Controversy swirls around the movie | Sunday Observer

Controversy swirls around the movie

25 October, 2020

The controversial topic which took centre stage in the Tamil Nadu media for the last few weeks was the upcoming Kollywood movie 800 based on the life of Sri Lankan cricketing legend Muttiah Muralitharan. The film is produced by Movie Train Motion Picture & Dar Pictures, and directed by M.S. Sripathy who has also co-written the film with acclaimed Sri Lankan novelist Shehan Karunatilaka, author of Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew, that won the 2012 Commonwealth Book Prize. Last week the production house unveiled the first look motion poster of the film, and received backlash from the Tamil Nadu pro LTTE politicians and a section of the social media. They strongly criticised Vijay Sethupathi, a popular Tamil actor who is set to star as Muralitharan in the 800 while some praised him for his skill in completely transforming Muttiah Muralitharan. The reason for this criticism is Murali’s political views which are not aligned with the pro LTTE factions.

Founder of the Paattali Makkal Katchi (PMK, a Tamil Nadu political party), S. Ramadoss was quoted in The Hindu newspaper on October 15 as saying that if actor Vijay Sethupathi announces that if he will not act in Muralitharan’s biopic, he will be part of the Tamil Eelam history or else he would be known as a betrayer. In his statement he also said, “I respect the creative freedom of Vijay Sethupathi. But, that freedom should not be used to shame the motherland. I am not going to urge him to drop his plan of acting in the film.”

Responses divided

Senthamizham Seeman, chief coordinator of Naam Tamilar Katchi, a Tamil Nationalist’ Party has urged actor Vijay Sethupathi to refrain from acting in the film.

“It can’t be said Sethupathi was not aware about the sentiments and statements made by Muralitharan. Going ahead with the project is condemnable,” he said. The Week magazine said, “Though Sethupathi received praise for completely emulating Muralidaran’s avatar.”

The responses from the social media are divided. Mostly cadres of NaamTamilarKatchi, a small fringe outfit in Tamil Nadu, used hashtags like #Shame onVijaySethupathi on Twitter to show their disappointment about the film, 800, and in that hashtag there has been outrage among pro LTTE groups. But some people in that hashtag backed the film and Vijay Sethupathi’s role in the film. Sumanth Raman tweeted, “(Murali) was a great cricketer and biopic would show his journey. The fact that he didn’t fight for his fellow Sri Lankan Tamils does not mean a movie on his life can’t be made. Those who have a problem have a choice of not watching.” He further tweeted, “Murali is employed by a team (Sun Risers Hyderabad in the IPL tournament) owned by a Tamil. Remember that,” he added. However, sympathisers of the LTTE more or less took to social media, tagging Sethupathi, urging him not to star as the cricketer.

Meanwhile, the production house which feared about the releasing of the upcoming film over this outrage, said in a statement that the film is “purely a sports biography”. “The film is a journey about a man who hails from the Tamil migrant community, going on to become the highest wicket taker of all time. The film does not make any political statement favouring any community. The film is intended to be an inspiration for the younger generation to achieve their dreams irrespective of the difficulties they come across in their journey.

Very enthusiastic

It added, “On a positive note, the film will engage the Tamil film community in Sri Lanka, providing the artistes and technicians a platform to showcase their talents on a global stage. Art is beyond boundaries; it unites people all across. Artistes belong to the world. We wish to spread only the positivity, love and hope,” it said.

However, it is apparent that the production team is very enthusiastic about the film and they plan to dub it in Telugu, Malayalam, Kannada, Hindi, Bengali and Sinhalese along with an international version with English subtitles. The artistes in the 800 movie are also professionals in Kollywood, The composer of the film music is Sam CS while the cinematographer is RD Rajasekar and Rajisha Vijayan will play Muralitharan’s wife Madhimalar. The producer of the film Vivek Rangachari of DAR was quoted in Variety, a Tamil Nadu magazine as saying that he was attracted to the film not because of the fact that it was not yet another sports biopic, but “There are so many interesting facets to Murali’s life (other) than cricket that excited us towards the project.” The Variety quoted M.S. Sripathy, the director of 800, as saying, “Everyone of us has our own battles to fight. Murali has faced more battles than most of us. I believe this story will instill hope.” And it quoted Vijay Sethupathi too who plays the lead role as Murali, “We only see the ball spinning out of his hand, but it actually comes out of his soul. Many know Muthiah Muralitharan the bowler, I want to portray the person behind the legend.” Last week, the Kollywood actor and Sri Lankan cricketing legend also got together in a virtual chat to discuss the movie during the ongoing IPL telecast, before the first look was revealed. Muttiah Muralitharan is also a producer via Movie Train Motion Pictures, one of the production companies in the film project. This new company backed by not only Murali, but also by K. Shanmugham, the group CEO at Sun TV Network and CEO of the Sun Risers Hyderabad, and Sripathy, the director of 800.The shoot, beginning in early 2021, will be spread over five schedules in India, Sri Lanka, the U.K and Australia.

Earlier, M.S. Dhoni: The Untold Story, a biopic of former Indian cricket captain Mahendra Singh Dhoni, starring the late Sushant Singh Rajput, grossed $30 million and83, starring Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone, about India’s 1983 cricket world cup victory, is due in December. So, cricket films are very popular in South Asia and it is expected that 800 is also a blockbuster movie as the cricket fans are not limited to India, but many other countries in the world.

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