The ban on Pa Ranjith-directed Rajinikanth-starrer Kaala in Karnataka is unfortunate — because banning is not the best way to achieve the stated motive behind the act. Banning a film, a book, or any other art form has achieved little in the past — on the contrary, it has helped push the publicity for the banned product.
In that spirit, I think banning Kaala from Karnataka is a foolish move. If Kannadigas are really hurt by the statement(s) made by Rajinikanth on the Cauvery river water dispute and the stand he has taken in favour of Tamil Nadu, they could show their anger by boycotting the film when it hits the theatres across Karnataka.
However — while still maintaining that banning is not the right approach — it is naive to defend the movie by saying ‘oh, it’s just a film’; ‘we should protect artistic freedoms’, etc. Protecting artistic freedoms is important, but Kaala is not just any other film, it’s a film by Rajinikanth — Rajini, the superstar, the matinee idol who has an unparalleled fan following and who is also now a politician in Tamil Nadu.
Rajinikanth’s films have helped complement his image — that of a leader who stands up for the people and speaks up against injustice. None of his films have been overtly political; however, the subtle undercurrents in the themes, the sharpness in dialogues which resonated with the then political scenario in Tamil Nadu and a carefully cultivated image around his superstardom make it impossible to view his films as pure entertainers disassociating them from contemporary politics. A handful of his movies that came out in the mid- and late-nineties, which were his biggest hits and gave him his cult status, came also at a time when his dalliance with politics was at its peak.