After actor-politician and the President of the South Indian Film Artistes Association, or the Nadigar Sangam, Sarath Kumar took on cinema doyen Kamal Haasan and the opposing camp led by actors Nasser and Vishal in an interview to The News Minute, Nasser has hit out hard in response, stating that it is the inefficiency of the previous administration of the Sangam which has lead to this face-off.
In the ongoing tussle for control of the Nadigar Sangam, nominations have been filed by various actors for the impending elections on October 18. Kamal Haasan has announced his support for the 'Pandavar Ani' comprising Vishal, Nasser, Ponvanan, Karunas and Karthi, while the incumbent camp of Nadigar Sangam comprising President Sarathkumar with Radharavi, Radhika Sarathkumar, Shaam and Mumtaz are gearing up for a tough campaign.
If you are late to the party, you can read a detailed explainer about the entire controversy here.
We caught up with actor and President-hopeful Nasser for a telephonic conversation as he stepped out of a meeting with his team. Here are the excerpts.
What is your main agenda behind contesting these elections? Why are you opposing Sarath Kumar and others?
Our first duty is to bring back Nadigar Sangam actively. It has not been functioning as it was meant to function. It was inactive for a very long time, except for the regular official running of the office. There have been so many things which have been kept pending.
For example such a wonderful responsibility we lost because of the inactiveness of the Nadigar Sangam was Sivaji sirâ€™s Manimandapam. It could have been such a prestigious landmark in the whole of Tamil Nadu, but we lost that identity because of the inactiveness.
(Context: In 2002, TN government had allotted land to the Nadigar Sangam to build a memorial hall for Sivaji Ganesan. But the project was never taken up by Sangam, and recently the TN government announced that the government will take up the construction also since the Sangam could not do it.)
Yesterday we went and met Mr. Pachaimuthu of the SRM Group. We requested him that if we come, then you have to give medical and educational assistance to members of the Nadigar Sangam. He told us that he had already done it for the other 23 unions belonging to the Film Employees Federation of South India (FEFSI) three years back. All the Sangam had to do was go and ask them, suggest the idea. But they never did it.
They were not active enough to do these things. Every year, we are supposed to meet and discuss issues. It has not happened for 10 years. They say actors donâ€™t come, but they have to find out why they donâ€™t come.
They keep saying poor drama artistes, poor drama artistes. But there was no scheme drawn for them. When we sat and discussed with them (drama artistes), we found there are many ways to raise funds.
So bringing back the Sangam to being active is a very big responsibility.
Sarath Kumar claims he has participated in the disputes of Vishwaroopam, Uttama Villain and Komban. But it is not a Nadigar Sangam related problem. So many bodies from the film industry participated in solving the problem, not just Nadigar Sangam. And he only represented the Sangam.Tomorrow if I am the president I also have to do it. He cannot claim the credit for it.
And we want to have our own building on the land instead of the Sathyam Cinemas project.
Sarath Kumar says that the Sathyam Cinema proposal was taken to the executive committee and ratified by the AGM and only then they went ahead with it in 2010. Why was no objection raised then?
See, there is a difference between â€˜approvalâ€™ and â€˜ratificationâ€™. Ratification is done after the decision has already been taken. Then why is there another word called â€˜approvalâ€™? And itâ€™s his version that nobody raised an objection to. If you ask Poochi Murugan (the person who has filed a case against the project), then he will say something else. We have to take into account both.
The accusation against you is that you are driven by ego and personal likes and dislikes. What do you have to say about it?
If you look at all the accusations Sarath Kumar has made, then you see each time he comes up with a different thing. First he said that this was Vishalâ€™s personal battle that he was bringing to the Sangam. When other senior actors joined Vishal, he claimed that the DMK was behind it. When some prominent people from AIADMK joined, then he said that casteism and money are playing in it. And now just because Kamal Haasan has proposed my name as the president, he says Kamal Haasan is doing it. There must be one solid accusation on us? And we are not immature people that someone has to be behind us. We can make our own decisions. We have solutions to all the problems.
What kind of solutions? What is your alternative to the Sathyam Cinema plan?
The outcome of the project is that there will be a monthly income of 23 lakh, but there can be so many things done for that. Even if we build one simple auditorium there, per day the rent in Chennai is minimum Rs. 3 lakh. If we let it out for even 10 days, we can make Rs. 30 lakh a month. Why should we give the land to somebody else then? There was no due process in this project, the contract was secretly signed with SPI cinemas.
Are you concerned that even after you win, there will be pressure on you and you will not be allowed to function smoothly? How will you handle that?
Yeah, we expect that. That great mind Radharavi is there. So we expect that. But whatever schemes we announce, they will go on. If the building is not being built, we will raise other funds. We will prove that there are other ways for the Sangam to function.
Even now we say that if they cancel the agreement with SPI Cinema (Sathyam Cinemas), we will back out. But they donâ€™t want to do it. They are very adamant that they will honour the agreement with SPI Cinema.
Agreed that Radharavi used obscene words against you, but do you think the Sangam should have been split and the dirty linen washed in public?
No, we are not splitting the Nadigar Sangam. By the associationâ€™s law, an election is to be conducted every three years. And we are honouring that democratic event. When there is a law that elections have to be conducted, then obviously there will be two groups.
And they are all trying to protect Radharavi and justify the way he talks. But when you are in public, you cannot speak like that? Not only him, one Mr Kaalai who is our VP. He called all actors dogs. Ms Radhika says our father (MR Radha) used to sing a song with all these words. Within your house itâ€™s OK, but I cannot sing the same song in public?
I have complained against Radharavi for abusing me, no action was taken. But if I had done the same, would they have let me go? Radharavi is the main cause of all this. I would like to thank him for getting us all together.
This is nothing personal against Sarath Kumar. But as a member of the Sangam, and he being the President, I have to raise my voice against some things