Malaysia Lifts Ban on Controversial Indian Thriller

Vishwaroopam H

Indian director Kamal Haasan's "Vishwaroopam" was temporarily pulled from the country's cinemas after Muslim groups complained it is insensitive to Islam.

Controversial Indian film Vishwaroopam has been re-cleared for screening in Malaysia, after a temporary ban was instated in January, following complaints from Muslim groups in the country who said the film is offensive to Islam.

Directed by and starring Kamal Haasan, along with Rahul Bose and Pooja Kumar, the Tamil spy-thriller officially was approved by Malaysia’s Film Censorship Board (LPF), and opened on Jan. 25. But letters of protest filed by the Malaysian Indian Muslim Congress (Kimma) and the Federation of Malaysian Indian Muslim Associations (Permim) complaining of religious insensitivity led the LPF to pull the film the very next day for further review.

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Following a series of reviews with participation from Kimma and Permim, LPF chairman Raja Azahar said in a statement: “The approval is given with the condition that the distributor agrees to additional cuts to the movie.”

Those cuts are said to entail 16 brief sections of the film that will be muted, eliding dialog that disturbed some Muslim viewers.

"Through the meeting, a consensus was achieved for the film to continue its run with some scenes touching on the sensitivity of religion censored," Azahar added.

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Local fans and supporters of Haasan and Tamil film have voiced concern that despite the lifting of the ban, irrevocable damage already may have been done to the film’s financial prospects in Malaysia. Throughout the course of the suspension, a high-quality, pirated VCD version of Vishwaroopam -- uncensored -- was being sold at the countless pirate movie stalls that dot the streets of Kuala Lumpur.