Earlier this month, many Tamil and Muslims organisations rightly staged protest against the atrocities by the extreme right wing, Sinhalese Buddhist organization – ‘Bodu Bala Sena’. However, some of the extremist, sectarian elements with support from the main parties in TN have now gone to the extent of stopping or trying to delay the screening of a Sinhalese movie – ‘With you, Without You’ (oba nathuwa oba ekka).
A movie on the postwar Sri Lanka and described by some reviews as a very sensitively portrayed film without taking sides on the conflict. The director – Prasanna Vithanage, an internationally famed director and in fact a supporter of Trotskyist/ Socialist ideas, has often been found at the receiving end of Sinhala chauvinism and even faced ban on some of his movies earlier in Sri Lanka. The ruling AIADMK Chief Minister Jayalalitha has not even responded to pleas to intervene on the issue.
Another movie, praised by film critics, that suffered the same fate was “Inam” by ace Indian cinematographer Santosh Sivan earlier this year. Many political parties, including Vaiko’s MDMK called for the ban on the movie. There are other such examples like Madras Cafe, Dam 999 that couldn’t get released in TN because of the protest from some sectarian Tamil organisations.
Despite all the talk of the fate of Tamils in Sri Lanka, the ruling dispensation in Tamil Nadu has done precious little for the Tamil refugees holed up in TN. If one looks into the last year Tamil Nadu budget report, it has allocated just 100 crores for 65,000 refugees. It is less than a big-budget movie getting released in these days. There are news about refugees going on fast for not providing basic amenities. Government ironically is supporting these protests in order to cover their inefficiencies in allocating funds or even allowing them to live as free citizens.
It is also worth noting that according to Deloitte report, the market size of the South Indian Media and Print industry is about 23,900 crores in 2013 and it is growing. Tamil and Telugu Media & Print constitutes nearly 65% of the market share. Tamil movie industry’s market size is about Rs. 1030 crores. Market and political interference decides what type of movies are made. So it is hardly surprising that only a handful of movies depicting realistic social/ political issues actually make it. It is really a tragedy that ordinary Tamil cinema goers will never get to see such rare movies like ‘With you, Without You’, and judge it for themselves rather than by some sectarian organizations, including the ruling parties that just exploit genuine concerns and emotions of the Tamil people.