Off-screen rows take Kollywood centre stage in 2018
Chennai, Dec 31 : Political backlash faced by actor Vijay’s “Sarkar,” plagiarism rows and MeToo sting, there was more action off screen in Tamil cinema industry in 2018 than on it.
On screen, besides Sarkar, superstar Rajinikanth’s unusual double delight “Kaala” and “2.O” received good response, raking in the bucks, while Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroopam was a box office bomb even as the actor hinted he might quit his highly successful film career soon and focus on his political voyage.
Leading ladies Joytika (“Kaatrin Mozhi”) and Nayantara (‘Kolamaavu Kokila’ and ‘Imaika Nodigal’) won critical acclaim for their sterling performances in heroine-centric films in the industry which mostly worships heroes.
The powerful Tamil Film Producers’ Council (TFPC) witnessed a mutiny of sorts by a section of producers against its chief Vishal Krishnan, as dramatic scenes were witnessed at the council office which was locked up by his rivals and the actor detained by police for trying to force it open.
No stranger to release-time controversies, Vijay had to face the ruling AIADMK’s ire as it took umbrage against certain scenes in political thriller Sarkar that were deemed critical of the party government’s flagship welfare scheme of providing free mixer-grinder and fans.
While it was the BJP which came out against the actor’s “Mersal” last year over critical references to GST among others, this time the AIADMK leaders and workers hit the streets against the Sun Pictures-produced ‘Sarkar,’ stalling its Diwali release in many places.
The ruling party was also fuming over the naming of a woman character with negative shades in the film, which it felt was an apparent reference to its late leader J Jayalalithaa.
As theatre owners began rethinking on continued screening of the film, a truce was quickly declared with the producers and film director A R Murugadoss agreeing to deleting controversial scenes.
A case was nevertheless filed against Murugadoss later on a police complaint amid a raging debate on the criticism of welfare schemes, especially in a state which is described as a pioneer in populist measures since the days of AIADMK founder the late M G Ramachandran.
During his anticipatory bail hearing in the Madras High Court, the director refused to budge when the government said it would not oppose his plea if he gave an undertaking not to criticise its policies in his future movies. The court later granted him bail.
The “Sarkar” crew was also dragged to court days before its release when a writer filed a civil suit in the Madras High Court, contending that the director had plagiarised his story. The two sides reached a compromise later.
A similar plagiarism claim hit “96,” a moving love story starring Vijay Sethupathi and Trisha. The film though went on to become a hit.
Kollywood, as the Tamil film industry is known, witnessed its MeToo moment when singer Chinmayi Sripaada accused veteran Tamil lyricist Vairamuthu of sexual harassment and shared experiences of other women, some of whom narrated incidents that allegedly happened when they were in their late teens.
All of them, however, chose to remain anonymous.
Chinmayi, who has crooned a number of songs, including for Oscar winner A R Rahman, alleged inappropriate conduct by the poet during a foreign tour sometime in 2005 or 2006, a charge flatly denied by him. He also threatened to take the matter to court.
Rajinikanth surprised his fans with back-to-back releases, dishing out ‘Kaala’ and ‘2.0’ during 2018, breaking a long-held convention of not more than one of his flicks releasing in a year. His Previous film was gangster flick “Kabaali” that was released in 2016.
While ‘Kaala’ was the story of a hero of the slums taking on a ruthless politician in a script that had political overtones, including references to exploitation of Dalits, ‘2.0’, a sequel to “Endhiran” or “Robot” of 2010 , was more of a suave, technical product coming from the stable of ace director Shankar.
The actor’s fans are eagerly awaiting his ‘Petta’, whose teaser has already set the online world on fire with over one crore views. The film is due for release in January coinciding with “Pongal” festival.
On the other hand, Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroopam 2 sank without a trace this year even as he hinted he could wind up his five-decade-old tinsel world career by the end of next year to focus on politics.
He is currently busy with ‘Indian-2’ and the trilingual ‘Sabash Naidu.’
Top actresses Jyotika played a tough cop in ‘Nachiyar and won hearts with her ‘Kattrin Mozhi’, essaying the role of homemaker-turned radio jockey (RJ).
Nayantara’s role of a small-time drug mule who plots a coup to strike gold in ‘Kolamavu Kokila’ earned her rave reviews so did her super cop role in “Imaika Nodigal” thriller.
In another off-screen drama in the industry, differences in the producers’ council came to fore at the fag end of the year when a faction locked the body’s office premises, levelling allegations of financial irregularities against the camp led by president Vishal Krishnan.
Actor-producer Vishal was hauled up by police after he tried to break the lock, saying it was an unauthorised action by the rebels, but was vindicated when a court ruled in his favour and slammed the police for its conduct.