- Making of Vishwaroop Crisis'
A management case study
Here is an unbiased and thought-provoking analysis of the entire 'Vishwaroopam' episode.
- A.V. Ramanathan
Prime Point Srinivasan
'Making of Vishwaroop Crisis' - A case study
One of the great problems and challenges of Indian aam adhmi has been achieved today. The long awaited and debated Vishwaroopam (Tamil version) is being screened from today in Tamilnadu. India has achieved a great milestone, pushing behind our Agni 6 and other scientific achievements.
When 2500 people die due to tobacco and alcohol every day and around 5000 people die due to cardiac problems, no media has taken it seriously to create health awareness. Almost the entire last week, Vishwaroop and emotional appeal of Kamal Hassan was occupying the lead space in the media.
Many people, who never care for the suffering of poor people in the their locality, start sending cheques to Kamal Hassan to save him from the Vishwaroopam loss. I congratulate the screaming and shouting media for having proved again how an emotional appeal from a film star can create waves in the country.
Now that today Vishwaroopam (Tamil) has been released, I want to analyse the 'making of the crisis', which can be of help for many young communication and corporate professionals as a case study.
About Kamal Haasan
Kamal Haasan, no doubt, a great actor and a passionate person interested in bringing innovations and new styles in the films. Personally, I am one of the great admirers of his films. He is an atheist. He claims that he does not believe in God and proclaims that he would never compromise his philosophies for anything. Generally, he does not get associated with film related associations. He is in the film industry for nearly 50 years.
Past experience with Kamal
Kamal always gets associated with one or other controversies in most of the films. In Dec 2010, in one of the films Manmathan Ambu, where he played the lead role, Kamal penned a lyric and sang himself a song. This song portrayed Hindu Gods Vishnu and Mahalakshmi in a vulgar term. When the song was released, Hindu front organisations requested him to remove the lyric or cut that portion, before the release of the film. But Kamal refused to oblige them, saying that he was a 'principled person' and already the film got censored. Then they went to the High Court. Meanwhile, the film producer Udayandhi Stalin (grandson of Karunanidhi, then CM of Tamilnadu) called the protesters for discussion and agreed to remove the two lines, so that the release could be smooth without any protest. The protesters were also happy.
At that time, Kamal issued a statement saying that if he were to be the producer, he would not have removed the objected portions and he would have stuck on to his policies. Actually, the producer wanted not to get into controversy and get his film stuck without earning money. That means for any producer, film is a business and it has to return profit for the investment they make. At that time, Kamal's statement hurt the sentiments of the silent majority, who could not do anything, as they were soft targets.
Mess up of DTH release
Kamal Hassan produced Vishwaroop in 3 languages, Tamil, Telugu and Hindi. Generally, the films are released only through theatres world over. Since Kamal has invested nearly 90 crores in making this film, he wanted to take back the money comfortably. DTH operators gave him a great promise. Hence, he wanted to release the film on 10th Jan 2013 at 9.30 pm through 5 DTH operators as an 'On demand movie' with a charge of Rs.1000/-. He wanted to release the film on the next day through theatres.
This triggered a controversy and all the film related organisations, including distributors and theatre owners objected to this new type of release, as it would reduce their theatre collection.
In a special press conference, Kamal said that the film was his personal property and he had the right to sell through any mode for any price of his choice. This further angered the film exhibitors. The exhibitors in most of the states refused to provide theatre, if Kamal planned to release the film through DTH before theatre release.
DTH did not attract much viewers, as expected by Kamal and DTH operators. The bookings were very low, in spite of large publicity. Kamal has to retreat from his earlier statement of his right to sell and agree for threatre release on 25th Jan 2013 at all India level. He also agreed to release through DTH 9 days after theatre release.
Even when DTH controversy was going on, around 25 Muslim organisations in Tamilnadu argued that the film contained some objectionable scenes against Islam. Though Kamal argued that the film got the censor certification, the Muslim outfits wanted the film to be shown to them, before formal release. Since Kamal is the producer himself, he has to throw his principles to the wind, and agreed to show the film to Muslim leaders on 21st Jan 2013, when the official release was scheduled on 25th Jan through 500 theatres in Tamilnadu.
After watching the film, the Muslim leaders demanded few scenes to be removed. But Kamal did not agree for this, again saying that the film was already censored by the Central Government. The Muslim leaders submitted a petition to the Home Secretary of the state and informed him that if the film was released on 25th January, there would be law and order problem, as the Muslims may protest against this film. When this was reported in the media, none of the representatives of Kamal Haasan met the Home Secretary and submitted their version. Even efforts made by the common friends to bring both the parties on a discussion table failed, due to Kamal's refusal.
Tamilnadu Government immediately banned the exhibition of film for 15 days. It is said that Kamal did not expect this sudden action. This has put all the theatre owners into difficulty, as they were preparing for the release and sold the tickets. Even at that stage, Kamal Haasan or his representative did not meet the Home Secretary with a request to lift the ban.
Meanwhile, DMK (opposition party) also showed their support to Kamal. The controversy became political. At this stage, Kamal also questioned the Government for their banning the film for 15 days, while Censor Certification has been given. Kamal filed a petition in the High Court and wanted this to be heard urgently.
The entire national and language media started projecting this news item as one of the top stories. Meanwhile, the film was released in US.
The film could not be released on 25th Jan as scheduled. A single judge bench viewed the film in the presence of the representatives of the Government, Muslim outfits and Kamal team. They gave one day to Kamal to sort out the difficulties through dialogue with the Muslim outfits, in the presence of Home Secretary. Since Kamal did not want to go for dialogue again, the next day, the judge ordered removal of the ban. On that day, the High Court was sitting till 10.30 pm to deliver the judgement.
