Vishwaroopam was released today in theatres post 'ban', across Tamil Nadu sending Kamal Haasan fans into a delirious mood after a fortnight-long suspense as the actor insisted his freedom of expression was 'intact' with only a few scenes muted.
"Thank you India. Thank You Tamil Nadu. See to it that artistes like me don't get into trouble again," said a hugely-relieved actor as the film opened to packed houses with his fans bursting crackers and pouring milk over his cut-outs.
Today's release capped a two-week long drama with many a twist and turn that saw opposition by theatre owners over the actor's plan to release it on DTH platform, protests by Muslim outfits that led to a two-week ban by Tamil Nadu government, court battle and threat of self-exile by the actor.
As the ban evoked national outcry, Chief Minister Jayalalithaa stepped in, paving the way for its release. Actor agreed to mute scenes that Muslim outfits found offensive in the government brokered meeting.
Haasan wished Jayalalithaa, who recently said she no longer watched movies, would break "her vow" for his sake as he wanted to screen the movie for his "peer and senior" in the Tamil film industry.
"I like her to see the film. Now she is a Chief Minister. But she is (also) a peer and senior. I very much like her to watch my film and hope she breaks her vow of not watching movies," a smiling Haasan told reporters.
The actor insisted that his freedom of expression was 'intact' since only a few scenes had been muted.
Haasan thanked the fans for their love, saying the controversy gave him an opportunity to understand that.
After his emotional statement that he could stand to lose his property pledged towards the making of the film, they had sent cheques and DDs in his name.
He said he had maintained his position and not involved in any "subterfuge' as regards the film. Earlier, TMMK, that was part of the 20-odd organisations that protested against the film, thanked Jayalalithaa for supporting the minority community.
"Despite a lot of criticism, she stood by the minorities," MH Jawahirullah, president of TMMK, said in the Tamil Nadu Assembly.
On the first controversy over his decision to release the film on the Direct-to-Home platform, which was ultimately red-flagged by exhibitors, Haasan said he will hold talks with them to see how the issue "can be taken forward."
Vishwaroopam, originally scheduled for January 25 release, started screening in some theatres as early as 6 AM today.
The two-week ban on the spy-thriller, centring around terror, triggered a wave of support for Haasan, who had threatened to go on a self-imposed exile. The actor said he had pledged his house and other property for the Rs 100 crore film.
The Hindi and Telugu versions were released without much ado and Tamil also in Kerala and Karnataka. A Madurai report said the film was released in six theatres in the city and five in rural areas.
City theatre owners said tickets had been booked fully for the next three days.
Haasan fans had thronged theatres from early morning and had decorated them with festoons and buntings to celebrate the movie's release, the report said.