Hate speech

800 Enmeshed in Hate Speech

Ahsan Afthar

Biographies of many people with great achievements in their real life and have found a place for themselves in history have been made into movie films. M.S.Thony, Manikarnica, Soorarai Pottu, Mahanatti and Dirty Pictures are some of them.  In this line, the life history of the great spin bowler in the Sri Lanka Cricket Team Muthiah Muralitharan was also to be made into a movie.

M.S.Sripathy and Shehan Karunathilaka jointly with Muthiah Muralitharan made a study and wrote the story.  Popular South Indian star Vijay Sethupahy was to play Muthiah Muralitharan’s role in this film which was to be directed by M.S.Sripathy and produced by Movie Train Mone Pictures and Dhar Pictures. This news received an enthusiastic welcome from the people.

This movie was to portray Muthiah’s 800 wicket record and was named ‘800’. On 13th October when Mone poster was released, controversies started.  Until such time, Sri Lankan and Indian fans who looked at Muralitharan as a Cricketer and Vijay Sethupathy as a Film Star started looking at them in a different way.

Criticisms burst forth connecting movie 800 with Muthiah’s past and current political stance and his interviews in the media. Propaganda was started saying Vijay Sethupathy was betraying the Tamils by acting in this film. But, on the other hand, it is not to be denied that there were voices in support of  Murali and Vijay Sethupathy.

Apart from this being a sportsman’s biography,  the hate speech based on this film is distressing. Particularly, in the midst of Tamil people, it was observed, that hate speech in social media was instrumental for unnecessary arguments and displeasure.

What do the people say? 

Those who object this film are the ones who are unhappy about Muthia’s political and personal activities.  Various Tamil parties, including popular Tamil cinema stars, requested Vijay Sethupathy to refrain from acting in this film.  When he refused, protest of the people turned into hate speech.

In social media, many people posted that on many occasions, Muthiah Muralitharan disregarded Tamils and disgraced the demonstrations by Disappeared Persons’ Mothers. Because of this, they expect this film will not be released.

In this regard, Elroy Amalathas, a Sri Lankan artiste said: “So far no one has disregarded Muralitharan’s achievements.  But these criticisms were made as a result of his justifying the killings of our people and disgracing the struggle of the mothers”.

The Producers Explanation. 

In this film there is neither politics nor any scene maligning the struggle of the Tamils, say the producers.

We understand film 800 based on Muthiah Muralitharan’s biography in which Vijay Sethupathy will be acting is politicized in various ways.  The film 800 is entirely based on the life of a cricket player and there is no politics involved in it.  The theme of this film is about how Muralitharan,  from a community that emigrated to Sri Lanka as tea estate labourers, cleared all obstacles and became a good bowler. 

For the young generation and future sportsmen, this film will be a model for them to develop self -confidence to face and overcome any challenges they come across in their lifetime. In this film, there are no scenes that dishonour the struggle of  Elam Tamils. 

What does Murali say? 

There were many people who contributed to Muralitharan’s achievements and feeling that 800 would be dedicated for them, he agreed with the production of the film.

“When the producers approached me and mentioned the film about me, I was hesitant at first. Later I thought the achievements made by me as Muthiah Muralitharan was not made by me alone.  There were many people including my parents, my teachers who were my guides, my coaches and teammates behind my success and thinking that the film will be a recognition for them, I agreed with producing it” said Murali.

Under the circumstances, it is evident that the opposition to movie 800 and the pressure on Vijay Sethupathy, has depressed Murali very much. In this connection, though he tried to make it clear through interviews and statements, everything proved futile.  Consequent to this, through a statement he requested Vijay Sethupathy to withdraw from the film. In that statement, he mentioned that he did not want a very eminent artist in Tamil Nadu to be affected. 

“I had never been dispirited by the obstacles I faced.  I was able to reach this position by facing them. Hoping that this film will give courage and determination to the future generation and young cricket players, I consented for filming the biography. There are obstacles for this.  I definitely hope that they will overcome the obstacles and deliver the product to them” Murali further said.    

Rape threat to Vijay Sethpathy’s child. 

Hate in its peak resulted in some person with hatred towards Vijay Sethupathy, tweeting in a tone that he wished to sexually rape Sethupathy’s child. 

Having identified this person as one living in Sri Lanka, the Cyber Crime Prevention Unit in India approached Interpol to find him.  At this stage, the person concerned appeared through a local media and expressed his apologies to Vijay Sethupathy and his family.  He mentioned that he was in a mentally depressed state and it was why he made such a threat  

Though there is opposition for the film 800, there is big scale support for it from the masses. The Sinhalese audience who prefer to see Tamil films are expecting this film.  However, no announcement was made so far regarding the actor who will replace Vijay Sethupathy to play the hero’s role.

The unknown side of Murali. 

While there are many negative and hate propagandas initiated against Muralitharan based on this film, he regrets that no attention was paid to the social services he had rendered and still rendering to the Tamils.

‘As far as I am concerned, whether they are Sinhalese, Up-Country Tamils or Tamils of Elam, I consider everyone equally.  Being an Up-country Tamil, I have helped the Elam Tamils more than what I have done to the Up-country people,  I never wanted to talk about my good deeds.  But today I am compelled to tell them. 

People know about what I have done, beginning with my taking the UNO’s Food Programme to the school children in LTTE controlled areas in 2002 when I was UNO’s Agent for this Programme, the help I have given to the people of Ealam during post Tsunami days.

For the last 10 years since the war came to an end, I have helped the Tamils of Elam in many ways through my voluntary organization called Foundation of Goodness.  In the areas where Tamils of Elam live, I help the people I by way of Education for the children, Women’s Development, and Medical Assistance through the branches of my organization.  For reconciliation amongst the people, annually we are conducting the MURALI HARMONY CUP Tournament.  There are so many other things like these.   

It is because of my winning a place in the Sri Lankan Team and for my achievements, there is a negative view about me. If I was born in India I would have tried to find a place in the Indian Team.  Is it my fault to be born as Sri Lankan Tamil?  Leaving all this apart, I am saddened because some people due to ignorance and some others for political reasons portray me as one who is against the Tamil race.

He expressed his regret by saying, in a situation where the opponents could not be convinced despite any amount of explanation given and where misleading news about me is spread I submit this explanation to the impartial and the public. 

In any case,  artistes and fans are in anticipation of the film portraying Murali’s biography.  Popular actress Niranjani Shanmugarajah says “Despite Muralitharan’s personal affairs, I am happy about the filming of the achievements of the  Cricket player who brought fame to Sri Lanka”.     

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The views and opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of the Sri Lanka Press Institute.

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