Tamil Features

Mersal Row, Prakash Raj’s Remarks On Modi: Do Celebrities Have The Freedom To Speak Up On National Issues?

Prakash Raj’s scathing remarks about PM Narendra Modi were all the rage last month. His comments were unusual, mostly because the actor had made it a point to stay below the radar when it came to politics. This time around though, the actor could not contain his disappointment with Modi’s decision to stay mum on the murder of Gauri Lankesh. And so, the usually placid Prakash Raj was stirred into calling Modi ‘a better actor’ than him.


As usual, this did not sit well with Modi’s supporters, who were riled into attacking Prakash on social media. The actor had also allegedly said that he’d return his National Awards, but withdrew his comments when the controversy blew up to epic proportions.

Prakash Raj is not the first to issue a clarification and withdraw his statements. In India, the fate of an actor’s films is inexplicably linked to that of his public persona. Anything that shifts the perception of people is considered disastrous. Stars such as Rajinikanth, Shah Rukh Khan, Kamal Haasan, and more recently, AR Rahman, those who seemingly enjoy the highest levels of freedom, were also made mortal by such issues.

The latest target is actor Vijay, whose film, Mersal, included dialogues referring to the central government’s pet initiatives – Digital India and GSTSoon after the release, Tamil Nadu BJP Chief Tamizhisai Soundarrajan slammed the makers and demanded the removal of the scenes. The state unit of the party also threatened that it would file a lawsuit against the producers.

This spurred on supporters of Vijay to launch a social media campaign against the party. Tamizhisai was widely condemned for her comments, with many aligning themselves with Vijay and his film.

The movie got mostly mixed reviews, and certainly profited from the controversy. Here’s a look at the other controversies that stars got embroiled in.

AR Rahman – Gauri Lankesh Murder: September 2017

AR Rahman tweeted his shock at the brutal, senseless killing of journalist Gauri Lankesh. He said that an India that allowed this to happen was not ‘his India’. Social media trolls went on a rampage shortly after, asking Rahman to leave the country if he was so unsatisfied with it.

It took three days for Rahman to go back on his statements. The musician claimed that he did not know that his comments would cause such a controversy and said that artistes as a whole should shut up when it comes to politics.

Taapsee Pannu On K Raghavendra Rao: July 2017

Telugu director Raghavendra Rao’s fans were not amused at Taapsee’s funny take down of the director’s tendency to throw objects at actresses’ navels. The actress wanted to make a point about the rabid objectification of women in cinema, and had she stuck to her guns, she might have emerged an icon. Sadly, though, she succumbed to the criticism heaped on her, and apologised.


Sathyaraj On Cauvery Issue: April 2017

Sathyaraj also drew flak for his comments regarding Kannadigas at a Cauvery protest rally. It came back to haunt him around the release of Bahubali 2. The film was almost banned in the state, and it took the collective apology of director SS Rajamouli and a grudging one from Sathyaraj before the matter was settled.

Many believe that the actor’s hand was forced in the issue, as Baahubali 2 was an extremely expensive film. Rumours indicate that Sathyaraj was not willing to apologise. He did so only on the direction of the film’s makers. Some say that the actor’s sarcastic tone in the video and his attire (dressed in black) are important indicators of this.

Randeep Hooda On Gurmehar Kaur: March 2017

Trouble began for Randeep Hooda when he shared a message by Virendar Sehwag on Gurmehar Kaur. The Delhi University student posted a viral video, in which she held a placard that said, “Pakistan did not kill my father, War did.”

Sehwag trolled Kaur for this comment. He posted a photo on social media in which he can be seen holding a placard that says, “I didn’t score two triple centuries, my bat did”.

Sehwag was criticised for making fun of something sensitive as this. And Hooda got caught up in it as well.

Later, he posted a clarification on his social media account asking people to not ‘hang him over a laugh’.

Suchithra – Suchi Tweets Controversy: February 2017

A Twitter handle of singer Suchithra posted intimate photos and explosive allegations regarding some of Tamil cinema’s most popular actors. While initially it was believed that Suchithra was behind the tweets, the singer later claimed that it was the work of a hacker. Police complaints were filed, and Suchithra was reported to have sought medical help.


Sometime on, the singer apologised for the incident. The jury’s out on the identity of the person behind the tweets, but for a brief period, it did shine light on the murky politics behind the casting decisions made by the movers and shakers in Kollywood.

Shah Rukh Khan On Intolerance: November 2015

On his fiftieth birthday, SRK found himself in hot water over his comments on the rising intolerance in India. As a practicing Muslim and as one of the biggest stars in the film industry, SRK was not spared when he talked about the extreme intolerance in the country, and the importance of curbing it if India wants to get ahead.

These comments could have dented the release plans of his Dilwale, and so shortly before the film’s release, the actor apologised to all those he had offended with his remarks.

Rajinikanth On Cauvery Issue: 2008

Rajinikanth’s Kuselan faced release issues in Karnataka, due to a comment that the actor made during a Cauvery issue protest rally held in 2008.

Rajnikanth had said, “Karnataka and Tamil Nadu have had a clear agreement made over their borders surrounding Hogenakkal 50 years ago. And when we plan to take water that is on our side and someone raises an objection, should they not be kicked?”

Pro-Kannada groups demanded a ban on the release of the film in Karnataka, following which the actor issued a clarification.

The actor claimed that his comments were directed towards elements that sought to disrupt the harmony between TN and Karnataka. He also said that he was ready to apologise to veterans of the Kannada film industry, if the need arose.


The actor’s Kuselan was then allowed to release in the state.

Khushboo Sundar On Premarital Sex: 2005

In an interview to a Tamil magazine, actor Khushboo had said that premarital sex was fine as long as proper precautions were taken by the couple involved. This provoked strong reactions, with members of the Dalit Panthers of India storming the offices of South Indian Artistes Association, holding brooms and slippers. A defamation suit was filed against the actor, who later apologised. But, a total of 22 cases were filed against her in this issue. All of them were dismissed by the Supreme Court five years on.


The original piece was published on October 11. This article has been updated to factor in the recent controversy around Mersal.