Kollywood: Politics, Pretense and Perversion - 1
by B R Haran on 09 Jun 2010 0 Comment

Kollywood’s character

In India, the film world, like the cricket world, is inseparable from politics. Especially when ‘Kollywood’ and ‘Tamil Politics’ are involved, the settings get nastier, the script goes vulgar, the screen play becomes violent and acting reaches the height of hypocrisy, leading to a total anti-climax.


Whether it is Sri Lankan Tamils issue or Cauvery water dispute, Kollywood acts as per the script written by the Chief Minister in power. The disunity among film personalities also comes to the fore each time, as many stars hail from other States and Tamil chauvinistic elements threaten and force many apolitical stars to participate in the political farce. ‘Boycott’ threats used to fly not only between States (TN and Karnataka on Cauvery issue), but also within Kollywood (actors hailing from other States but settled in Tamil film world like Rajinikanth, Arjun, Murali, Jayaram, et al, would be threatened).


Kollywood has the brazen attitude of falling at the feet of both Jayalalithaa and Karunanidhi, whoever is in power. It doesn’t have any qualms in organizing felicitations for them and singing paeans to them for getting favours! Even superstars like Rajinikanth and Kamalhassan do not shy away from such brazen acts. The only aim of Kollywood is to keep the power centre in good humour and that is why it is compelled to act as per the directions of the power centre.


Considering the fact that the film world had produced five Chief Ministers since 1967, it is no wonder that Kollywood plays a significant role in TN politics. The fan following is so mad that a few stars start dreaming of becoming Chief Ministers early in their career. What they don’t realize is the fact that leaders like Annadurai, MGR, Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa have worked very hard and come up the hard way in politics, and that there is a lot of difference between their times and the present.


Actor Vijay is one such character! He thought he was a second Rajinikanth in the making, and took on roles which had nothing but masala, leading to six consecutive flops and oblivion. Actor Sarathkumar served both Karunanidhi and Jayalalithaa before starting his own party and ended up a nobody in politics. Actor Vijayakanth was once a supporter of Karunanidhi, but ambitions made him to start a new party which soon reached saturation point and now the actor is confused whether to go for alliance arithmetic. Right from the great Shivaji Ganesan to Karthik, many actors have plunged into politics and disappeared. Some small time actors have small time political ambitions and are satisfied with one or two tenures as MP or MLA, gifted by either Karuna or Jaya. Some stars switch sides between DMK and AIADMK, not only for the sake of politics, but also due to personal reasons. A recent example is actor Kushboo!


To understand the hypocrisy of Kollywood, let us take both the sensitive issues of Cauvery Water dispute and Tamil Eelam, around which dramatic events unfolded during the past regime of Jayalalithaa and the present regime of Karunanidhi.


Cauvery Water Dispute


Sharing of Cauvery waters has been an unresolved issue for decades between Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, irrespective of the parties in power. Neither the Tamil Nadu nor Karnataka government worked in the people’s interest, and ultimately innocent people bore the brunt of the conflict.


On 8 September 2002, The Cauvery River Authority (CRA), set up by the then Vajpayee government, ordered Karnataka to release 0.8 tmc feet daily to Tamil Nadu. When Karnataka refused, TN approached the Supreme Court, which ordered the Cauvery Monitoring Committee (CMC) on 30 September to inspect Mettur Dam and the delta regions of TN and Puducherry. The CMC reported the pathetic condition of the delta regions and the low storage in Mettur Dam and based on its report the SC ordered Karnataka on 8 October to abide by the orders of CRA and release 0.8 tmc feet of waters daily to TN. Karnataka government led by Chief Minister S.M. Krishna treated the SC’s order with contempt and refused to release the waters.


Meanwhile, on September 25, 2002, Kannada superstar Rajkumar led a massive rally of Kannada film artists protesting against the CRA, which angered the Tamil Nadu film fraternity, which had stood rock solid in his support when he was kidnapped by the forest brigand Veerappan earlier. So, TN film artists led by South Indian Film Artists Association president Vijayakanth and director Barathiraja conducted a massive rally, as scripted by Jayalalithaa, in Neyveli on 11 October 2002, and demanded that the electricity being wheeled to the Karnataka power grid from the NLC (Neyveli Lignite Corporation) owned by the Centre be blocked with immediate effect.


Superstar Rajinikanth, who hails from Karnataka, refused to join the film fraternity, mainly because he voiced support to BJP/DMK/PMK/MDMK alliance in the 1999 Parliament and 2001 Assembly elections. Though he earned the wrath of artists like Barathiraja, Sathyaraj and others, he said he was more concerned about the innocent people on both sides, who are left to face violence and arson because of the politicization of the issue. Rajinikanth’s effigies were burnt throughout Tamil Nadu and a few chauvinistic elements in the film fraternity even talked about non-cooperation during his shooting schedules. But Rajinikanth sat on a daylong fast (against Karnataka government) the very next day (12 October), and most of the artists who went to Neyveli rushed to Chennai to extend support to him! Thousands of members of Rajinikanth Fans Associations sat on fast in their respective headquarters, thereby proving his mass base and charisma. His fast in Chennai was telecast live by SUN TV and those few artists who talked about non-cooperation remained silent thereafter.


The drama enacted by the politicians and film artists of both States was over within a month and Karnataka theatres started showing Tamil movies; Rajinikanth and other artists from Karnataka got unstinted cooperation from other staff of Kollywood. The issue remained unresolved yet again and the sufferings of the farmers and people continued.


Later, when Chief Minister Karunanidhi laid the foundation for the Hogenakkal Drinking Water project on 19 February 2008, it was run-up time to assembly elections in Karnataka. BJP leader Yeddyurappa, who wanted to capitalise on water politics, made an unwarranted and unprovoked visit to the project site at Hogenakkal and made a statement that Karnataka would not allow the project to move. Till date one cannot understand why Karnataka should object to a drinking water project carried out by TN with the available waters within its territory, that too when Karnataka was not willing to abide by the orders of the Cauvery Waters Tribunal or the Supreme Court! It was stupid of Yeddyurappa; his action spurred anger on both sides, followed by violence.


So, it was time for Karunanidhi to write the script and Kollywood religiously followed it. The Tamil Film Producers Council organized a protest fast against the Karnataka government and ordered the South Indian Film Artists Association (Nadigar Sangam) to extend support. It made participation mandatory even for Tamil actors hailing from Karnataka. The protest demo was held on 4 April 2008 and the disunity was visible during the speeches of a few actors and directors.


Customary actions followed in Karnataka. Tamil film shows were stopped and Rajinikanth’s film ‘Kuselan’ was not released. The drama continued for a few more days and slowly things came back to normal.


(To be continued…)

The author is a senior journalist; he lives in Chennai 

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