Hours after the unveiling of the motion poster of his upcoming movie 800, Tamil superstar Vijay Sethupathi drew flak from netizens for choosing to act in the movie that portrays the life of legendary Srilankan cricket spinner Muttiah Muralitharan. Hashtags #ShameonVijaySethupathi and #Boycot800 are now trending on social media platforms.
Netizens argue that the Tamil origin cricketer never condemned the atrocities of the Srilankan Sinhalese government on Tamil people but instead praised Rajapaksa Government on the Tamil genocide. The controversial movie is directed by MS Sripathy. Cinephiles are not clear whether the movie focuses only on his cricket career or his political stands, especially the civil war between the Sinhala government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE).
Apart from Netizens, famous directors like Bharathi Raja, Cheran, Seenu Ramaswamy, lyricist Tamarai, Asuran movie fame Teejay have requested Vijay Sethupathi to opt-out from the movie.
"Can a biopic of Shahid Afridi be made in India and get support from Indians?" A twitter user asked. "The Sinhala Government had done genocide of over two lakhs of the Tamil population in Eelam. There is no other proof than this. Vijay Sethupathi cannot feel the pain," another user tweeted with rage.
The film is set to be released primarily in Tamil and later in other south Indian languages, Bengali and Sinhala. The makers of the movie are also planning to release the biopic in the international domain with English subtitles.
"Vijay Sethupathi seems to be a progressive human being as well as a socially responsible actor. But the decision of him to act in the movie is completely against Tamil nationalism. We are demanding him to reconsider his decision to act in the biopic of a person who supported the Tamil genocide by the Rajapaksa Government in Srilanka. If he acts in the movie, he is surely going to lose his fan base in Tamil Nadu. We do not need a movie that celebrates the guy who categorically refused to acknowledge the genocide. Muralitharan is a representative of Srilankan brutality on Tamils," Shiva Chandiran, an Ambedkarite and Dalit Activist from Tamil Nadu shared his thoughts with Madhyamam.
Nivedya KT, a journalist, raised her concern on the impact created by movies on society and culture, "While taking such a movie that has some controversial elements, filmmakers have to face huge flak. For sure freedom of speech and expression or artistic freedom matters in movie making, but while making a movie on a person who glorified the genocide of Tamils we need to rethink about the possibility of negative impacts on people after watching the biopic."
"The role of art is not only to entertain society but, in some sense, it is educating people. As an artist, I can't support when art uses a weapon to fool others. If you want to understand the role of movies in society, you need to read theatre philosophers and their theories. We all know what Muralitharan did to Tamil nationalism. By knowing that, we cannot promote the biopic of that person. I think the hate campaign on twitter is against Muralitharan's political statements and ignorance on Tamil genocide, not against Vijay Sethupathi in person," says Sugumar Shanmugham, a Theatre artist cum Research Scholar from Pondicherry.
Muttiah Muralitharan is one of the giant performers of cricket history who holds the unique record of taking most wickets in One Day Internationals and Test matches. The spin wizard signed off from Test cricket in 2010 by tallying 800 wickets by his own. He later retired from ODI after 2011 World Cup. In an interview, Muralitharan said, "There is no one better than Vijay Sethupathi to play my role. I am hoping to see my bowling expressions in Vijay's face."