Chennai: There has been a spate of flops in Tamil cinema. In fact, 2019 is one of the worst years in terms of film collections in the history of Kollywood.

Stung by the persistent losses, film producers recently went into a huddle and seem to have found a reason for the failures: Film reviewers.

Okay, that may be slightly exaggerating it. But only slightly.

This week, the members of the ad-hoc committee of the Tamil Film Producers’ Council (TFPC) put out a press release with regard to their issues with the media. There were three points in the press release, and the first two points pertained to the expenses that the production houses suffer while 'taking care' of the media during film screenings and film functions.

There cannot be any quibble over those two points. The third point, however, is the one that has stirred up a hornets’ nest. The Producers' Council sees a huge problem in the way films are reviewed in the media. The producers feel films are reviewed by critics with a hidden agenda. And hence this has to be put an end to.

“Under the guise of film criticism, any person who attacks films, actors, directors and producers, and crosses all limits, will attract legal action, and will be uninvited from Tamil film-related events,” the TFPC said in the press release.

This is clearly overarching, overzealous, and a bit farcical. The thing is how can critics be legally pursued? Will the courts engage with such cases? And how do you establish motives in film criticism?

They are all nebulous and hypothetical points. But what is clear is the producers are particularly stung by the kind of reviews that are now proliferating on YouTube and other social media platforms.

"Some of the reviews seen on social media platforms are indeed problematic," says a senior film journalist on condition of anonymity (because he/she does not want to antagonise their own tribe). "But what I see in most reviews is an absolute lack of film appreciation. There is no discernment and the approach is very amateurish. The use of language is also sometimes problematic. There is a clear lack of ability or skill. I don't see hidden agenda or motivated criticism."

But a film producer says, "There are many honourable critics. We have no issues with them. But there are a handful of fly-by-night operators too. They are the problem. Our target is only them."

The producer says some media people, wearing the critics' hat, approach us for money. "If we don't pay them they threaten to badmouth our films. On social media platforms, bad publicity has its own momentum. There is no way of undoing the damage."

The producer further says that "many newly-sprouted film sites ask us for advertisements. If we decline their approach, our films are targeted. Wrong news is floated and the movie is trashed."

The journalist, who spoke to us on condition of anonymity, agrees that such devious journos are around. "But many of them are cultivated or created by film production houses in the first place. The producers pay 'pliable' media people to get good news and good reviews for their films. When the producers stop paying, the journos show their true colours."

Some leading stars are also guilty of seeding the sleazy press. One big star reportedly gave gold coins to some media people recently in a bid to win over their loyalties. "It has been an age-old practice. It used to be generically referred to as 'cover culture' in the media industry. It was called so because money was slyly passed on to journos in an envelope," says the journalist.     

Another journalist from a digital media house says, "the film industry's problems are internal. They cannot sort out the mounting costs in filmmaking. The market for most Tamil movies is limited, and rather than make a movie to match that they escalate the movie production cost. Star salaries are also a huge problem. They have to address these issues, which are the real cause for failures. But they are barking up the wrong tree thinking that film reviewers are to blame."            
"The film industry people suffer from a persecution problem. We see this in the Kangana Ranaut issue too. These industry people always live under an illusion. They believe every kind of conspiracy theory," the journalist adds.

Between some clueless producers and a few corrupt journalists, Kollywood is battling for life.