Bottle Notes | Offended? Too Bad: The Mersal Movie Row


What seemed to be another superhit Thalapathy film turned controversial after its release on Wednesday (18/10/2017), with statements that the BJP took offence to. Mersal was heavily criticised for its serious dialogues that was directed towards the present government’s policies and the uproar concerning it was a realisation of what our freedom of speech and expression really is. The Director and the rest of the movie’s crew was in the spotlight across various media channels and websites where multiple celebrities shared their view about the issue. The media did not take a backseat either, with numerous debates across channels comprising of BJP members, prominent individuals from the film industry, social activists, members of opposition, former CBFC officials and the like.

The main controversy that surrounds this movie is with reference to the dialogue that Tamil actor Vijay carries out in one of the intense scenes of the movie. He talks about the condition of the Health department in India, compares it to foreign countries and openly talks about the problems that people are facing due to GST and the lack of facilities that are available in hospitals in our country. He talks about how there is no GST on liquor or alcohol, while there is about 28 per cent of GST on medicines and medical services. Similarly, Demonetisation was also portrayed in a negative light, making jokes about the change of currency and making it out to be such a joke.

BJP cadre picket theatre screening Mersal at Kovilpatti in Tuticorin district, condemning a few dialogues in the movie.
photo: K. Antony Xavier

The movie is about the story of a doctor, played by Vijay, who gives medical treatment at the cost of Rs. 5. Vijay plays a double role where he is also a magician and the brother of the doctor. The plot and the cinematography brings out the flaw in the system and how no one is doing anything to change it but just making it worse. The actors take on the roles with great importance and fervour, making it a film that addresses public grievances in a serious way through creative expression.

The issue was brought into the limelight after the BJP state president Tamilisai Soundarrajan took offence to two scenes in the movie and demanded that those scenes be removed from the movie after the CBFC had passed it and after it was released. Although numerous members of the BJP, like Mr. Soundarrajan, were offended, many other supported the film and mentioned that it is the right of the people to voice out their opinion in any creative way possible that suits the topic in question. People like Kamal Haasan, The DYFI, Acting DMK leader MK Stalin and many other prominent personalities supported the film saying that the movie shouldn’t be censored, the criticism from the BJP shows their fascist mentality and that the freedom of speech and expression must be practised in the democratic setup. On the contrary, Former Finance Minister P Chidambaram tweeted that there will soon be a law where director can only make documentaries that appreciate government policies.

DYFI Members protest against the BJP and supporting the movie and actor Vijay

Although the film has been through multiple controversies, with criticism of GST, demonetisation that the fact that it shows the Medical Industry to be poorly maintained, it still continues to overwhelm the box office reportedly with over Rs 100 crores in just 3 days. The movie has grossed about Rs. 43 crores abroad, surpassing the international market of Golmaal Again and Secret Superman. Vijay continues to be a celebrated hero, with his unique dialogue deliverance and finesse in every role he plays.

The strongly condemns such moves by the ruling establishment to muzzle the fundamental right of freedom of expression and speech which is guaranteed to every individual by the Constitution of India.This certainly is not healthy for a democracy and would lead to its destruction.

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Article contributed by:

Roshni Rajagopal
Head - HR & In-House Writer

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