From the Viewsroom

The 800 doosras

B Baskar | Updated on October 22, 2020 Published on October 22, 2020

The row over Muralitharan’s biopic is another blot on our democracy

Close on the heels of the Tansihq ad controversy (and its pulling out by the Tatas) has come the kerfuffle over the biopic on former Sri Lankan cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan. The biopic titled ‘800’, a tribute to Muralitharan’s record 800 test scalps, was announced a little over a year ago with popular Tamil actor Vijay Sethupathy being chosen to play the lead role. After hardly generating any adverse reaction for over a year, all hell broke loose after the movie’s poster was released recently, where Sethupathy bore an uncanny resemblance with Muralitharan. Some leading lights of the Tamil film industry and politicians said Sethupathy should pull out of the project in deference to the Tamil people’s ‘sentiments’. Muralitharan was perceived to have betrayed the Sri Lankan cause in comments made in an interview a few years ago.

The saga reached a denouement of sorts when Muralitharan suggested to Sethupathy to pull out of the film, giving the latter an escape route which he was happy to take. Given the negative vibes going around, and knowing how power operates within the film industry, Sethupathy can hardly be blamed for walking out of the project. Though he did get some support from important film personalities, some of its leading lights were conspicuously silent.

What Muralitharan said or did not say in the past is a moot point. But to use that to stop an actor in essaying a role is plain wrong. This saga once again proves how fragile the issue of creative expression is in this country. We Indians are justly proud of our democracy, but democracy in this country is often reduced to the conduct of elections and peaceful transfer of power between political parties and hardly ever about spreading and imbibing democratic values in everyday life. Even 70 years after Independence the democratic ethos has hardly seeped into our society. The Tanishq and ‘800’ episodes are ample proof of that.

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Published on October 22, 2020
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