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]