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A ban doesn’t always work

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A lot is being said about the controversy over Kamal Haasan’s film Vishwaroopam and its ban in Tamil Nadu.

Interestingly, there was another movie a few months ago, that labeled all Hindu customs and symbols as hoaxes and all spiritual leaders as frauds. There were many Hindu organizations who were ready to protest, but my advice to them was not to give undue publicity and promote the movie by protesting against it. And that’s what happened – it ran for a few weeks and people forgot about it. If you want to make a movie popular, ban it and protest against it. It will only benefit the moviemaker and once they get a taste of this, they continue making similar movies.

People know movies are fiction and need not be taken seriously. In spite of all that was said in this movie, the actors themselves go to temples. It has not been able to put an end to idol worship or people visiting ashrams. In this sense, the movie has not made a big dent in the culture or an impact on the people. Similarly, ‘Da Vinci Code’ was a movie on Jesus’s life that came out a few years ago. It ran all over the world, even in Italy, but it was banned in Tamil Nadu.

In this world, you cannot legally ban everything everywhere. Many such things that have been banned are available anyway, including Salman Rushdie’s books and DVDs of ‘Da Vinci Code’. I would appeal to the Muslim community not to insist on keeping the ban on Vishwaroopam when it may not be possible legally. By banning such things, not only people from other communities but Muslims themselves become curious to see what wrong things have been written or shown.

Even after a ban, people find ways to get these things. Already, there are copies of the movie on the internet. People are so active and expressive over social media that anybody can write anything about anyone. There is no control. This being the situation, it may not do any good by simply protesting. Rather, the result might be contrary to what you intend and more people might end up watching the movie. A ban would also earn a bad name for the Muslim community that it is extremist or intolerant or promotes cultural terrorism. We don’t want such tags on our Muslim brethren. For several centuries, Hindus and Muslims have lived with such kinship. I want to assure our Muslim brethren that the mutual respect between Hindus and Muslims in Tamil Nadu is so good that nobody will be able to tear this fabric. I don’t think a movie will make any difference to the bond between the two communities.

If anyone insults a prophet or saint or customs of any community, it can only be laughed at. There are a number of such videos insulting every single religion in the world. There are hundreds of movies, even in Tamil Nadu, that show Hinduism in a bad light. But Hinduism has not taken a beating. I would say that the best thing to do is to ignore such things and move forward. Kamal Haasan has said that his intention is not to hurt anybody’s sentiment. We should give him the benefit of doubt and move on. This would be my submission to the leaders of the Muslim community.


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