The trailer of Family Man Season 2 that dropped a week ago shows Threat Analysis and Surveillance Cell analyst Srikant Tiwari at his unsatisfying desk job. He’s neither a good husband nor a father. So, he moves to Chennai to be back in action. So far, there are no problems. But half way through the trailer, you see shots of Samantha who seems to be playing a Sri Lankan Tamil rebel with hints that her group has contacts with Pakistan’s ISI. Is this a harmless plot point? Or, is there something sinister in her characterization that’s against Tamils?
Opposition leaders Vaiko and Seeman are long-standing sympathizers of the cause of a Tamil Eelam and they have a problem with the politics of the trailer. They alleged that the film puts the struggle of Sri Lankan Tamils in bad light. Vaiko, especially, had problems with Samantha’s character who’s shown as a Tamil-speaking terrorist with connections to terrorists in Pakistan. Seeman has warned of dire consequences if the series is not banned.
The ruling Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) government is keen on a ban too. State Information Technology minister, T. Mano Thangaraj, wrote to Union Information & Broadcasting minister Prakash Javedekar suggesting that the release of Family Man 2 could harm the state’s harmony. He called the contents of the trailer “condemnable, inappropriate and malicious” and requested a ban or stopping of release.
Directors Raj & DK have urged everyone to not judge by just the trailer. They reiterate their respect for Tamils and promise a “sensitive, balanced, and riveting story”. But why would the brief depiction of Sri Lankan Tamil characters in a trailer draw so much ire?
The State government in Tamil Nadu, has often viewed the depiction of Srilankan Tamils as going beyond mere artistic portrayal, blending questions of justice and identity. Recently, Vijay Sethupathi had to step out of 800, a biopic of Sri Lankan cricketer Muthiah Muralitharan that never took off, thanks to protests around Muralitharan’s involvement with the Sri Lankan government during post-war years and also comments made by him at the close of the Sri Lankan civil war. A #BoycottVijaySethupathi movement took off on social media, holding him personally responsible, in a sense, for Muralitharan’s image.
Back in 2014, Santosh Sivan’s film Inam/Ceylon was pulled out of theatres following protests by Tamil groups. It started with a demand to remove a few scenes but the film was taken off screens within a few days, in spite of having a ‘U’ certificate from the censors. Director Santhosh Sivan, though, has recently tweeted that Inam will be on an OTT platform soon for everyone to see.
Vijay-starrer Kaththi faced similar issues when Lyca Productions’ business transactions were linked to the family of then Prime Minister of Sri Lanka, Mahinda Rajapakse. Tamil fringe groups protested against the film, but didn’t do so for Lyca’s subsequent films like 2.0 or Darbar.
A situation that’s very similar to the one faced by Family Man 2 happened with Shoojit Sircar’s Madras Cafe which was set in the early 1990s when the Indian Peacekeeping Force was sent into Sri Lanka and had to retreat following a long-drawn battle with the Tamil rebels. Though the director insisted that the film didn’t take sides, political leaders including S. Ramadoss, chief of the Pattali Makkal Katchi, called for its ban.
The most high-profile example of government involvement in the release of a film was with Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroopam in 2013 when minority organizations protested against the film’s release on grounds that it hurt religious sentiments. Actor Vijay’s films too have been facing similar issues either before or post release. His films like Mersal, Thalaiva and Sarkar created controversies when the ruling government took objective to dialogues in these films.
In terms of OTT releases, Amazon Prime Video’s Tandav, starring Saif Ali Khan, faced several complaints and trolls after it was accused of hurting religious sentiments of a section of the audience. The makers even agreed to remove the controversial portions from the series, directed by Ali Abbas Zafar which was written by Gaurav Solanki.