Southern superstar Rajinikanth has appealed to Muslim groups in Tamil Nadu to help actor-director Kamal Haasan in releasing his film "Vishwaroopam."
The 95-crore thriller was to be released today and had been cleared by the Censor Board, but two days ago, it was banned by the Tamil Nadu government to "protect communal harmony" after some groups objected to the portrayal of Muslims in the movie.
The Madras High Court has said it will decide on the film's future on Monday after a judge reviews it over the weekend.
"I request Muslim brethren to give up their demand to ban Vishwaroopam," Rajinikanth said today in a hand-written statement with greetings for Eid. "Please discuss with Kamal how to make changes without affecting the storyline," he urged.
Kamal Haasan held a special screening for leaders of Muslim groups recently, but did not persuade them to drop their campaign against the movie. "Kamal's screening for Muslims before the theatrical release shows his love and regard for them," Rajinikanth said.
Kollywood, as the Tamil film industry is known, has been largely silent on the controversy so far, with a few actors like Prakash Raj and Khushbu proving to be the exception.
One actor told NDTV "Stars supporting Kamal at this juncture would be interpreted as ganging up against the ruling dispensation in Tamil Nadu and we are worried about repercussions". Another actor says "Many stars also have business interests, closely working with the ruling party-affiliated television channel and they wouldn't want to rub them the wrong way."
During his initial years as an actor, Rajinikanth shared screen space with Kamal Haasan. Though they later decided not to act together so that they could build their individual brands, they are known to enjoy a good rapport.
Meanwhile, the film is not screening in Hyderabad or Bangalore. Distributors in both cities said they did not want to provoke any violence. The film is likely to release tomorrow in Andhra Pradesh and on Sunday in Karnataka.
The movie was released in Andhra Pradesh this morning, but the distributor decided to cancel later screenings in the state capital of Hyderabad.