When films take a backseat
Given the sombre developments concerning the Sterlite protests, film personalities have had to put
cinema in the backburner
For the last two years, it’s been rather stop-start for the Tamil industry. Demonetisation, implementation of GST, the self-enforced 50-day shutdown, and now, Sterlite protests… Today, more than ever, there’s increased pressure on film personalities to be more politically active, or at least, to voice their views on contemporary issues. This has resulted in the postponing of quite a few film developments.
Team Saamy Square postponed the trailer launch of their film because of the furore over the Sterlite issue. A source close to the film unit thinks it’s only fair to do that. “It’s the least thing we could have done, given people have lost their lives.”
Meanwhile, the makers of Irumbu Thirai called off the audio launch of its Telugu version, Abhimanyudu, after inviting some top Telugu cinema personalities. The director, PS Mithran, says that such a problem impacts films across regions. He begins speaking his mind on the issue: “Till date, no one seems to know who issued the shooting order. Protests have been raging on for many weeks now.” He shares that he had given out around 1,200 invites for the Abhimanyudu audio launch. “But it’s okay,” he says. “Ours was just an event about a film. We are talking about life and death, on the other hand. We have been in no mood to organise a film event or celebrate,” he says.
Is it a problem then if films get released in this climate? Mithran definitely doesn’t think so. “Films are our livelihood. It may be entertainment for the public but we don’t see it that way,” he says. “Surely, people don’t stop going to office, colleges and schools? What if film personalities said that people should just stay home when such tragedies occur? How does that sound?”
There were doubts around the release date of Kaala, but it appears that the film is going ahead with its June 7 release date. “If you’re asking me about Kaala’s release, let me clarify that only people in our industry know how much pressure Dhanush and his team are facing. Just because someone owns a Mercedes-Benz does not necessarily mean he’s wealthy, and can suffer losses. Inga cinema kaaranga kayila salli paisa illa. Irumbu Thirai is a huge success. But Vishal hasn’t come out of his debt!” says Mithran.
He sums it all up when he says, “Tamil Nadu is crippled, and naturally, so is the film industry. We need to look into the larger picture and find out why people were shot down... Protest is vital to any democracy.” Mithran hopes to make a film about these events some day.
SR Prabhu, treasurer of TFPC, recognises that some film-related events are getting postponed, but thinks it shouldn’t be a mandatory expectation. “If someone’s asking why we are getting films released when such issues happen, I’d like to suggest that they ask such questions to people working in other industries too. Will they stop a lawyer from going to work?” he asks. However, he realises the importance of celebrities making socially aware statements for “it is society that has given them the status they have today.”
On film personalities being politically conscious, he says, “After a long time, two film personalities, Kamal Haasan and Rajinikanth, have plunged into politics and have made communication between actors and citizens easier. Actors are no longer viewed just as actors. They are expected to take part in activities that affect society.” He says that he was warmed by a lot of people expressing their disappointment over the Sterlite protest issue. “Some, however, chose to give importance to IPL. To each their own, I guess,” he says.
Music director-actor GV Prakash’s Sema got released last Friday, when the furore was at an all-time high. “Decisions concerning release dates are taken by distributors and we have to abide. I wasn’t in a happy state of mind when my film got released. I was angry about what happened to our people,” he says. “I didn’t promote the film even on my Twitter page. Even during the press meet about the film, I was talking about how angry I was over the state of affairs. I have always been vocal about my views. But I think it’s just a phase. I trust that we will bounce back to normalcy soon!”