On December 19, a few producers protested against TFPC president Vishal and locked down his office. They claimed that he didn’t fulfill the promises made during the election in 2015.
Chennai: There is a standing joke in many newsrooms that the person covering the Tamil cinema beat should be well versed in Tamil Nadu politics and the one handling the state’s politics should be aware of what is happening in the film industry, which is fondly called Kollywood.
The punchline, of course, is: You don't really need two people to cover both the beats, which is, after all, a commingling of the same thing.
The public got a glimpse of this “mixing” just three days ago when Tamil Nadu Film Producers' Council (TFPC) president Vishal and his supporters were taken into preventive custody following an ugly spat with TN Police in Chennai.
On December 19, a few producers protested against Vishal and locked the TFPC office. They claimed that he didn’t fulfill the promises made during the election in 2015. The protesters then handed over the keys to the police and later, government officials formally sealed the premises.
When Vishal tried to enter his office, his way was blocked by the police. The after an ugly tussle with the cops, he and his supporters were detained for more than eight hours.
On the face of it, it may look like any other internal fight in a film body, but as M Bharat, who is covering both TN politics and film industry for over 15 years now, said, “Make no mistake about it, the sub-text of this fight is written by TN politicians…The hidden hand of politicos is hardly hidden.”
While Vishal tried to make talk his way out with the police, the dissenting group comprising of former MP JK Ritheesh, former MLA S Ve Shekher, AL Alagappan and Suresh Kamatchi, director-producer Bharathiraja and several others quickly met chief minister Edappadi Palaniswami to give him a memorandum.
They made several allegations (including one of financial malfeasance) against Vishal and pressed for his removal from TFPC even though his 2-year tenure ends in April-May 2019. They also urged the government to intervene and help conduct new elections.
"That the dissenting group got an audience with the Chief Minister within hours would seem like a pointer to which side the ruling dispensation in the State is favourably inclined towards," says R Athimoolam, a producer.
On Friday, Vishal himself tweeted: "Police who were mute yesterday when unauthorised ppl locked the doors & gates of TFPC have arrested me & my colleague today for no fault of ours, absolutely unbelievable." (sic).
The TFPC president also said that he was being wrongly targeted. "Suffering for no fault of mine. Very disturbed that I was not let to enter my own office, no action against people who illegally locked the gates and doors of the same office. Totally unfair." (sic)
However, the protesters are not creating ruckus out of the blue and they actually some valid reasons.
Though it is true that some of the promises made by Vishal were not fulfilled, it is also a fact that many of the issues that were cited are deeply entrenched that it would be nearly impossible to sort them so easily.
Meanwhile, there is another charge that he cannot run away from. It is claimed that smaller films have got raw deals during his tenure.
Vishal needs to answer how five B-star films were allowed to clash at the box office this weekend? Also, why his team’s two vice-presidents — actor-producer Prakash Raj and director-producer Gautham Vasudev Menon — hardly showed up in the TFPC's office after their election?
However, all these are industry problems, which is faced not only by Kollywood but by other film industries also, and most certainly it doesn’t require any governmental intervention.
So why is the ruling party being so hard on Vishal?
One leading director said, "Vishal has ruffled many feathers in the last few years. His decision to contest the RK Nagar election (though his candidature was eventually disqualified) did not go down well with both the AIADMK and the DMK camps. Ever since that he has been a marked man."
It is believed that Vishal further queered the pitch for himself by taking pot-shots at the TV news channel NewsJ launched by the ruling combine. It is heard through the grapevine that Vishal did not attend the launch of the channel and also tweeted disparagingly about the development. His tweet read: "Another news channel starting up. Wow. I heard it costs a bomb to start a news channel. How do u guys as MLAs and MPs gettin monthly salary come up wit such a business module. . Waiting for 2019." (sic)
If reports are to be believed, a top official of NewsJ was in cahoots with the government officials who sealed the TFPC office after it was unlawfully locked down by Vishal's rivals.
The DMK, which is the main opposition party in the state, is not very fond of Vishal either. They rather see him as a threat.
Though Vishal is hosting a weekly programme on the Sun TV (owned by the Marans), the DMK is not ready to be drawn into the events. "The fact that the DMK is silent speaks loudly of its disinterest in him," says an actor who i known to be close with Vishal.
"Vishal is being propped for some vested interests. If he tries to play dirty tricks against us, he must be aware there will be some retaliation. This is how this game works," says a politician.
On Friday, the Madras high court ordered for the de-sealing of the council’s office.
Meanwhile, a fresh case has been filed against Vishal for financial misappropriation as head of the TFPC.
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Last Updated Dec 22, 2018, 1:25 PM IST