In keeping with the dramatic declarations that Vishal has been issuing ever since he took over as President of the Tamil Nadu Film Producers' Council, the actor recently said that the film industry would go on an indefinite strike from May 30 if the state government did not take steps to tackle internet piracy.
However, film distributors and theatre owners have issued a statement that they are not ready to support the strike.
Vishal also met the Tamil Nadu Chief Minister, Edappadi Palaniswami, to discuss the concerns of the Council with respect to piracy and copyright violations. Speaking to the media, Vishal said that the CM had assured him that he would look into the matter. However, Vishal added that if they were still unsatisfied, the strike would take place as planned.
Tackling internet piracy was one of the main promises on which Vishal won the Producers' Council elections. However, is it realistic to expect the state government to curb internet piracy, an issue that continues to plague entertainment industries around the world?
In mighty Hollywood, too, internet piracy has been a constant problem with even crew and award jury members being complicit in the act. Films have been leaked online not only by anonymous "warriors" but those working closely with the entertainment industry.
In India, there have been instances of visuals and clips leaked from the censor copy of the film, proving that such violations are not limited to a group like Tamil Rockers who openly challenge the big names in Kollywood. Why films, even teasers and trailers have been leaked online ahead of their scheduled release!
While there are a number of reasons why people watch pirated content, the main argument seems to be that they don't believe the content they are consuming is worth paying the money that is expected of them. There is also a consensus that they are only "stealing" from the rich and that this is not really a crime, considering they are not destroying the work itself.
Another reason that such consumers often cite is accessibility - for many, going to the theatre to watch a film is not a feasible option. They also prefer consuming the content at a time and place that is convenient for them. And when something's available for free, they don't see why they shouldn't watch it.
Considering how often Kollywood plagiarizes from international cinema - right from plot to background scores - the angst about copyright violations and disrespect to people's hard work sounds a tad hypocritical.
Also, we're at a time when audiences are thronging the theatres to watch a film like Baahubali 2 which has won colossal success at the box office, proving that good content will draw people to pay for it. In fact, the first film in the series was re-released and ran to packed houses ahead of the sequel. Further, a much smaller film like Pa Paandi has managed to withstand the Baahubali juggernaut and has become a superhit through good reviews and word of mouth.
This is not to deny that online piracy is a big problem and that it can affect the prospects of a film. However, calling for an indefinite strike within such a short time-frame to curb a widespread and difficult problem like piracy seems nothing short of a stunt, and is unlikely to change anything for Kollywood.