Exclusive: Teejay said no to Vijay Sethupathi’s Muralidaran biopic because of its politics

The biopic of Sri Lankan cricketer Muthiah Muralidaran, titled 800, starring Vijay Sethupathi and directed by MS Sripathy, has found itself in the midst of a controversy ever since its announcement, and calls against the film have once again increased following the release of its motion poster on Tuesday. While a few have appreciated Vijay Sethupathi’s resemblance to the cricketer in the poster, many prominent names, including Kollywood directors Bharathirajaa, Cheran and Seenu Ramasamy, and lyricist Thamarai, have requested the actor to opt out of the project, calling the film as an attempt to whitewash the problematic political stance of its subject, Muralidaran. Their contention is that Muralidaran was a supporter of the Sri Lankan government, which is accused of genocide of Tamils there.

Now, Asuran fame Teejay Arunasalam reveals exclusively to us that he was approached to play the younger version of Muralidaran in the film, but he decided to not take up the offer because he had issues with its politics. “When I was in India, the makers of 800 had approached me. I met the filmmaker in his office, and he told me the bits and bobs of the script. I was approached to play the younger version of Muralidaran, with the elder version to be played by Vijay Sethupathi sir. The war between the Sri Lankan government and the Tamils is depicted in the biopic and it did not sound right to me. My mother is an Eelam Tamil. There was a lot of cruelty involved in the war and I did not want to get involved in the politics of the film’s narrative. So, I eventually told them no.”

The actor, who made his debut with Vetri Maaran’s Asuran, adds that it was a difficult call. “It was a tough decision because I have the utmost respect for Vijay Sethupathi sir and have spoken with him a lot. He had appreciated me for taking up a strong role like Velmurugan in Asuran and also told me to be very careful about picking the right scripts, and so I have,” he says.

Following the social media outrage, the makers of the film issued a press release on Wednesday, noting that the film will not “belittle the struggles of Eelam Tamils in Sri Lanka.”

Meanwhile, on the film front, Teejay, who is currently working on the second volume of his album Bandana, is in talks with Gautham Vasudev Menon and Vijay Milton.