Multi-lingual movie 2.0 starring Rajinikanth and Akshay Kumar is out now in theatres across the country, but its release has not been without controversy. The Cellular Operators Association of India aka COAI, the body that represents the interests of the telcos in the country, has alleged that the 2.0 movie is "defamatory" to the telcos, objecting specifically to how cellphone radiation is represented in the movie. Akshay Kumar plays the villain of the movie Pakshi Rajan "Pakshi" — a giant that is half-human and half-bird — who has wings made out of cellphones, and at one point in the 2.0 trailer, growls: "Every person who owns a cellphone is a murderer." The movie marks the return of director S. Shankar to the big screen.
Pitched as one of the biggest Bollywood releases of the year, 2.0 is a multi-lingual film which hopes to rival the big Hollywood franchises increasingly finding favour with Indian audiences. 2.0's leading star is of course Rajinikanth, an actor from the southern state of Tamil Nadu who has a huge fan following, and is often referred to as the biggest movie star in India. 2.0 features a post-apocalyptic world in which cellphones turn against their users. Scenes from the 2.0 trailer show cellphones shooting out of users' hands and into the sky, rising up like a typhoon and engulfing everything in sight.
In a statement released to the media on Wednesday, Rajan S Mathews, Director General, COAI said that "COAI has written to Central Board of Film Certification [CBFC] highlighting its concerns on the movie 2.0. The movie including its teasers, trailers and other promotional videos depict mobile phones and mobile towers in a defamatory manner." The promotional videos of 2.0 are based on the theme that electromagnetic field (EMF) emissions from mobile phones and towers are harmful to living creatures and the environment including birds and human beings which will create unfounded fear and mass paranoia by spreading misinformation about the adverse impact of mobile towers and mobile phones, the statement added.
A CBFC official was not immediately available for comment.
"COAI alleges this is defamatory to COAI and its members, endangers public order, presents anti-scientific attitudes, constitutes offences including under various sections of the IPC and is in violation of the provisions of the Cinematograph Act, 1952. It is against the public interest as it constitutes offences under section 268 (public nuisance), section 505 (statements conducing to public mischief) and section 499 (defamation) of the IPC and stands to prejudice the ongoing proceedings before the Hon'ble Supreme Court of India over whether or not mobile towers have any harmful effects," the statement added.
The statement continues that COAI has requested CBFC to examine the film 2.0 "with due regard to our concerns and direct that the movie be provided to us in order to enable us a fair opportunity to raise our concerns fully and adequately".
COI further requested the CBFC to revoke the certification already granted to 2.0 movie, including for the teaser, trailer and other promotional video and Tamil language version of the film 2.0 "with immediate effect until such time as CBFC makes a determination on our submission".
The COAI also requested that the exhibition of the movie 2.0 be suspended in the meantime, but that obviously didn't happen as the movie is now out in theatres.
The producers of the film 2.0 could not be immediately reached for a comment.
Written with inputs from Reuters