A major Tamil film called Raavanan has reignited passions that were thought to have waned with the demise of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam in Sri Lanka.
These passions have nothing to do with the film itself, which has also been made into a less commercially successful Hindi version that takes its story loosely from the Indian epic, Ramayana. Rather, they concern the lead actress, Aishwarya Rai, who with her husband, Abhishek (the hero in the Hindi version) and her megastar father-in-law, Amitabh Bachchan, shunned the IIFA awards held in Sri Lanka.
Bachchan, always sensitive to public opinion, refrained from going to Sri Lanka after Tamils in Sri Lanka and India protested. One reason to avoid angering the Tamils is that Raavanan and Ravana (the Hindi version) were due for release and its director, Mani Ratnam, is a Tamilian.Enjoying this article? Click here to subscribe for full access. Just $5 a month.
It would have ended there, except that many non-Tamils in Sri Lanka were incensed by the release of Raavanan, which brought back recent bitter memories of the Bachchan boycott of the IIFA awards. In Batticoloa in eastern Sri Lanka, a cinema hall planning to screen Raavanan was torched and other theatre owners were warned against showing the movie (although most vowed to resist such pressure, and indeed have).
Ironically, the film is soft on Raavan, the villain of Ramayana, whose legendary birthplace is Sri Lanka.