Mumbai: Tamil actor Vijay’s latest movie, Thalaivaa (Leader), will have the dubious distinction of not opening in his home state. Thalaivaa won’t release in Tamil Nadu on its scheduled date of 9 August after a series of meetings held by exhibitors, said J. Murali Manohar, whose company Media One has produced the movie. However, Thalaivaa will open in the rest of India and overseas markets as planned, since the movie’s prints and publicity material have already been sent off, Manohar added.
The movie 555, starring Bharath, has stepped in to take Thalaivaa’s place. There were unconfirmed reports that Thalaivaa might open in Tamil Nadu on Saturday or Sunday.
The Eid release, featuring Vijay, Amala Paul, and Sathyaraj, and directed by A.L. Vijay, traces the life and times of a Tamil gangster in Dharavi. The movie came under a cloud after S.K.R. Karnan, a resident of Tirunelveli district, claimed that the 180-minute movie was based on the lives of his grandfather, S.S. Kandaswamy, and his father, S.K. Ramawamy, both residents of the Dharavi slum in Mumbai in the 1980s.
TFU Kannan, a Chennai-based blogger on Tamil cinema, said that Thailaivaa’s release was preceded by “tremendous hype”, and that disappointed fans were already putting up Internet posts that they would try and watch the film in neighbouring states like Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka. “If government support is not there, the distributors won’t risk a release,” he pointed out.
Tension over Thalaivaa’s release increased after a few theatres in Chennai received bomb threats allegedly from people opposed to the movie’s alleged political leanings. Vijay has issued public statements clarifying that Thalaivaa is a mass entertainer rather than an ideological tract, but is appears that the state government has decided to opt for the safer route and safeguard against law and order hiccups. The state government turned down the filmmakers’ pleas for security, as they did with Kamal Haasan’s Viswaroopam a few months ago, which ran into trouble with Muslim groups.
Cinemas in Tamil Nadu suspended bookings for the movie on Wednesday after trouble started brewing, according to media reports. In Mumbai, as in the rest of India, the movie will open as scheduled, said Nambi Rajan, who runs Aurora cinemas in the Matunga neighbourhood, a hub for southern cinema in Mumbai, especially Tamil films. “We had started bookings but stopped,” he said. “Vijay is a popular star and his films tend to do well here,” Rajan said.
This isn’t the first time a Vijay movie has encountered rough weather. In 2012, his Thuppakki, directed by AR Murugadoss, witnessed protests from Muslim groups, who claimed that the movie denigrated their community.