Chennai, Jan 23: The Tamil Nadu government has banned actor Kamal Haasan's Vishwaroopam, two days ahead of the film's release in the state, following protests from minority groups that claimed it was "totally anti-Islam".
While the state's home secretary did not issue a blanket order, district collectors were told to enforce the ban for 15 days using their quasi-judicial powers as executive magistrates.
In the case of Chennai city, the police commissioner will issue the order, sources said.
The actor, who has also produced and directed the movie, had failed to convince leaders of the minority groups after arranging an exclusive screening for them yesterday. The leaders then met the home secretary with a petition that the film should be banned.
"Initially we hoped the movie could be screened after removing the objectionable portions. But when we saw the full film, we found it to be totally anti-Islam and attempting to establish a link between jihadists in Afghanistan and Tamil Nadu and that they drew inspiration from the Quran," said Munir, vice-president of the India Towheeth Jamath.
The same groups, led by the Tamil Nadu Muslim Munnetra Kazhagam, had recently sought a ban on another movie, Thuppakki (Gun), for portraying Muslims as terrorists.
As the protests came a week after the film's release, the state government chose not to intervene despite a similar petition to the home secretary.
"Kamal Haasan had screened the film to the groups in good faith but they misused the screening to get the film banned. We will fight it legally since all it requires is a censor certificate to screen a movie," said a source close to the actor.
The film, due to premiere at Los Angeles tomorrow, has already got a "U" certificate with cuts.
Kamal Haasan, who has spent nearly Rs 100 crore in making the film, had earlier run into trouble with theatre owners over a one-time viewing on DTH a day ahead of its release at cinemas.
He later compromised by agreeing on the DTH release a week after the film's theatre release.
Theatre owners, who had reported heavy bookings for the January 25 release on 5,600 screens in the state, would now be in a soup unless the actor manages to get a court stay on the ban.
Chennai police have banned illegal assembly and demonstration in the city, apprehending that the minority groups might demonstrate in front of theatres if the film somehow overcomes the ban order.
Minority groups had attacked the US consulate four months ago after a controversial American film on the Prophet released on YouTube.