Muttiah Muralitharan’s biopic ‘800’ runs into trouble

Chennai: A Tamil biopic on ace Sri Lankan spin bowler Muttiah Muralitharan titled ‘800’ featuring accomplished actor Vijay Sethupathi in the lead has run into trouble with sections of politicians, film fraternity members and the Twitterati objecting to it saying the cricketer had hailed the Rajapaksas under whose watch ethnic Tamils were annihilated during the civil war in the Island nation in 2009.

Ironically, Vijay Sethupathi, one of the top heroes of Kollywood affectionately called ‘Makkal Selvan’ (People’s Treasure) by fans, is a known sympathiser of the Sri Lankan Tamil cause. He is among the few outspoken film world personalities to speak his mind on political issues. Besides, Muralitharan is married to a Tamil girl from Chennai.

Ever since the motion poster for the biopic was released three days ago showing the actor with striking resemblance to the ace bowler, scores of people had taken to Twitter opposing the project. The hashtag #ShameOnVijaySethupathi began to trend for two days.

In a bid to assuage their feelings, Dar Motion Pictures, which is producing ‘800’, issued a statement making it clear that the film is a biopic on Muralitharan’s achievement in sports.

“It is purely a sports biography. The film does not make any political statement favouring any community. This film is intended to be an inspiration for the young generation to achieve their dreams irrespective of the difficulties they come across in their journey. We as the producers assure that this film will not showcase any scenes that would belittle the struggles of Eelam Tamils in Sri Lanka or hurt their sentiments in any way,” it said.

However, there was no let up in opposition. On Thursday, PMK founder S Ramadoss said if Sethupathi acted in the film despite the protests, he would come across as a “betrayer.” If he opted out of the film, then he will become part of history. “I respect the creative freedom of Sethupathi. But, that freedom should not be used to shame the motherland,” he said.

Naam Tamilar Katchi leader Seeman also urged the actor to give up the project.

Award winning veteran film maker Bharathiraja appealed to Sethupathi to consider opting out of the film. “On behalf of global Tamils, I appeal to you to opt out of this film. If you do so, you will be remembered with gratitude, both in the minds of the Eelam Tamil people and myself,” he said.

Many on Twitter asked how the actor could agree to sport the Sri Lankan flag on his T Shirt in the film’s motion poster. One of them said, “Would it be possible to do a biopic on Pakistan cricketer Shahid Afridi?” Some, however, said it was his creative freedom and those offended need not watch the film.

At the time of going to print, the actor was yet to make any statement on the issue.

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