Actor Karthi's Tamil film Kadai Kutty Singam, directed by Pandiraj and produced by 2D Entertainment Private Limited, may have run into trouble.
The producers had applied for permission to shoot a rekla (bullock cart race) sequence with the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI). However, the AWBI denied permission for the shoot, which involves 211 cows and oxen, 48 cocks and 32 avians, citing that the Supreme Court has banned the sport.
In the list of permissions and approvals put up by the AWBI on its site on January 24, the status given against the film reads: "Not approved. The applicant is informed that rekla race is banned by Supreme Court as it is against the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1960."
However, the producers of the film have gone ahead and shot the sequence. Actor Suriya, Karthi's brother, had tweeted a video of the shoot on January 30.
The AWBI is now considering taking action against the producers of the film for violating the rules.
Despite the SC ban on jallikattu, widespread protests in Tamil Nadu last year forced the state government to permit the sport, by passing a Bill in the Assembly. The SC has now decided to form a Constitutional Bench to debate on whether the sport can be considered a cultural right. Would rekla, too, come under this?
Speaking to TNM, the AWBI chairperson SP Gupta said, "We'll have to see if the state government permits rekla also. If it doesn't, then it should be taking action. We will take action after examining if rekla is also being allowed in the state like jallikattu."
Animal rights activist Antony Rubin, who is an honorary animal welfare officer with the AWBI and also an ex Performing Animals Committee member, says, "To give you a history of this ban, jallikattu and rekla were both banned by the SC. But what happened was, due to the Marina protests, the state government passed an amendment and issued a gazette that jallikattu is allowed in all the already existing places. But they never mentioned anything about rekla races."
Antony says that there is indeed an official ban on rekla in Tamil Nadu and that there is no state order which exempts it.
Adding that the committee had denied pre-shoot permission when the producers approached the AWBI, Antony says the decision was put up on the AWBI's website.
"It's a violation of the Prevention of Cruelty Act and it is contempt of court. No one knew about it and nobody would have come to know of it if Suriya hadn't tweeted the video. There were news reports about it and many people complained to the AWBI about it," he says.
According to a TNIE report, the producers of the film have claimed that they obtained the Pudukottai Collector's permission to shoot the sequence. However, if this is true, the permission violates the SC's orders.
The last Tamil film to run into trouble with the AWBI was Vijay’s Deepavali blockbuster Mersal last year. For Mersal, the AWBI had raised three objections. The team had not submitted all the animal scenes in the film on one CD. Further, the AWBI said that the pigeons and other birds used in the film did not look like CG and wanted proof that CG work had been done. They also pointed out that permission had been requested to shoot a king cobra but that the visuals showed a spectacled cobra. The film eventually got the go-ahead after cutting several scenes involving the animals.
Antony goes on to say that after Mersal ran into trouble with the AWBI, the board met with the Producers' Council and had a productive meeting about the procedures to be followed.
"It's shocking that this has happened despite the meeting," he says.