Tamil Nadu, Films & Sri Lanka: Movies That Faced Controversy

The Quint
·4-min read

Actor Vijay Sethupathi has opted out of the Muthiah Muralitharan biopic 800 on the request of the cricketer. In a statement that Sethupathi shared on social media, Muralitharan requested him not to go ahead with the film as it would cause more harm to the actor's career.

This controversy was largely because Muralitharan is seen as a supporter of former Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was at the helm during almost 30 years of civil war that gripped the island nation. The war-affected the Malayaga Tamils, with Indian-lineage, to a great extent.

800 was not the only film set in Sri Lanka that faced controversy. At least two films were pulled out from theatres in recent times after pro-Eleam groups raised an objection. Here is a list of some of the films that faced controversy.

Also Read: Vijay Sethupathi Exits Muralitharan Biopic on Cricketer's Request

John Abraham’s Madras Café

Poster of <i>Madras </i>Café
Poster of Madras Café

In 2013, the Tamil Nadu Film Exhibitors Association decided not to release John Abraham’s Madras Café directed by Shoojit Sircar, after the film became the epicentre of a controversy. After the release of the trailer, Tamil political parties Naam Tamilar, Pattali Makkal Katchi and several others called for a ban on the film, claiming that the film depicts members of Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) as terrorists.

Madras Café is set in war-torn Sri Lanka and John Abraham plays intelligence agent Vikram Singh, who uncovers the assassination plot for a “former Indian Prime Minister” during his posting in Jaffna.

The producers, maintained that the film did not offend anyone, arranged for a special screening for the groups, but protests continued and eventually, the release was stopped in Tamil Nadu.

Santosh Sivan’s Inam

Poster of <i>Inam</i>
Poster of Inam

In 2014, cinematographer-director Santosh Sivan’s movie Inam was taken off theatres following protests by pro-Eelam groups in Tamil Nadu. The film explores the plight of Sri Lankan Tamils during the Lankan military’s defeat of the LTTE through the eyes of a few children.

Even though Inam explores the tragic experiences of a handful of children trapped in the civil war and is sympathetic towards their hardships, the main objections from the pro-Eelam brigade was that the film is too soft on the Lankan Army.

Another objection raised was that Inam said LTTE leader Prabharakan, who was shown as the “leader” in the film, was dead. Pro-Eelam protesters claimed then that Prabhakaran was alive, and that photographs and videos of his body that were released by the Sri Lankan government were doctored.

Vijay’s Kaththi

Poster of <i>Kaththi</i>.
Poster of Kaththi.

In 2014, the release of Vijay’s Tamil action film Kaththi on 22 October in Tamil Nadu looked uncertain due to an alleged links between the film’s producer Lyca Productions and Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa. Pro-Eelam outfits had objected to Murugadoss and Vijay doing a film with a production company called Lyca Productions following speculations that the company was owned by Mahinda Rajapakse’s aide Subaskaran Allirajah.

Co-producers Ayngaran International later clarified that Lyca Productions had no direct link to the Lankan president and had no intentions of hurting the sentiments of Tamil people. Kaththi was released after the producers’ name was dropped from the title of the movie.

Dulquer Salman’s Varane Avashyamund

Poster of Varane Avashyamund
Poster of Varane Avashyamund

Malayalam film Varane Avashyamund, released in 2020, faced backlash because the dog of the lead character in the movie, Major Unnikrishnan played by Suresh Gopi, was named Prabhakaran. The dog's name prompted controversy with Tamil viewers interpreting it as a derogatory reference to LTTE founder Prabhakaran and an affront to Tamizh pride.

After widespread outrage, actor Dulquer Salmaan, who was the producer of the issued a statement, which read: “A lot of people have brought to my notice that the Prabhakaran joke in Varane Avashyamund is insulting to the Tamizh people. It was not intentional.”

The actor explained that it was a reference to the 1988 Malayalam comedy Pattanapravesham in which a character was named Prabhakaran. "It is a common meme in Kerala as well so it wasn't directed at any person dead or alive as our disclaimer mentions in the beginning of the film," Dulquer Salmaan's' statement read.

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