Amidst Controversy in Karnataka, SC Refuses to Stay Release of 'Kaala'

Following Rajinikanth’s comments on the Cauvery issue, many pro-Kannada groups and organisations demanded a ban on his new film 'Kaala' in Karnataka.

New Delhi: The Supreme Court has refused to stall the release of Rajinikanth’s Kaala, which is scheduled to be screened in theatres tomorrow. Rejecting a plea by K.S. Rajashekaran, seeking an injunction on the film’s release, a vacation bench comprising Justices A.K. Goel and Ashok Bhushan told the petitioner,”You want an injunction against the release of the movie. Everybody is waiting for the film to be released.”

The film ran into controversy after Rajinikanth, in the aftermath of Karnataka polls last month, had reportedly said that Karnataka should release Cauvery waters for Tamil Nadu, regardless of whichever government came to power. Following Rajinikanth’s comments on the Cauvery issue, many pro-Kannada groups and organisations demanded a ban on his new film Kaala in Karnataka. On May 29, the Karnataka Film Chamber of Commerce (KFCC) decided to not release Kaala in Karnataka.

The president of the KFCC, Sa Ra Govindu, expressed his concerns with Rajinikanth’s entry into politics. “As an actor, he always handled issues on Cauvery in a diplomatic way. But when he entered politics and formed a party, he made a direct attack on us, which has not gone down well with Karnataka. It is a question of our prestige and we want to keep our word. We will not allow his film to be released here,” he said. However, the KFCC’s order was lifted in light of the court rulings. The Karnataka chief minister, H.D. Kumaraswamy, supported the KFCC’s stance, stating that the release of the film was not safe in such an atmosphere. Anticipating violence from pro-Kannada groups, he urged producers to not release the film.

The Cauvery dispute and Rajinikanth’s comments

The Cauvery river dispute is a 126-year-long dispute over water sharing between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. Over the years, the states have been in a constant tug-of-war over which state shares how much of the river water as per their needs. In February 2018, the Supreme Court announced its final verdict, decreasing water allocated to Tamil Nadu while increasing allocation to Karnataka, sparking state-wide protests. However, Karnataka said that there isn’t enough water and hence cannot obey SC’s order to transfer 2 tmcft of water by May 8. Following the verdict, Tamil Nadu demanded that the Centre set up the Cauvery Water Management Board and the Central Water Regulatory Committee, to address the issue. As activist groups pointed out, farmers’ livelihoods were affected by the verdict as there wasn’t enough water for the summer crops.

Amidst the protests and political ruckus, celebrity, Rajinikanth had made a statement on April 8, urging people to protest by not watching IPL matches and Chennai Super Kings to wear black bands while playing the IPL matches. “Poor farmers are suffering because of this; everyone should support them. The Centre will be responsible for the anger of the people of Tamil Nadu if the board is not formed, as ordered by the Supreme Court,” he had then said. Rajinikanth urged Karnataka to obey SC orders but the state has maintained its stance on lack of water resources.

Other controversies around the film

This isn’t the only controversy surrounding Kaala.  The petition by Rajashekaran claimed that the film used his copyright-protected work. 

Apart from that, Tamil Nadu minister Jayakumar has alleged that the film’s songs were aimed at inciting violence. The political nature of the film and its music has been criticised by the minister.  The people of Tamil Nadu have also criticised the grand launch of the film’s music. Many have called the actor-turned-politician a hypocrite for urging people to not enjoy IPL matches in the wake of the Cauvery protests but having a grand music launch even as farmers’ protests continued to fall on deaf ears.

Additionally, several Tamil activists have opposed the film’s release following Rajinikanth’s controversial comments on the Tuticorin issue. The actor blamed the protesters for the violence that had erupted at the site. He later apologised for hurting people’s sentiments.

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