CE Year in Review: Top Controversies of Kollywood 2021
Here's a list of the top controversies of the year
Year 2021 saw the resurgence of theatres in Tamil Nadu. While the outbreak of pandemic questioned the very existence of cinema halls last year, the release of Vijay-Lokesh Kanagaraj's Master this January set the Tamil film industry on its path to recovery. The interim shut down from April to August didn't hinder the audience from thronging the screens following the reopening. The theatre vs OTT debate took a back seat, and the industry embraced a co-existence as new digital players joined the game. Big-budget star vehicles turned out to be distributor-certified hits, and on the whole, it was a rather harmonious year—in comparison with recent ones anyway. But of course, in an industry as powerful, in an art as influential, there were quite a few tussles and talking points this year. Here’s a run-down on them:
Actor Vijay rode a bicycle to the polling booth during the polling day of the 2021 Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly election to cast his vote. The move of the actor was initially reported as one meant to spread awareness among the people about the importance of voting. There were also suggestions that Vijay’s move was to express his displeasure over rising fuel prices. However, an official update from his spokesperson clarified that he bicycled as the roads leading up to the polling booth were rather narrow. Though the actor wore a mask throughout, the fans who escorted him, weren't seen taking such measures, and the police had a tough time controlling the crowd.
Mari Selvaraj’s powerful film, Karnan, was inspired by the Kodiyankulam riots, and saw a fair amount of inquiry launched into its details. Actor-politician Udhayanidhi pointed out that while the real event took place during the rule of ADMK in 1995, in the film, the events were wrongly set in 1997—at a time when DMK was the ruling party. This led to some outrage from party loyalists, and in the following days, the film’s team changed 1997 to the ‘later half of the 90s.’ However, some DMK members continued to oppose as the ‘later part of the 90s’ still seemed to suggest culpability on their party’s side. Udhayanidhi released a statement asking the party members to drop the debate and then, that was that. We later got a report that Udhayanidhi and Mari Selvaraj would be joining hands for their next project.
Actor Vijay Sethupathi was attacked by a man at the Bengaluru airport over a disagreement. A video footage of a stranger kicking him from behind became viral on social media. The attacker was later identified and for his part, he justified the action by saying that Sethupathi's assistants hit him first and also that the actor spoke derogatorily about the nation. He also said that he would be taking legal action against the actor. Vijay Sethupathi, who made no meal about the incident, shared that the man seemed under the influence of alcohol and that it was a small issue blown out of proportion.
The Mysterious Movie
The first look poster of a film titled Anbuselvan starring Gautham Vasudev Menon was launched by director Pa Ranjith. Confusion arose when Gautham denied being part of the film and claimed that he hadn’t even met the director. Later that day, the producer of the film, released shooting footage from the film featuring Gautham and stated that the film had been in the making for three years and was delayed due to the unavailability of the actor-director. Though he admitted that the film's title was changed from Kelvikuri to Anbuselvan to cash in on the popularity of Kaakha Kaakha, the producer who had apparently changed directors, insisted that Gautham was kept in the loop. Gautham did not make any following statements regarding his involvement with the project.
Actor Ajith Kumar issued a strongly worded statement requesting fans to maintain dignity and discipline in public and on online forums after a section of desperate fans began requesting updates of the film at unconnected events including cricket matches and political rallies. Towards the end of the year, a three-minute-long making video of Valimai that addressed the delay of the film and thanked fans, was released.
Ashwin Kumar, the internet and small-screen sensation, got himself in hot water after a rather self-absorbed speech at the audio launch of his film, Enna Solla Pogirai, went viral. In the speech, he mentioned that he chose this film after 40 different narrations from other directors, as this was the only one to keep him awake. A few days later, the actor apologised for the statement, citing nervousness and a lack of preparation. He also added that the numbers he quoted were just exaggeration and that he never intended to hurt anyone.
The Killing Joke
Actor Santhanam's time travel comedy, Dikkiloona, received much criticism for a scene that had the actor calling a disabled man with crutches, 'side stand'. This scene, and another in which the hero moral-polices his wife, didn't quite land well with audiences and critics. Some fringe political parties joined in to criticise the film as well. In his following film, Sabhaapathy, Santhanam was seen playing a stutterer, and during the promotions of this film, he said that he respects the disabled community a lot and that it was why he chose such a character.
Divided, We Fall
The August issue of Rolling Stone India came under fire after it failed to credit lyricist, rapper, and singer Arivu on its cover story titled Back to the Roots. The magazine interviewed singer Dhee and Shan Vincent Di for its August cover, while Arivu, the lyricist and co-performer in Enjoy Enjaami and co-lyricist of Neeye Oli (Sarpatta Parambarai) with Shan, was not featured. The issue came to prominence when Pa. Ranjith took Arivu's side and criticised this exclusion.
Shan who wasn't happy with Ranjith's response lashed out against the filmmaker alleging that he caused much divide amongst Tamil artists. The rapper went on to release a rap number titled Take Cover, through which he complained that Ranjith didn't want him to be part of his Sarpatta Parambarai (which featured Neeye Oli), and that it was composer Santhosh Narayanan who brought him in.
The Family Man Furore
Samantha's Raji, a former Sri Lankan Tamil rebel living in Chennai, from the Amazon Prime Video series, The Family Man Season 2, was under the scanner, even before the release of this show. The uproar reached a crescendo when the Tamil Nadu government wrote to union I&B Minister Prakash Javadekar seeking a country-wide ban. Going by the promotional material, the state felt that the series was 'loaded with insults and insinuations against Tamil culture.'
Several other party leaders released statements condemning the show and requesting a ban. The show’s creators Raj and DK clarified that Family Man Season 2 was made to value the sentiments of Tamil people and highlighted that many of the lead cast members, members of the creative and writing team, were Tamilians.
Following the release, though the series received mixed responses for its representation of Tamils, Samantha's performance was widely lauded by the critics and audience.
Leaders of Vanniyar community protested against Suriya's Jai Bhim for allegedly portraying them in a bad light, and taking offence to one scene that had a calendar in the background, which the party believed to be a maligning reference to itself. Though this scene was replaced by the makers, Dr Ramadoss, the leader of Pattali Makkal Katchi, issued a statement condemning the film and the actor. A legal case was also filed against the film demanding a compensation of Rs 5 crore. The actor also received threats from another leader from the same party who stoked violence by promising to offer Rs 1 lakh to anyone who would attack the actor. Eventually, he was arrested for his comments.
All of this led to acts of solidarity from Suriya fans and other celebrities, who came out in support of the actor. The hashtag, #WeStandWithSuriya, began trending on social media and the actor was provided with armed security for his protection.