A still from ‘Inam’.
A still from ‘Inam’.

Santosh Sivan’s ‘Inam’ pulled from cinemas after Tamil groups protest

'Inam' has been voluntarily pulled from cinemas following protests by pro-Eelam groups

Mumbai: Santosh Sivan’s latest Tamil movie Inam, which explores the plight of Sri Lankan Tamils during the Lankan military’s defeat of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) in 2009, is paying the price for the timing of its release. The movie opened on 28 March and has already been voluntarily pulled from cinemas by its co-producer and distributor, Thirrupathi Brothers, following protests by pro-Eelam groups in Tamil Nadu.

“We are withdrawing the film from all theatres from March 31, my brotherhood feeling and love for my people is much more than the loss incurred by withdrawing this movie," read a statement issued by N. Lingusamy, co-founder of Thirrupathi Brothers. Sivan was unavailable for comment.

A handful of protesters attempted to disrupt the shooting of Linguswamy’s forthcoming action movie Anjaan, which is being filmed in Mumbai, on Sunday. Sivan is the cinematographer for Anjaan, which stars Tamil superstar Suriya.

Inam opened in a decisive week as far as supporters of a Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka are concerned—a day before the movie emerged with a Universal certificate, the United Nations Human Rights Council voted in favour of a resolution to investigate allegations of war crimes committed by the Lankan military during its final assault on LTTE.

In addition, the run-up to the general election, for which the pro-Eelam Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam party led by Vaiko has aligned with the Bharatiya Janata Party, has given Inam’s detractors a free pass to express their support for a Tamil homeland in Sri Lanka. Vaiko added to the clamour against Inam over the weekend, issuing statements against the movie.

Inam explores the tragic experiences of a handful of orphans who become collateral damage as the Lankan military moves towards wiping out LTTE. The movie is deeply sympathetic to the mostly adolescent victims of the civil war, and includes scenes of the bombardment of civilian establishments, the deaths of children and adults in crossfire and bombings, and the rape of a fleeing orphan, Rajini, by a Lankan soldier.

According to a film journalist from Chennai, who wanted to remain unidentified, the main objections from the pro-Eelam brigade is that Inam is too soft on the Lankan army, and has the temerity to suggest that Prabhakaran, referred to only as “The Leader", is dead. Eelam propagandists hold that Prabhakaran is alive, and that photographs and videos of his body that were released by the Sri Lankan government in 2009 were doctored.

Among the sequences held as objectionable by protesters are ones that humanize Sri Lankans and represent them in a fair light, said the journalist. A Buddhist monk—belonging to the majority Sinhala community—offers a pomegranate to Rajini and three other orphans as they flee for their lives. One of the characters, Nandan, finds a dead Sri Lankan soldier clutching a photograph of his daughter in his hand. In another sequence, LTTE soldiers disrupt a classroom lesson and screen propaganda videos for the students. A scroll at the end suggests a death toll far less than that claimed by Eelam supporters.

Then there is the business of Sivan, who is from Kerala, making a movie on an issue involving Tamilians. “The protesters want the film to be as pro-Lankan Tamil as the (British) Channel 4 (television) documentary Sri Lanka’s Killing Fields," added the journalist.

Movies on the Tamil nationalist struggle and the conduct of the Sri Lankan government have invariably led to protests and, ultimately, imposed or voluntary censorship. R.K. Selvamani’s Kuttrapathirikai, based on former prime minister Rajiv Gandhi’s assassination by LTTE, was refused a Central Board of Film Certification (CBFC) certificate in 1992, and was released only in 2007 after several cuts. Shoojit Sircar’s recent drama Madras Cafe, a fictionalized account of the Indian Peace Keeping Force’s operations in Sri Lanka and the conspiracy to assassinate Gandhi, was not released in Tamil Nadu.

Another movie by debutant director Igor, titled Thenkoodu and reportedly a pro-LTTE account of human rights abuses by the Sri Lankan army in 2009, has been denied a CBFC certificate. Thenkoodu has applied to CBFC’s higher body of appeal, the revising committee, for a certificate.

S. Bridget Leena in Chennai contributed to this story.