Kollywood: Politics, Pretense and Perversion - 3
by B R Haran on 11 Jun 2010 3 Comments

IIFA Controversy

It was reported that IIFA had plans of hosting the IIFA-Awards event at Seoul, South Korea, even as late as March 2010, rejecting the offer by Ireland. It is not known how and why the venue was changed to Colombo, and it is a surprise that IIFA authorities have not given a thought to the deep-rooted sentiments of the Tamil people who have umbilical ties with Sri Lankan Tamils who have been facing death and destruction for more than three decades and are still under indescribable trauma after Eelam War–IV and the decimation of LTTE.


It is not clear if the Government of India had asked IIFA to choose Colombo as the venue, as part of a Sri Lankan policy, with an intention of using it to improve Indo-Sri Lankan relations and speed up the rehabilitation process of Sri Lankan Tamils. Whoever decided Colombo as the venue should have taken Tamil Nadu Government into confidence and consulted it. Even if it had no role, the Government of India should have intervened and roped in Chennai for discussions to discover the possibilities of making the occasion result in improved relations in general and in benefit to Sri Lankan Tamils in particular.


Only on 20 April 2010 the authorities said the IIFA–Weekend and IIFA–Award would be held in Colombo from June 3 to 5. IIFA said, “As always, the IIFA Weekend, Sri Lanka will be a culmination of mega events that brings Indian cinema to the world. The IIFA Weekend includes the high-profile FICCI IIFA Global Business Forum, the IIFA Foundation Fashion Extravaganza, the IIFA Foundation Celebrity Cricket Match, world premieres of Indian films, IIFA Film Workshop and the climax of the Weekend, the spectacular IIFA Awards. The IIFA Awards is the biggest South Asian media event and is considered among the most-watched annual global events.”


Small time pro-LTTE groups are still active in Tamil Nadu and are backed by western forces (read Christian) which somehow want to revive the “Tamil Eelam” movement. The moment they get an opportunity, they grab it and create scenes to be in the limelight. Tamil Film Director Seeman’s “Naam Thamizhar” (We Tamils) is one such organisation, which along with other pro-LTTE organisations called for a boycott of the IIFA ceremony by Tamil Film artists immediately after the announcement that Sri Lanka would be hosting the ceremony. 


A motley group of 50 ‘activists’ from these organisations sat on dharna in front of Amitabh Bachchan’s residence in Mumbai on 11 May 2010 and agitated against his endorsement of IIFA’s decision. Meanwhile, as the entire Tamil film industry stayed away from the proposed event and director Maniratnam decided against the premier of his film “Ravan” in Colombo, the Bachchans (Amitabh, Abhishek and Aishwarya) decided to cancel their Sri Lankan visit.


Another group called “May 17 Movement” gathered in front of Kamalhassan’s house in Chennai on 23 May and protested against FICCI’s involvement in the event, as he is Chairman of FICCI’s Media and Entertainment Business Conclave. Kamalhassan personally accepted their memorandum and later issued a press statement that he would not participate in the Lankan-hosted event. He said other office bearers of FICCI would also not participate in the event. But FICCI did not withdraw from its sponsorship.


Later the activists who protested in front of Amitabh Bachchan’s house, gathered in front of Salman Khan’s house on 31 May and tried to give him a memorandum. But the actor refused and told them he would go ahead with his participation. As the Bachchans decided to distance from the event, other stars like Shahrukh Khan, Arjun Rampal, Deepika Padukone, Katrina Kaif, Ranbir Kapoor, et al also decided to stay away from Colombo. 


Meanwhile, in the last week of May, top office bearers of the South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce met the top management of the Film and Television Producers Guild of Mumbai and requested a total boycott of the event by Bollywood. They were politely refused and told it was too late as Bollywood personalities were bound by contractual obligations. The South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce issued a statement that it would not cooperate with film personalities participating in the IIFA event and that Exhibitors Associations in South India would boycott their films.


Several Bollywood personalities like Riteish Deshmukh, Lara Dutta, Boman Irani, Vivek Oberoi, Hrithik Roshan, Bipasha Basu, Anupam Kher, et al reached Colombo. Former Union Minister Shashi Tharoor arrived to speak at the Business Forum and I & B Minister Ambika Soni is also expected to attend. 


The first casualty was Hrithik Roshan’s ‘Kites’, which was removed from screening by all theatres in Chennai.


At this juncture, it would be relevant to recall the global ambitions of both the central and state governments as expressed by I & B Minister Ambika Soni and Chief Minister Karunanidhi respectively and the international sentiments expressed by Yash Chopra and Kamalhassan during FICCI’s Media & Entertainment Business Conclave in Chennai on 18 November 2009.


