Muttiah in the past has been a vocal supporter of the Sri Lankan government, which wiped out the LTTE.

Collage of actor Vijay Sethupathi and bowler Muttiah Muralitharan for 800 movie
Flix Social Media Wednesday, October 14, 2020 - 12:17

The first look and motion poster of Vijay Sethupathi's upcoming sports biopic 800, based on the life of Sri Lankan spin bowler Muttiah Muralithiran was released on Tuesday. However, within a few hours, the hashtag #ShameonVijaySethupathi started trending on Twitter.

Several users have slammed the actor for taking up the film, alleging that Muttiah is a supporter of the Sri Lankan government which crushed the LTTE (Liberation Tamil Tigers of Eelam) and is accused of committing the genocide of Tamil people. Many of the handles have tweets in support of Tamil nationalism.

Users have also tweeted old videos of Muttiah asking people to move on from the past.

There is also anger that the motion poster shows the Sri Lankan flag, including on the cricket uniform worn by Muttiah. On Instagram, too, where Vijay Sethupathi shared the poster of the film which was released last week, several users have registered their disappointment.

"Muralitharan said there was NO war crimes and NO genocide after more than 100,000 Tamils died in 2009. He sold himself to Rajapakse and his dirty Government. Anything about him is political even if you think the movie isn't. Based on your interviews, I'm sure you're smart enough to understand that. Let's remember that EELAM Tamils living all around Europe, Canada, Australia are the main contributors towards the huge salary Kollywood actors receive. Most Eelam Tamils including myself are usually big fans of your on screen and off screen character. Acting in this movie is 100% political and is a step towards erasing the truth. The truth that there was a genocide against Tamils. You should definitely reconsider this decision. If it's not this film you'll get another 1000 films, but if you act in this and portray Muralitharan in a positive way it'll be betrayal against many Eelam Tamils still seeking for justice," wrote one user.

"Muthiah Muralitharan is a puppet of the rajapaksa regime who was responsible for the genocide for over 100,000 Eelam Tamils and you are going to do a movie on him?!?!? #boycott #sellout," wrote another.

There are several more such comments on the post.

Muttiah Muralitharan has been a controversial figure in Sri Lanka despite his achievements in sport. In 2019, when news reports suggested that he may be the Governor of the Tamil-dominated Northern Province in Sri Lanka, many Tamils in the island country were vocal in their objections. During the elections that year, Muttiah had campaigned in favour of Gotabaya Rajapaksa who was the Defence Secretary when the LTTE was dealt a death blow by the Mahinda Rajapaksa government.

He has said in interviews that he felt Gotabaya Rajapaksa was the right person to lead the country, and that Tamil Nadu politicians should not interfere with what's happening in Sri Lanka.

“Tell me, if there is a problem within your family, do your neighbours interfere? Tamil Nadu politicians do not understand the problems of Sri Lankans. They should allow our government to get on with governance. I support President Rajapaksa because he is the right person to lead our country. Over the years before he came to power, there was no progress. The economy was down, nothing was moving. President Rajapaksa is an administrator, a former Defence Secretary and army man. He is a clever person who will carry out reforms, strike a different path, improve lives and do the right thing," he said in an interview with Hindustan Times.

Muttiah is an Indian origin Tamil and is not from the Northern or Eastern provinces of Sri Lanka. This has also led to a section of Sri Lankan Tamils, who are upset with his views, rejecting him. Vijay Sethupathi is yet to react to the controversy.

Meanwhile, hours after the hashtag started trending, another hashtag #WeStandWithVijaySethupathi started doing the rounds on social media. The actor's supporters demanded that the movie be just seen as a something about cricket and not political. 

800 is directed by MS Sripathy and produced by Movie Train Motion Pictures and Vivek Rangachari. Malayalam actor Rajisha Vijayan is also said to be in the cast.