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As usual, some of the slogans went a bit overboard. Reportedly, some posters said: “injustice to the goddess of justice?” and “can mere mortals mete out such injustice to the goddess of justice?”
Although it’s are quick to respond to political situations, interestingly, the Tamil industry is not partisan or doesn’t support a single party. Instead, it supports the party in power and shifts its allegiance the moment it’s unseated. In other words, since the power is alternated between the two Dravidian parties namely the DMK and the AIADMK, its sympathy also oscillates between the two. Whether its support is to the DMK or the AIADMK, there is no loss of vigour. To be fair to them, it’s are equally committed to both, but can support only one at a time. The party that’s out of power understands it perfectly well.
Actor-politician Sarath Kumar, who appeared to have led the protest on Tuesday, has said that the the industry was not under pressure from anyone, but it was meant to show Tamil cinema’s solidarity and support to the jailed chief minister. He may be true, but there is compulsion from within - the industry feels obliged to the leader in power. In fact his statement itself is clear on this: “she has been supporting the film industry in many ways and that is what made us to extend our solidarity and support at this stage.”
The same film industry organised felicitations for Karunanidhi, whenever he was in power. The last event in 2010, when he was the chief minister, was a so grand that besides the bigwigs such as Rajinikanth and Kamal Haasan, Amithabh Bachhan also shared the stage with Karunanidhi. Encomiums after encomiums, with some touching dizzying heights of creative adulation, were paid to him who appeared to have enjoyed every moment of the celebration. During his earlier regime, the industry, which organised a similar facilitation, gifted him a life size silver statue.
In addition to Karunanidhi’s strong links with the industry, his family had a firm grip on the production and distribution of Tamil films which became stronger during his last term. Both the sons of Stalin and Alagiri, and nephew Kalanidhi Maran were (and still are) A-list producers while the latter also owned the hugely successful SUN TV network. There were allegations that the family kept a vice like grip on the industry and whoever opposed them, including popular actors, were edged out. Stars such as Sharath Kumar and Vijay, both sympathisers of the AIADMK, had been targeted by the clan. While Sarath found it hard to get films, Vijay had difficulty in getting a decent release.
Jayalalithaa, in comparison has avoided such felicitations in recent years and she also claimed to have freed the industry from the “clutches of a family”. Speaking at the 100 years of cinema celebrations last year, she said: The motto here is ‘live and let live.’ But I need not explain how the film world functioned two years ago. Driven by selfishness, some people not only wanted to destroy their professional rivals but also remained a stumbling block to the industry’s growth.” She also listed the steps she has taken to support the industry after she took over this time.
The industry is keen to pay back and the protest on Tuesday was therefore not surprising.
In the south, although the Kannada industry is also politically sensitive (e.g. the Cauvery water issue), it’s no match to Tamil cinema. The reason perhaps is the lifelong connection between the industry and political power in the state. Tamil cinema has contributed four chief ministers to the state - CN Annadurai, Karunanidhi, MG Ramachandran (MGR) and Jayalalithaa, all from the Dravidian parties. While Annadurai and Karunanidhi were script writers, who introduced Dravidian ideology to the popular medium, MGR and Jaya were actors. In addition, there were many actors who dabbled in politics, which continues till date.
Right from the beginning, Dravidian politics has exploited the reach of cinema, which in turn entered into a mutually beneficial relationship. Whether it’s Karunanidhi or Jayalalithaa, the leader in power gives away sops to help the industry in the form of tax exemptions and subsidies. The flip side of this coin is that the same instruments and political power are used to target inconvenient elements in the industry. There have been cases of actors suffering, whether it is a Sarath Kumar, Kamal Haasan or Vijay, because they somehow irked the powers that be. The industry, including the point-persons of rival parties, are therefore anxious and hence they come to the streets even if nobody overtly demands action from them.
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Kamal n Rajnikant are the top heroes of yesterday. Surya is a good actor and right now 'top' too.