While heated conversations on social media continue on the biopic being made on Sri Lankan cricketer Muthiah Muralidaran, fronted by Tamil actor Vijay Sethupathi, the cricketer himself has come forward to share his side of the story and answer some allegations made against him. On Friday, three days after the makers released the first look from the film, Muralidaran broke his silence in an open letter.
Muralidaran, in his letter, claims that the reason this argument has taken a political turn, is due to misunderstandings about the statements he has previously made in public. “For instance, in 2019 I had said 2009 was the best year of my life. They have twisted it to mean that I referred to the year when the Tamil genocide took place,” he writes.
Talking about how during the war he has undergone stressful and uncertain times, not knowing if his friend would come back to school the next day or if the people who left home would return alive, Muralidaran writes, “Isn’t it natural for someone to feel the relief when the war ends? I made that statement keeping in mind that for the past 10 years we have not had any loss of lives. I never supported the killing of innocent lives, I never will.”
“According to me, Sinhalese, hill-country Tamils and Eelam Tamils are all the same. As a hill-country Tamil man, I have helped the Eelam Tamils more than I have my own people. It may not sound right to count all that one has done, but today I am forced to do that,” he says, and goes on to list some of the charities and services he’s been involved in over the years.
Sri Lankan Tamils are of two origins; the Eelam Tamils who are the descendents of the Tamils from the old Jaffna Kingdom (northern Sri Lanka) and the hill-country Tamils who are Indian-Tamil descendents of the bonded labourers who migrated to Sri Lanka during the 19th century to work in tea plantations.
Muthiah Muralidaran says that his family started their lives as workers in tea estates in the Sri Lankan hill-country. In the war spanning 30 years, Muralidaran says that the hill-country Tamils were the first affected and that he has witnessed violence right from his childhood. Starting from the early violence in the 1970s to the JVP (Janatha Vimukthi Peramuna) violence in protests and the chain bomb blasts, Muralidaran says that he’s been affected by it all.
Muralidaran has cited many important chapters of his life and explained that he understands the pain of losses during war. He says, “When I was seven years old, my dad was hacked, my relatives were murdered, many times I have stood on the road without any livelihood. So I know the pain and the losses due to the war. Our life journey was along with the war that took place for 30 years. So the movie 800 is about how I became a part of the cricket team and achieved success amid these situations.”
Addressing another controversial statement attributed to him on Tamils having an inferiority complex, Muralidaran explains, “I studied Tamil right from my school days. It is natural for us minorities, living in Sri Lanka, to have some level of inferiority complex, I did have it too. In spite of it, my love for cricket inspired me to play the game in school. That is why I said Tamil youngsters should throw away their inferiority complex and trust in their talents.”
“There is a wrong opinion on me just because I played for the Sri Lankan team and won laurels. If I were born in India, I would have tried to be a part of the Indian team. Is it my fault having been born as a Sri Lankan Tamil?” he asks, and ends his letter with a note that he has clarified these questions for the sake of those who are neutral and for the general public.
As soon as the first look poster of the movie was released, many Eelam Tamil supporters started trending the hashtag #ShameonVijayasethupathi and requested the actor to call off the project. The Eelam supporters said that Muthiah was a supporter of the Rajapaksa government which ended the war in Sri Lanka, and has been accused of committing genocide against the Tamil people.