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Betrayal of Tamil biopic Muralitharan becomes flashpoint in Tamil Nadu, actor also criticized

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A screenshot of the '800' movie trailer
A screenshot of the ‘800’ movie trailer

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Bengaluru: A Tamil biopic on veteran Sri Lankan cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan has become a flashpoint in Tamil Nadu on what is considered to be famous bowlers’ support for the Sinhala government in Colombo during the 26-year civil war in the country.

The film is titled 800 The number of wickets taken by Muralitharan in Test cricket and features popular Tamil actor Vijay Sethupathi in the lead. His poster came out on October 13, and Vijay is criticized by many sections for signing the film.

Muralitharan is part of the Sri Lankan minority Tamil community and grew up amid the bloody civil war in the north of the country.

The civil war was sparked by a Tamil uprising that erupted in 1983 in response to what the community described as an attempt by the Sinhala majority to deprive them of their rights, with the colonial rulers of the nations also believed to have played a role in fomenting differences.

The war was finally crushed in 2009, under a government led by Mahinda Rajapaksa, then president and now prime minister. Rajapaksa and his brother Gotabaya Rajabaksa, who was Secretary of Defense when the war was crushed and who is now president of the nation, have been accused of gross human rights violations against Tamils ​​in their attempt to end the war.

Critics of Muralitharan do not appreciate the fact that he is considered close to the Rajapaksas.

After the poster came out, critics of Muralitharan unearthed an interview in which he was allegedly heard that 2009 was the best year of his life. His participation in Gotabayas’ election campaign in 2019 was also a point of consternation.

Muralitharan has denied all the claims in light of the controversy, offering his traumatic account of the war to claim that his 2009 remark was simply meant to convey his happiness at the end of the war.


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Criticized film

AIADMK and many other parts of Tamil Nadu have criticized the film and those behind it.

Tamil Development Minister Ma Foi Pandiarajan said that Muralitharans’ view that the Tamil murders were not genocide but the crushing of revolutionaries hurt the feelings of Tamils ​​across the world.

ThePrint could not independently verify if Muralitharan had already said this.

If the movie is all about cricket, I have no problem. But if it gets into the political realm and glorifies what Muralitharan said about Tamils, then it would be very difficult to defend, added the minister.

A PTI report city MDMK General Secretary and MP Vaiko said Muralitharan was identified as a traitor of the Tamil race by Tamils ​​around the world for supporting then-Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa during the civil war of 2009.

PMK founder S. Ramadoss said the news of Sethupathi playing the role of Muralitharan was shocking.

The actor should not support a story of betrayal out of ignorance, he told PTI. The cricketer, he says, is a traitor to the Tamils ​​and a loyalist to the Rajapaksa brothers.

In an open letter to Sethupathi, famous Tamil director Bharathiraja asked if he wanted his face to be forever associated with a racist person.

I speak on behalf of Tamils ​​all over the world, I try to avoid being a part of this biopic about the life of someone who hates Tamils, he wrote.

The DMK opposition has yet to comment on the matter.

The late DMK leader Mr. Karunanidhi has courted several controversies for his statements about liberating Eelam from the Tamil Tigers (LTTE), the main Tamil insurgency group during the war, and its alleged proximity to its leader V Prabhakaran.

Muralitharan is the bowling coach of the IPL Sunrisers Hyderabad team, which is part of the Sun TV group run by the Karunanidhi family, who also run the DMK.

The Naam Tamilar Katchi, a fringe outfit from Tamil Nadu, launched an online #ShameonVijaySethupathi campaign on Twitter to protest the film, with many social media users also criticizing the actor.

How could he (Vijay) wear the Sri Lankan flag on his chest? Shame on you. This is the same government that massacred our Tamil brothers, a Twitter follower said.


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In defense of films

In 2019, when the film’s launch was announced, Tamil Nadu saw many protests. Sethupati then asked that the film not be judged before its release.

I would not do anything that could hurt my people. I wouldn’t want to lose the support of the people who have always given me their love, so Sethupati made a statement.

Dar Motion Pictures, under whose banner the film came out, defended it, claiming that art is beyond borders; it unites people everywhere. Artists belong to the world. We only want to spread positivity, love and hope, he added, saying the film is purely a sports biography and should not be politicized.

As producers, we assure that this film will not feature any scenes that downplay the struggles of the Eelam Tamils ​​in Sri Lanka or hurt their feelings in any way, he said.

Muralitharan, who is married to the daughter of a prominent Tamil medical couple from Chennai, said in a statement released in light of the controversy that he had personally suffered because of the war.

He said his 2009 remarks had been misinterpreted, adding that he knew the scale of the losses caused by the war.

I am hurt to be portrayed as a person against Tamils. I give this explanation to neutral people because only bad news is shared even though I know I cannot pacify those who oppose me, he added.


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