The suicide of producer Ashok Kumar has split the Tamil film industry. While the President of the Tamil Nadu Producers' Council, actor Vishal, came down strongly on financer Anbu Chezhiyan who is named in Ashok Kumar's alleged suicide note, other prominent voices from the industry have come out in the latter's support.
Following Ashok Kumar's death, various allegations were made against the financier, who many said had Kollywood in an iron grip. Director Suseenthiran had even alleged that actor Ajith, one of Kollywood's biggest stars, was similarly harassed by Anbu Chezhiyan a few years ago.
In the midst of the noise surrounding the issue was the murmur that actor Devayani had been harassed by Anbu Cheziyan in the past. However, Devayani and other prominent film personalities like producers Kalaippuli S Thanu and Elred Kumar, director-producers C Sundar, Vetrimaaran, Manobala, and actor-producer Vijay Antony have denied that Anbu Chezhiyan is the monster he's made out to be.
In a press conference, Devayani said that Anbu Chezhiyan had agreed to give money for a project in which she was acting and her husband, Rajakumaran, was directing, without even meeting them.
"It's been nearly 15 years since we took money from Anbu Sir for a film called Kadhalundan. He's a very genuine person. He gave me money without even meeting me. It was purely out of trust. We are not full-time producers. We're technicians - I'm an artist and my husband is a director. He knew we'd work truthfully and make the film. The film was viable and that's why he gave the finance," she said.
Devayani also added that it was only after the film was made that she met Anbu Chezhiyan, when the film's first copy was handed over to him.
"His behaviour towards us was that decent. We met him only 2-3 times," she said. She went on to deny that all allegations made about Anbu Chezhiyan harassing her were all lies and said that she'd come for the conference only to make this clear.
Thanu, the producer of many huge films in Kollywood including Kabali, said that if Anbu had not financed films in the Tamil industry, none of them would be there.
"If not for Anbu, Lingusamy's Rajini Murugan could not have released," Thanu said, adding that Anbu was the one who'd given him money for all films, big or small. He further said that he'd paid Anbu the last for Kabali and that the latter didn't create any issue because of this.
"He always asks 'What can I do for you?' when I go to meet him," said Thanu.
Thanu added that the problem could have been resolved through discussions involving the different cinema organisations and that there was no need for Ashok Kumar to take such a step.
Vetrimaaran said that discussions on regulating finance in the film industry should happen but added that Anbu Chezhiyan had been very supportive towards him. He said that he'd entered into agreements with Anbu but that these were always returned when the project was done.
"I don't know how it was with others but that's how it was with me," he said.
Sundar C said it was unjust to blame the financier for what had happened. "It's vital to plan the budget before making a film," he said, adding that financiers were also in this business as professionals like directors, actors and so on.
"How is it wrong to ask for the money you've given? This is a warning to producers...people who give money will ask for it. This is why planning is very important. I've been taking money from Anbu for the last 8 years and all the news is very surprising to me," he said.
Actors like Kamal Haasan and Prakash Raj have, in the meantime, tweeted about the problem of kandhu vatti in the Tamil film industry.
Director Sasikumar, Ashok Kumar's cousin, is yet to speak about the issue.