From uploading crucial scenes to writing insincere negative reviews, many fan groups across South India have taken it upon themselves to kill the success of films
Recently, some rabid fans of Shah Rukh Khan captured his cameo in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil on their phones, and circulated it online. The intentions may have been noble, but it was an illegal act that ruined the film for countless people. This menace isn’t restricted just to Bollywood, of course.
South Indian films are suffering too, even as more and more fans are taking to recording important scenes and sharing them on social media. At any time, the most recently released films (and sometimes, even those that haven’t been released) have clips circulating on the internet, and they are shot at DVD quality. The penetration of mobile phones has created a new problem for the industry: piracy perpetrated by the commoner.
The makers of Junior NTR-starrer, Jai Lava Kusa, were in for a rude shock when they got news that the film’s teaser had been leaked online before its planned release. Other recent films like Baahubali: The Conclusion, Ram Charan Teja’s Dhruva, and Allu Arjun’s DJ all have had to contend with leaked clips, and in some cases, live streaming from inside the theatre! Crucial twists, climax portions, and introduction scenes are usually the ones that get leaked illegally. Take, for instance, the case of Premam, which found that the censored version of the film was released online, barely days after its release. This caused a significant reduction in its collections. More recently, scenes from the Mammootty-starrer, The Great Father, were leaked on Facebook and WhatsApp. Social media, Malayalam cinema’s most prominent medium for film promotion, has started to raise its ugly ahead.
Telugu actor Siva Balaji is quite annoyed with the state of things: “I think it’s just a small group that’s doing this. Perhaps they suffer from some mental disorder. They strike me as frustrated people who are in it for some sadistic fun. I don’t know if they realise how much revenue producers and distributors lose because people, who see these clips, feel there’s nothing else to go to the theatres for.” He is convinced that strict action must be taken against such spoilsports. “I’m planning to file a writ petition seeking a uniform and stringent law to curb these acts,” he says.
Tamil cinema isn’t new to these issues either. Karthik, one of the administrators of RBSI - Rajini Biggest Superstar of India (a Facebook fan page that has almost half-a-million followers), thinks that such acts have given good fans a bad name. “Years ago, there was a time when fan clubs meant responsibility. Apart from helping out with publicity, they also were socially conscious groups. But these days, a negative image has come to be associated with the word ‘fan’,” he says. Raghunandan, who operates the Facebook fan page of a popular Telugu actor, says there have been instances of some well-meaning fans confronting those who are recording films in the theatres.
While piracy is a problem, there’s another: the slander of rival fan groups. When the makers of DJ recently announced the two-week collection figure of the film, it resulted in a fan war on social media, as fans of rival actors managed to get the hashtag, #DJFakeCollections, trending. Memes didn’t spare the actor, director and the producer. Such slander often gets personal too. Actor Siva Balaji was at the receiving end, following the release of Pawan Kalyan’s Katamarayudu. “Very soon after the release of a film, you have people making mocking videos by interspersing comedy scenes into the film’s footage. This is creating a negative atmosphere, with rival fan groups trying to outdo each other with the release of each film of their respective hero,” he says.
Arun Kumar (name changed), a social media analyst who handles Tamil films, says that only a few actors--Vikram, Vijay Sethupathi, and Madhavan--remain outside of the purview of such trolling. “Ajith, Vijay, Suriya and Sivakarthikeyan bear the brunt of all the damage,” he says. It must be noted here that a few months back, actor-composer GV Prakash was at the receiving end of a lot of social media backlash, and when he resorted to blocking some of those attacking him, matters got worse as some abusive hashtags were made to trend. “Vijay and Ajith fans usually target each other, but when a Suriya film releases, they usually gang up,” he says.
Surendar Reddy (name changed), an ardent admirer of Pawan Kalyan, thinks there’s nothing wrong in trolling and creating memes that damage other actors. “Sometimes, even celebrities share these memes. We do it to counter what rival fans do. If they attack our hero, we can’t sit back and be quiet,” he says. He has an explanation for why fans record footage of films from inside the theatre: “We do it to show other fans what the response in the theatre was like.”
Sajid Yahya, director and creator of Cinema Pranthan, a film website dedicated to Malayalam films, has little respect for such fans. “I know of organised groups who go out of their way to hurt a film. Immediately after the first show, they post negative reviews, even if the film was good. It’s all usually done for a few shares and likes. I have raised this issue with the producers’ association,” he says.
For Malayalam director Shanil Muhammed, social media played a big part in destroying his recent film, Avarude Ravukal. Following the suicide of the film’s producer, sections of the social media propagated the rumour that he had killed himself after seeing a preview of the film. “We had not even started the post-production work. That’s the truth. But when this rumour was spread, my film’s chances were decisively quashed,” he says. The film was a dud at the box office.
(With inputs from Meera Suresh and S Subhakeerthana)