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Mersal Controversy: The journey of the film to become the talk of the nation

          Actor Vijay is no stranger when it comes to controversies surrounding his films and his portrayals. His latest film ‘Mersal’ which was released on Diwali (October 18) has garnered a nationwide attention over particular scenes in the film that criticise the Narendra Modi-led BJP government’s Digital India scheme and Goods and Services Tax (GST). National leaders and Tamil Nadu’s top political leaders have voiced their support for ‘Mersal’ and actor Vijay.


          The film, directed by Atlee, went through several issues even before its release on Diwali. A film producer named A Rajendran filed a case against the use of title ‘Mersal’ in the Madras High Court, saying he had already registered titles ‘Mersalayitten’ and ‘Naan Mersalayitten’. The High Court passed an interim order restraining the film’s producers ‘Thenandal Studios Limited’ from using the title ‘Mersal’. However, the court later lifted the interim stay saying there was no illegality in using the title.


          While the end of the roadblock in the title issue came as a respite, the ‘Mersal’ team was running into another problem. This time from Animal Welfare Board of India, who refused to give NOC as required by the Central Board of Film Certification to get the film certified. The AWBI sources allegedly said that the filmmakers used a few animals for shooting without prior permission. Meanwhile, Vijay met Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami for resolving the issues surrounding the film. Consequently, the animal welfare body issued an NOC to the film.


          The much-awaited film passed all the hurdles and released on October 18 (Diwali day) to the much rejoice of Vijay fans. Even as the film was breaking box office records, the State BJP president Tamilisai Soundararajan expressed her opposition to certain scenes that convey “wrong impressions” about GST and Digital India. Tamilisai said the scenes should be removed from the film. Union Minister Pon Radhakrishnan also wanted the removal of dialogues on the central taxation.


          Amidst strong opposition from ruling BJP and some section of doctors, support has been pouring in for ‘Mersal’ and actor Vijay from actors and political leaders across the nation. General Secretary of Nadigar Sangam and the president of Tamil Film Producers’ Council, Vishal, said asking to remove scenes is against the freedom of speech and expression. Vishal asked why there is a censor board if a political party dictates what should be present or not in a film. Actor Kamal Haasan came in support of the film and opposed re-censoring it. Filmmaker Pa Ranjith said the scenes in the film need not be removed as they portray people’s issues.


          The state political leaders including DMK working president MK Stalin, VCK chief Thol Thirumavalavan, Congress leaders Thirunavukkarasar, EVKS Elangovan and Khushboo lent their support to the film. Stalin said BJP’s attempt to thwart criticism is against democratic principles. Thirumavalavan accused the BJP of trying to pull Vijay to their side by opposing ‘Mersal’. Congress spokesperson and actress Khushboo said the issue has become a fight between democracy and dictatorship.


          Meanwhile, the film was catapulted to the centre stage to become the talk of the nation when Congress vice-president Rahul Gandhi came in support of the film. Rahul tweeted, “Mr. Modi, Cinema is a deep expression of Tamil culture and language. Don't try to demon-etise Tamil pride by interfering in Mersal”. Former Union Ministers and Senior Congress leaders P Chidambaram and Kapil Sibal wrote in support of the film. Mocking the BJP for its opposition to the film, Chidambaram tweeted, “Notice to film makers: Law is coming, you can only make documentaries praising government's policies.” Kapil Sibal said that Vijay has every right to criticise the GST, and Digital India in his film ‘Mersal’.


          The producers of the film, Thenandal Studios Limited, issued a statement on Saturday stating they met the BJP leaders and explained to them that film was not produced to hurt anyone. They also said that they are ready to remove the scenes that create a misunderstanding. However, it remains to be seen as to what the next action of the ‘Mersal’ team will be.

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