This is a dangerous trend, for it often leads to pirated disks being circulated in a non-screening region. This kills revenue.
In a state, where actors are celebrated as demi-gods, Vijay is a heartthrob among the youth. Reverentially and affectionately called, Ilayadalapathy (Junior Commander), he may not be as popular as Rajnikanth or Kamal Hassan, but is certainly one of the very few stars whose very name promises box office bonanza.
Nobody is quite sure when Thalaiva will hit the screens in Tamil Nadu, although it has opened outside the country and even in neighbouring states. This is a dangerous trend, for it often leads to pirated disks being circulated in a non-screening region. This kills revenue.
Already, there are reports of thousands of such illegal disks of Thalaivaa being available for prices ranging from Rs 60 to Rs 100 each in Tamil Nadu. Thousands of disks were confiscated in Salem the other day.
Most Indian movies make their money during the first weekend, and now with pirated disks in circulation, Thalaivaa’s producers have already lost a large chunk of their revenue.
Tamil Nadu, like some other states in India, is overly touchy about cinema. There is always some group or the other – both political and apolitical – which raises objections to a film.
Earlier this year, we saw this in the case of Kamal Hassan’s Viswaroopam, when some Muslim outfits felt that the movie portrayed the community in bad light. It could not open for several weeks. By then the excitement had waned.
However, sources said then that the “actual reason” for Viswaroopam running into a storm was Hassan’s “disagreement” with a television channel over screening rights. The channel had the “support of a political party”.
In the case of Thalaivaa, actor Vijay presumably has a good relationship with the ruling party in the State, All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam. In fact, during the last Assembly elections, he supported this party. When it came to power, Vijay’s career prospects brightened after having been on a decline for several years during the previous Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam’s regime.
What then could be the cause for Thalaivaa facing this seemingly hard obstacle?
The immediate cause for theatres refusing to release Thalaivaa was a threat from an extremely insignificant political organisation, Oppressed Students’ Revolutionary Union, which sent notices last Tuesday to some of the biggest multiplexes in Chennai warning them not to screen the film. They felt that Thalaivaa was taking pot-shots at some caste-based issues.
Also, Thalaivaa faced a legal hurdle when the son of a Mumbai businessman – on whom actor Vijay’s character is reportedly based — filed a civil suit stating that movie had distorted the lives of his father and grandfather.
The son averred that his father as well as grandfather were well known community leaders among the Tamil population of Mumbai’s Dharavi (said to be Asia’s largest slum). But they were being shown as “dons”.
Finally, Thalaivaa also ran into a financial hurdle when the state government refused to give it a tax exemption. This can lead to losses for producers/distributors. A Government Order dated Aug 8 said “the Commercial Taxes Department Review Committee refused entertainment tax exemption to ‘Thalaivaa’ citing various reasons: the presence of over 400 English words in the dialogues, depiction of violence and the hero taking law into his own hands.
All panel members said the film, which has a ‘U certificate’, had excessive violence and English and Hindi dialogues”.
But there might have been other movies with English languages and violence that were given tax benefits. Why then is Thalaivaa being singled out?
Vijay’s fans are wondering why the Tamil Nadu’s AIADMK Government is not helping their hero. After all, he has been an ardent supporter of the party. He is supposed to have even refused to toe the DMK line, much to the detriment of his career.
In fact, just a day before Thalaivaa was to have opened, Vijay went to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Jayalalithaa’s holiday residence at Kodanadu in the Nilgiris to seek her help. But he could not meet her, and he had to give his petition to her secretary.
The DMK leader and former Tamil Nadu Chief Minster, M. Karunanidhi, surprised all of us when he issued a statement the other day sympathising with and supporting Vijay.
Politics — and cinema as well — in India appear to have no permanent enemies. Or friends!
Gautaman Bhaskaran is India Editor of FMT, and Chennai-based author, columnist and movie critic. He may be emailed at [email protected]