Vishwaroopam problem for atheist Kamal Haasan

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The 100-crore trilingual film faces a temporary ban in Tamil Nadu

Vishwaroopam problem for atheist Kamal Haasan
CREATIVE LIMIT: In less than 48 hours for the release of the film, the Tamil Nadu government banned it for two weeks, fearing a law and order crisis, following representations from Muslim outfits
In Hindu mythology, ‘Vishwaroopam’ is considered the supreme form of Lord Vishnu, signalling that he is the whole universe and everything originates from him.

Actor cum filmmaker, Kamal Haasan, an atheist, would have hardly imagined that this form of the lord would come back to haunt him, ever since he named his latest trilingual as Vishwaroopam in Tamil and Telugu, and Vishwaroop in Hindi. First, it was the trouble with exhibitors and distributors over his plan to have a one-time premiere on the DTH platform. Then it is now the turn of Muslim outfits asking for the film to be banned.

Having finally decided on the release date as Friday, January 25, Kamal Haasan took off to Los Angeles for a Hollywood-style premiere of the film, because, that’s where he has set his eyes on for his future plans to reach out to global audience.

In less than 48 hours for the release of the film, the Tamil Nadu government banned it for two weeks, fearing a law and order crisis, following representations from Muslim outfits. The Madras High Court is to pass an order, on a petition moved by the actor’s production house Rajkamal Films International, on Monday, January 28.

Whichever way the court decides, the film missed the three-day extended holiday weekend starting January 25, that it was banking on to rake in the moolah, having already missed the “Pongal festival” weekend in mid-January. Though controversies have never been new to him, the one he is facing now is of gigantic proportion that could have a huge financial impact as well. Even though the film has released in other regions of the country and overseas, especially Malaysia and the US, timely release in theatres in Tamil Nadu is a must for any big budget Tamil film, since it accounts for a major chunk of revenue inflow.

The ban has already dented this major revenue pipe for the film made at a whopping budget of Rs 95 crore. Also, the film has been subsequently banned in Malaysia, after a day of its release on January 25.

Given his experience, none doubt Kamal Haasan’s creativity as well as the efforts he puts in his films. But ‘Creativity at what cost?’ is one question that he seldom had an answer for.

Vishwaroopam was originally planned as a Rs 50 crore plus film and produced by Hyderabad-based PVP Cinema, owned by Prasad V Potluri, who made his riches from software ventures in the US. As soon as funds came in, the film is said to have expanded to cost well over Rs 100 crore.

Not used to such ‘creative elongation’ of budgets, PVP restricted himself as a funder and Kamal decided to take over the film production and release it after settling the dues. It is this ‘PVP tangle’ that is said to have created the first biggest hurdle in the film’s release, since he had to first settle the former.

But that kind of money was not coming forth to the desired extent from the traditional exhibitor-distributor chain in Tamil Nadu. Because, despite his seniority and recognition as a great actor, not all his films get the kind of opening that some of the younger stars in Tamil films get. Hence, he sought to widen the scope of the revenue flow by going in for the DTH option.

The delay over the film’s release had clearly watered down the expected revenues from that option. In the end, even if the creator in him wins over the hurdles, Kamal Haasan as a businessman will in all likelihood be hit financially, unless otherwise the film turns out to be a super duper blockbuster. While initial reviews and reports are quite appreciative of the film and its making, one has to wait and see, wh­ether it can create a mass hysteria to rake in the moolah to bail him out of this current fiasco.

The after effects may as well force him to recall his own dialogue in a recent film of his — “When did I say, god does not exist. It will be good, if he is there — is what I have said” — displaying agnostic traits.


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