and several other BJP leaders have launched a frontal attack against the film that mentions through a character in the film that GST rates in India were higher than those prevalent in Singapore.
“This is a blatant lie. We have rates ranging from 0 to 28 per cent with six different slabs. And medical treatment is not free as was cited in the film,” said BJP spokesperson Narayanan Tirupathy.
“We are only seeking correction of erroneous statements in the film that would convey wrong message to the people,” he said.