New Delhi: Tamil actor Vijay Sethupathi Monday announced that he was opting out of the biopic 800 based on legendary Sri Lankan spinner Muttiah Muralitharan, on the cricketer’s request.
The development comes days after the biopic’s announcement led to a controversy in Tamil Nadu over what is seen as the celebrated Sri Lankan bowler’s “support” for the Sinhalese-led government in Colombo during the country’s 26-year-long civil war.
Muralitharan is a part of Sri Lanka’s minority Tamil community and grew up amid the bloody civil war in the country’s north.
The civil war was triggered by a Tamil insurgency that erupted in 1983 in response to what the community described as an attempt by the majority Sinhalese to disenfranchise them, with the nation’s colonial rulers also believed to have played a role in fomenting differences.
Sethupathi, who has been criticised for signing the movie, shared a letter by Muralitharan on Twitter Monday in which the cricketer has asked the actor to quit the project, saying there should no be hurdles for him in future due to the biopic.
The actor responded to the letter saying, “Thank you and good bye”. Later, Sethupathi’s publicist Yuvaraj also confirmed that the actor has opted out of the biopic.
நன்றி.. வணக்கம் 🙏🏻 pic.twitter.com/PMCPBDEgAC
— VijaySethupathi (@VijaySethuOffl) October 19, 2020
Muralitharan is regarded as one of the most successful bowlers in international cricket. He is the first player to take 800 wickets in Test cricket — the movie is titled on this record.
Earlier this month, the Tamil actor had shared a poster announcing that he would play the role of Muralitharan in a biopic of the cricketer.
— VijaySethupathi (@VijaySethuOffl) October 8, 2020
‘Never endorsed killings’
A controversy had erupted soon after Sethupathi announced on 8 October that he would be playing the role of Muralitharan. The cricketer is largely seen as a supporter of Mahinda Rajapaksa, who was in power when the civil war broke out in Sri Lanka and which lasted for 30 years.
Rajapaksa, now the prime minister of Sri Lanka, and his brother Gotabaya Rajabaksa, who was defence secretary then and now the nation’s president, were accused of human rights violations against the Tamils in their bid to end the war.
In a statement on 16 October, the former Sri Lankan bowler said he “had never endorsed the killings of innocent people”. He also said that he saw no difference between Sri Lankans, Malayaga Tamils (who have Indian lineage) and Eelam Tamils (those demanding a separate state in Sri Lanka).
— Yuvraaj (@proyuvraaj) October 16, 2020
According to the film’s producers (Dar Motion Pictures), the movie was meant to focus on Muralithiran’s cricketing life and his achievements as a player. The shooting for the biopic was to start in March 2021 and the producers were planning to dub it in Hindi, Bengali and Sinhalese, besides having English subtitles.