varnachitram

A Blog on Cinema

Clowns that control Tamil Cinema

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The behind the scenes activities of Tamil cinema are really scary. That is because in Tamil Nadu, politics and cinema combine to make a deadly thairu saadam. Every actor and actress has to prove their “Tamil” credentials before the politicians. This rule applies not just to minor actors, but even the superstars. If you are a film producer or theater owner, you need to replace your spine with an elongated rubber tube if you want to survive.

When you read the following excerpt from Tehelka, you should be glad that we don’t have such Dravidian clowns in Kerala film industry, but only “representative” organizations like AMMA, FEFKA etc which behave in a  democratic fashion. One thing they have in common is that they too try to adopt restrictive practices which hurts cinema in long run.

Ajith had touched a raw nerve. Every film-related organisation— and there are several in Tamil Nadu — is run by people close to the DMK. They hold events in which actors have to participate for free, failing which, as Ajith put it, their Tamil integrity comes into question. After his appeal, Ajith was reportedly hounded but he has refused to talk about this to the media ever since.

Kollywood dominates popular imagination in Tamil Nadu to a degree that perhaps far exceeds the influence of Bollywood. Yet, the industry is gripped by a fear so intense, every single actor, director, producer or film journalist approached for this story begged anonymity. “The atrocities should come out, people should know we’re virtually under mafia rule here,” says a prominent young actor who burnt his fingers recently. “But if my name comes out, my career is over.”

An event such as the Parattu Vizha would be unheard of in any other state, but in Tamil Nadu, it’s par for the course. The film industry has always been a coveted fiefdom, but in the last five years, there’s been an almost absolute takeover by the family. Today, if there is a Tamil film you’ve heard of, nine out of 10 times, it would have been produced by Kalanidhi Maran’s Sun Pictures, Stalin’s Red Giant Entertainment or Azhagiri’s Cloud Nine Pictures. By and large, the triumvirate controls Tamil cinema today. And they do it by controlling its consumption — via marketing, theatres and media rights.

Theatre-owners are terrorised to fall in with the family’s business interests. A record 145 Tamil films were released last year, but around 45 films, complete with clearances and censor certificates, could not find a single theatre willing to run them because they did not have the blessing of the family. New-generation star Vijay, who has expressed an interest in joining AIADMK, is among a minority willing to speak up. In an interview to a Tamil magazine, he criticised the DMK for stalling the release of his film last year. “They prevented the release of Kaavalan to facilitate the success of films produced by their men,” he said.

Only producers registered with the Tamil Nadu Producers Council are allowed to make Tamil movies. The council’s president Ramanarayanan of Sri Thenandal Movies, who was elected in a violent polling last year, is known to be close to the family. He explains the eligibility criteria: “You need to be an Indian citizen, pay Rs. 1 lakh and be recommended by an existing member.” This last requirement — the recommendation — is the most potent tool of political patronage. Through this, the council has not only kept away international production houses like Sony, Columbia Pictures and 21st Century Fox, but also producers from the Hindi or Telugu film industries. Under the pretext of protecting local producers, it has secured disproportionate space for Giant, Cloud and Sun[K Klutch Klan]

5 Comments

  1. One of the most one-sided articles I have seen, which makes it worthy of being trashed. The truth is, whoever comes to power, will have to associate cinema and politics in Tamilnadu, because both the regional parties there had used cinema as a tool for political propaganda from the beginning. It does not matter if DMK or AIADMk is in power.

    In their desire for ‘superstardom’, all of them are guilty of flaunting their supposed “Tamil”ness on screen and in ink. Rajni, who stood and clapped for Ajith, is a ‘poocha’ around both regional parties and licks both when necessary. Yet, he has lyricist write songs about his ‘white, green, brown, black…Tamilianness’! The Chennai-born, convent-educated Ajith who took several years to learn Tamil and dub, is talking about proving “Tamilian”ness…??? Kamal’s closeness to political parties, is legendary. Prithviraj would appear as someone with Einstein’s intelligence, next to these Tamil film heroes. These guys take their fans for a ride. Make political comments in print. And then hide face. I would say just shut up and act as heroes, stop trying to through political light on yourself and then whine.

    Truth is, Indian cinema industry has always taken political positions. Karnataka film industry marched against sharing of water. Karnataka film industry worked together to stop films of other states to varying success. Rajkumar was famous for several his pro-Kannada stance. Andhra Pradesh was ruled by a cine star, who used his movies for propaganda. Both leading parties there have interest in cinema. Functions celebrating one politician or another is quite common in Andhra, unlike your, ‘quite unheard of in other states’ nonsense. Perhaps you should look beyond and research. Kerala might stand apart, but that is only because once upon a time, Mallus didn’t give a second look at film actors. But even at the Indian level, actors and musicians participated in shows supporting one government or another.

  2. I would say that Tamil cinema is the only regional industry where all outsiders are accepted by the mass with a large heart. Where your name and caste is not foremost for acceptance. Not one other industry in South can claim to have the kind of acceptance one is given in Tamil cinema, where a Keralite, Andhrite, Kannadite person can become a hero AND last.

    Now that Mummy has returned, the industry will be all about “Mummy & Me”; until Daddy returns. Mummy will have her functions, Mummy will control media, Mummy will control the content on films and those that displease her, will not see the light. Coming to Vijay, he was licking DMK for years. His father was a DMK man for decades. Vijay’s father himself hijacked the position of producer councils head after Mummy returned. He has the support of Mummy.

    The subject is good, but the article would have been great had it showed the co-dependence of cinema and politics in Tamilnadu without the obvious bias against DMK.

    Posted by VC, but I wonder what clown wrote this article…

  3. The article has a lot of merit. Granted, Tamil cinema has been dominated by the ruling party but the DMK took it too far… take a look who produced the last 10 releases which featured one of the saleble heroes – it was either Karunanidhi’s grand sons or nephews…

    also, the question is not about Ajith’s tamilness – rather, it is about the need to question it every time he didn’t pay obeisance to KK

  4. ksk,

    I don’t follow Tamil politics deeply, but I have a question for you. Is there an AIADMK production house like Kalanidhi Maran’s Sun Pictures, Stalin’s Red Giant Entertainment or Azhagiri’s Cloud Nine Pictures which can prevent others from making films?

    In Kerala, I know Mammotty is a card carrying communist. He may not have contested elections, but he was the head of their party channel and has given speeches in their party meetings. So we are also not bad when it comes to mixing politics and cinema.

  5. Unpleallraed accuracy, unequivocal clarity, and undeniable importance!

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