Aggrieved by this order, the Advocate General of the State Government submitted an appeal before the Acting Chief Justice at his residence in the midnight. However, it was taken up as the first item on the next day by a Division Bench of the High Court which ordered the stay of the earlier judgement removing the ban. Hence, the ban continued.
Kamal's emotional appeal
Meanwhile, media carried emotional speeches of Kamal Haasan stating that he would shift to a secular state or to any other secular country, if no secular state is available in India. He also said that he had invested huge money in the film pledging his properties. This statement of Kamal also generated mixed response from many. It was viewed as if Kamal was branding India as a non-secular state, because of his business problem.
Some of the fans also sent demand drafts and cheques to his address. Kamal also declared that he would go to the Supreme Court to fight for his 'freedom of expression'. This statement also further precipitated the issue.
Meanwhile, Kamal released the Hindi version of the film in North India. There was no problem for the Hindi version. The main opposition party leader Karunanidhi issued a statement blaming the CM Jayalalitha, giving political twist.
Hence, the Chief Minister had to come out to meet the Press announcing that she did not consider Kamal as her enemy and if he wanted, he could sort out the problem with Muslim leaders in the presence of Home Secretary. (The same was suggested by the High Court also earlier, which Kamal did not bother). She also made it open that though the Government was willing to sort out the problem, Kamal did not meet the officials and went to the Court.
In a marathon meeting held with Muslim leaders, in the presence of Home Secretary, Kamal agreed to make 7 changes in the film, as demanded by the Muslims. They signed an agreement to this effect and submitted to the High Court for withdrawal of all the cases.
Today, Kamal has released the film Viswaroopam (Tamil) in around 400 theatres.
Lessons learnt out of this crisis
1. Kamal should not proclaim falsely as if he was the principled person. In Dec 2010, before the soft target of Hindus, he claimed that he would not remove the objectionable protions, if he were to be the producer. Now in Jan 2013, he totally surrerendered himself before Muslim leaders and effected all the changes requested by them. He should know that film is a business venture. Kamal should not exhibit double standards. Kamal used to denigrate the religious sentiments, under the pretext of creativity. He should know that denigrating religious sentiments is an offense in India under CrPC. It is not considered as creativity. Whether soft target or hard target, he should adopt same method.
2. Kamal is a good actor and film technocrat. He has produced this film at an International standard. He should avoid his hard hitting words and create more crisis. Only because of his harsh words earlier, many of his film associations did not give him support at the time of his crisis. Even Shah Ruk Khan is facing the similar problem today, due to unwanted comments. These popular actors assume too much of themselves, because of the crowd.
3. Kamal may be brilliant. But in other domains, he should seek guidance from the concerned experts. When there were many opportunities for sorting out the problem through dialogue, due to his own 'ego', he did not avail those opportunities. Finally, he sorted out under pressure, using the same dialogue mode.
For Muslim groups
4. Generally in India, particularly in Tamilnadu, Hindus and Muslims live in harmony. Definitely, these 25 Muslim groups do not represent 50 lakhs of Muslim population of Tamilnadu or that of entire India. If they are really representing, they should have only one single organisation. Even during the youtube controversy of 'Innocence of Muslims', different factions of Tamilnadu Muslim groups staged protest causing lot of inconvenience to the local people for a number of days. They also attacked US embassy, causing embarrassment to the country and the State Government.
Even in Vishwaroopam controversy, only Tamilnadu Muslims were seen protesting, while in other centres, the same Muslim community watched without problem. The action of such handful of leaders have created a great divide among young Hindus and Muslims, which is not good for the nation. When we are all talking about unity and harmony, these leaders for their political advantage and media exposure, should not attempt to divide the country on communal lines. Many Muslims suffer due to poverty and lack of education. These leaders should try to analyse the reason and use their influence to develop the economic and educational status of the community.
For the official machinery
5. Large section of the society is facing numerous problems silently like price rice, farmers suicide, education, power cut, etc. An issue like Vishwaroopam gets larger attention than it deserves due to media hype, involving the productive time of the entire official machinery. When the ordinary citizen looks for solution from the judiciary for many of his genuine problems, the High Court taking up the case on a priority basis, sitting late night to deliver justice for a film, will send out different signals to the common man. This common man (aam adhmi) forms part of silent majority, blaming himself for all the sufferings.
For the fans of Kamal Hassan
6. Thousands of poor people are suffering in their neighbourhood. If possible, they can help them. They need not send drafts and cheques to Kamal Haasan. Kamal is an actor and business man. He invests money in a film for earning profit. The fans can enjoy the film and technical aspects, as an entertainment. We can also join with them to wish Kamal to get oscar award. Let us stop with that. They should understand that Kamal was even prepared to leave India, looking for a 'secular country', if he was not able to take the profit here. That is his real face, brought out in a moment of emotion. He has exposed himself that he is prepared to brand India as a non secular country, for his selfish reason. India is the only country in the world which practises 'secularism' faithfully. Actors can give emotions only on the screen. Honestly, many people did not appreciate his 'exile' statement.
7. Hundreds of genuine problems affecting the poor people, farmers, villagers go unnoticed. Coverage of such nationally important problems, may not get them ratings. Because of the continous coverage of Vishwaroopam in the national media, this film got undue publicity, kindling emotions. Even the Government and Judicial system had to work over time to resolve this 'nationally important' issue. These channels also got high ratings. TV Channels are becoming 'agenda setters' of the nation. They should set positive agenda to the nation and to the Government, that can help the society.
Finally for you and me
Only because of our insensitiveness to important problems affecting the society, everybody is playing such high drama kindling our emotions. Media thinks that an ordinary citizen likes only such filmy news and hence they blow up the news creating viral effect.
The only option before us is to let out our feelings.
Editor in Chief
Courtesy: Rajendra Deshpande
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