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Islamic protest delays release of film Indian state’s high court to rule next week on ban

NEW DELHI, Jan 31, (Agencies): Kamal Hassan, one of the biggest movie stars in southern India, said Thursday he would go ahead with the release of a Hindi language version of his controversial spy thriller “Vishwaroopam” as he fights a court battle for the release of the Tamil language version in his home state of Tamil Nadu.
Several Muslim groups protested the film’s release in Tamil Nadu, objecting to its portrayal of Islam. The state high court says it will rule next week on a ban imposed by the state government, which says the movie could trigger violence in the state.
Hassan has offered to edit out scenes considered offensive and some references to the Quran. He said he would wait for the court decision on Feb. 6 rather than approach India’s highest court to overturn the ban.
His attorney, P.S. Raman, said the film had been approved for release by the federal board of film certification and the state government had no authority to ban its screening, The Hindu newspaper reported.
Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J. Jayalalitha said Thursday that if Hassan worked out a compromise with protesting Muslim groups the state government would consider lifting the ban imposed on the movie. Hassan was the producer, director and had the lead role in the film, which was released abroad and in some Indian states on Jan. 25.
“I truly wonder how one movie could knock this mighty nation’s unity. From Kashmir to Kerala, excluding Tamil Nadu, I would look for a secular state which could house an artiste like me. If I can’t find one within India, which I will know in a couple of days, I will find hopefully another country which is secular and will take me,” he told reporters on Wednesday.
Tamil Nadu’s Chief Minister Jayalalithaa Jayaram said her government was forced to impose the 15-day ban to prevent unrest across the state, because there was “every apprehension” that protests outside cinemas would turn violent.
Indian film stars have rallied around Haasan since the ban in the film, which has already passed the country’s censorship board.
“Go stand outside the cinema hall (and) insist on seeing the film,” Bollywood megastar Salman Khan told his huge following on Twitter on Thursday.
Another leading actor, Shah Rukh Khan, said it was “the most unfortunate thing to happen to a film”.
India’s Information and Broadcasting Minister Manish Tiwari told NDTV that each case was different, but state governments “need to lean in favour of freedom of speech and expression” even amid law and order fears.
Acclaimed British author Salman Rushdie also faced the wrath of Muslim groups on Wednesday, forcing him to cancel a trip to the eastern city of Kolkata for a promotional event for the film “Midnight’s Children”.

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