Ambika Soni announced, “The Union Government will have tie-up with film production companies from all States in a PPP mode to create a strong international market for Indian films. These co-productions would be marketed through film festivals worldwide and Indian missions overseas. Our ministry will spend Rs 100 crore this year to strengthen the terrestrial reach along India’s borders to save the country from any propaganda and disinformation from across the country.”


Chief Minister Karunanidhi said, “I have a dream and vision to make Tamil Nadu the entertainment epicentre for the global industry. In connection with this the State Government had decided to support and render all necessary assistance to establish a Cinema Township in the state. A welfare Board for the cinema industry has already been constituted by the State Government. South is now brimming with activity in the entertainment sector. Sony Pictures will soon open a state-of-the-art facility in Chennai. Warner Brothers Motion Picture Imaging and the Chennai-based Prasad Corporation will have a strategic alliance, which would bring their combined skills in digital post production and film restoration to clients in Hollywood, India and around the world.”


Kamalhassan, Chairman of FICCI Media & Entertainment Business Conclave, said, “I am happy that the industry that had helped the film world is being felicitated through the conclave. We are here to prove that are not parochial and there are no international borders between us. Even the media borders are blurring. We urge the industry to get ready for tomorrow and there will be many more tomorrows.”


Yash Chopra, Chairman of FICCI Entertainment Committee, said, “Today India is making films for the world. There is a revolution in technology and a big change has come about in the viewing public. Today we are celebrating oneness and integration. In the creative field, there are no differences in caste, name or religion. I request the Government lend a big helping hand to the industry to reach out to the bigger audience of the world.”


With such global ambitions, is it fair that the state and central governments remain silent spectators over the hullabaloo over the IIFA ceremony, which is one of the most attractive global events? Is it fair of Kamalhassan and Yash Chopra to yield to the pressures of a motley crowd after waxing eloquent on broadmindedness, oneness and integration? After talking of removing parochial borders, what does Kamal have to say about the South Indian Film Chamber of Commerce’s boycott threat to Bollywood?  


Now that the ethnic conflict is over and Sri Lankan Tamils are eagerly awaiting rehabilitation and a new life, is it not India’s responsibility to improve its relationship with Sri Lanka and ensure proper rehabilitation of Tamils? When business, commerce, sports and everything else can happen between the two countries, why is cinema anathema?


Have not Kollywood producers screened their films in Sri Lanka in the last 30 years? Have they not made money screening films in the Island nation? Have they not pocketed Sinhalese money? Have they not travelled to Sri Lanka and shot films in Sinhala locales? Was it proper to send their movies to Sri Lanka when Tamils were waging war for a separate state? Were not Tamils suffering then? Where were Kollywood’s “Tamil” sentiments then? Didn’t they have umbilical cord relationships then?


In this context, it is imperative to recall the “cultural” extravaganza undertaken by Kollywood in Malaysia on 23 December 2007, when HINDRAF (Hindu Rights Action Force) agitations were at a peak against the oppressive Malaysian government. Though almost 80 percent of Indians in Malaysia are Tamils and hundreds of temples were destroyed by Malaysian authorities and hundreds of Tamil Hindu activists incarcerated, Kollywood never showed any sympathy or concern towards them, but continued with its fund-raising event. Why there was no Tamil sentiment then? Because Malaysian Tamils identified themselves as “Hindus”? Because the Chief Minister had not supported HINDRAF? Why the different rules for Sri Lankan Tamils and Malaysian Tamils?


When all these small time bodies are known LTTE supporters, why is the State Government quiet, especially when the ban on LTTE continues? When Chief Minister Karunanidhi has complete control over Kollywood, why is he silent on its boycott threat to Bollywood? When he has so much of influence at the Centre, why couldn’t he make IIFA change the venue of its event? Why is the Centre quiet, especially when it knew Sri Lankan President Rajapakse was coming to Delhi on 8 June?




-        Kollywood always acts as per the script of the Chief Minister in power – period.


-        The protest is not for the sake of Sri Lankan Tamils, but for the fact that Prabhakaran is no more and LTTE is decimated – plain & simple.


-        Things will be alright within days, probably after Rajapakse returns to Sri Lanka.


-        Manirathnam will send prints of Ravan to Sri Lanka.


-        Kollywood, Tollywood, Malluwood and all woods will rush to Sri Lanka for shooting films in new locales.                  



The author is a senior journalist; he lives in Chennai

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