Tamil actor Vijay Sethupathi has seemingly announced that he will no longer play controversial Sri Lankan cricketer Muttiah Muralitharan in a biopic, by posting a letter from Muralitharan himself asking him to withdraw.
The last fortnight has seen Sethupathi and the wider Tamil film industry drawn into the controversy, as Tamil fans voiced their opposition to the popular actor portraying the cricketer - a supporter of the ruling Rajapaksa regime in Sri Lanka, who has frequently spoken up against Tamil rights campaigners in the North-East and against Malayaga Tamil labour rights campaigners. As Muralitharan's family is involved in the production of the film, many expressed concern that it would whitewash both the Sri Lankan state's abuses and the cricketer's support for them.
With trending campaigns calling for Sethupathi to pull out of the film, and several cinema and political bigwigs lending their voice, there had been much speculation over the actor's silence.
This morning Vijay Sethupathi posted a letter from Muralitharan on his official social media accounts with the caption 'Nanri Vanakkam' - a Tamil phrase meaning 'thank you' which is used to conclude speeches.
"I know that that due to misunderstandings about myself, some are placing immense pressure on actor Vijay Sethupathi to withdraw from the ‘800’ film, and I do not wish for an outstanding artist in Tamil Nadu to be affected by me. Also taking into account that there should be no unnecessary obstacles in Vijay Sethupathi’s future artistic career, I request him to withdraw from this film," the letter said.
The cricketer went on to say that the controversy around the film was just another obstacle among many he had already faced and that the production company was still committed to finishing the project.
Full translation of letter:
I am releasing this statement as a result of the controversies that have been stirred up in Tamil Nadu by some around the biographical film around my life called ‘800’.
I know that that due to misunderstandings about myself, some are placing immense pressure on actor Vijay Sethupathi to withdraw from the ‘800’ film, and I do not wish for an outstanding artist in Tamil Nadu to be affected by me. Also taking into account that there should be no unnecessary obstacles in Vijay Sethupathi’s future artistic career, I request him to withdraw from this film.
I have not been discouraged by each obstacle I have faced, only by facing and defeating all of them have I been able to reach the place where I am today. I agreed to a film about my life as I believed it would be an inspiration and motivation to younger generations and young cricket players, but there have been obstacles in that now too. I trust that [the producers] will definitely overcome these obstacles and bring this creation to them. With the production company assuring me that an announcement about this will come very soon, I will support their every effort.
I wish to convey my sincere thanks to all the press and media friends, political representatives, Tamil cinema artists, Vijay Sethupathi fans and to the public, especially the people of Tamil Nadu, who extended their support to me in this situation.