Industry insiders have told us that the battle is close, and both sides are campaigning hard, holding hectic schedules and strategy meets.

Exclusive Sarathkumar slams Kamal and Pandavar Ani says industry unity destroyedImage: Sarathkumar Facebook page
news Sangam Drama Friday, October 02, 2015 - 18:54

With nominations being filed by various actors for the the impending elections of the South Indian Film Artists, or the Nadigar Sangam, tempers are rising in Tamil Nadu. And with Kamal Haasan now announcing his support for the 'Pandavar Ani' comprising Vishal, Nasser, Ponvanan, Karunas and Karthi, the incumbent camp of Nadigar Sangam President Sarathkumar with Radharavi, Radhika Sarathkumar, Shaam and Mumtaz is gearing up for a tough campaigning season before October 18 when elections are to be held.

You can read a detailed explainer about the entire controversy here.

Industry insiders have told us that the battle is close, and both sides are campaigning hard, holding hectic schedules and strategy meets.

Amidst the heat and dust of the Tamil film industry's newfound politicking we caught up with Sarathkumar for a telephonic interview in between the marathon meetings he has been having all day. Here is what he told us, excerpts.

How is his camp preparing for the elections? What is the strategy?

"This is not an Assembly election campaign. This is a society, this is like a family. I take pride in being a part of the Sangam. It is sad that things have come to this. But they have raised serious allegations against me. And I want to set it straight first.”

His side of the story

"When Vijayakanth took over the Nadigar Sangam, it was in debt of more than Rs. 4cr. Along with him, we worked hard to reduce the debt of the Sangam. We held shows in several countries and made the money to pay back debts. We brought it down to a little more than Rs. 1cr and then took bank loans to cover that also. We have worked really hard. There has been no wrongdoing."

What is the real motive of Vishal camp?

“I don’t know. If I knew the motive, I would tell you.”

Are they ego-headed?

“Of course they are. You cannot split the association over personal issues. Is it right to wash the dirty linen in public, and take the issue of some 3000-odd members to 7.5 crore people?  Yes, someone might have made a nasty statement against them. But is that the reason to split a united association? They want to ruin our name. They are biased against somebody, and they are splitting the industry for that.”

How has this impacted the industry?

“The entire unity between the artists is gone. Finished. They have destroyed the family.”

On Kamal Haasan supporting Vishal camp

“I have only one thing to tell Kamal. There is a Tamil saying, “Nandri marapadhu nandrandru nandralladhai andre marapadhu nandru” (meaning: Don’t forget the help one has once given at any cost, at the same time forget the hatred that you have on someone.)”

“I have personally worked hard for him. I have done yeoman service as the Sangam president. I have fought for him personally. He should ask his conscience. When the Uttama Villain controversy was on, I worked for 36 hours without sleep to make sure the movie released. Has he even thanked me for it? He must think about it.”

When did the idea of reconstruction of the Nadigar Sangam building start?

"When Vijayakanth resigned from the Sangam, we took over and we have been running the association smoothly. At the time we thought that we should do something to have regular revenue for the Sangam so we don't have to face debts ever again."

"That's when we thought about the idea of using the property for regular revenue for the association. Only SPI Cinemas (the company which owns Sathyam Cinemas) came forward. And we signed two contracts with them. According to the contracts, the Sangam would be making 24 lakhs every month. There was a lease agreement and a Built Operate Transfer agreement. The plan was to construct a new building and they will have it on lease for 29 years and 11 months."

But there have been allegations of misappropriation and autocratic decision making? Was the land sold?

"The land belongs to the Sangam. We didn't sell it to them, it was only leased. They are creating such rumors. They have no proof. Of course Sathyam will be making some money out of it, that's how Sangam will make money. We only need 1600ft area to operate. Rest can be put to use by others to make revenue for the Sangam."

Was due process followed?

“We followed all rules. We went to the executive committee, and they agreed. We even held an AGM and no one raised objections. Everyone including that Poochi Murugan who has filed the case against us, sat and clapped hands when the AGM ratified it. And just after the building was demolished, they filed a petition in the court."

"Did anyone come up with a better idea then? No one came forward. If they had a better idea they should have told us. I would have agreed. Why were they silent then?"

But when they raised a complaint, why was there no proper response?

“There is a right way to do everything. If they had come and spoken to me properly, I would have sat with them and discussed. But they started a campaign against me, took signatures from people on a petition. They leaked the news to the media with all sorts of wrong allegations against me. Why did they go to the press?”

“They started the war. Yes, it is a war that they have started. And it is getting murkier and murkier now.