Mani Ratnam’s Chekka Chivantha Vaanam, which stars Arvind Swami, Vijay Sethupathi, Simbu, Arun Vijay, Aishwarya Rajesh, Jyothika and Aditi Rao Hydari, has courted controversy after the team left behind a pile of trash at a shoot location in Chennai.
Environmental activists who work on the conservation of beaches in Chennai are fuming over the apathy shown by the production team near the ecologically sensitive Muttukadu estuary.
“This happened last week -- around the 24th -- at Kovalam, where we normally surf. When the shoot was on, the surfers were asked to go elsewhere. When they came back, they saw that there was a whole lot of glass on the beach. There were also broken bottles and an abandoned windshield. They found some empty cartridges and other blanks that had been fired. We don’t know what they shot. Vijay Sethupathi and Silambarasan were there,” says Madhu, who works with the Bay of Life Foundation. The foundation regularly conducts beach clean-ups.
Showkath, another member of the Foundation, messaged Vijay Sethupathi on Facebook and received a curt response which said that it will not happen again.
“We said we need help to clean the beach. But we didn’t get any response after that. Kids come to the beach. One of the surfers cut her toe. One of the girls who was cleaning cut her finger,” Madhu says.
“There are two things to note here. One is whenever these guys do a shoot, they take permission from cops and the local villagers. Villagers take money and say they will clean up. Villagers told us not to use the beach. We went in the evening after the shoot. Secondly, they have used glass. A car remained parked on the side, with its windshield broken and it is still on the beach. There were soda bottles on the beach too. Beachgoers come there and drink. We fight with them because they break the bottle into big pieces on the beach (instead of disposing it). But these were small pieces,” Showkath explains.
However, activists say this is not the first time that they are facing such an obstacle to keeping their beach clean. They allege that actor Vijay and director AR Murugadoss had shot in Kovalam too a few months ago.
“They had a huge set, erected on nearly half an acre of land. We told them since it is a 10-day shoot, there will be a lot of trash and they will have to clean it up. They agreed. They took five days to dismantle the set after the shoot. But they took back only what they could reuse. They left behind a lot of trash. The villagers didn’t bother, and neither did the cops,” Showkath says.
Cautioning about the ecological damage caused by leaving the trash behind, Showkath urges actors to use their platform to ensure that this doesn’t happen.
“This is the only estuary left in the city. All other rivers have dried up — the Cooum, Kosasthalaiyar. There are as many birds here as the Pallikaranai marsh. That’s why we got fed up. The idea is not to defame the actors. Actors and producers should take a stand and make sure the place is cleaned. They can at least have dustbins at the shooting spot.”
Madras Talkies could not be reached for a response.
UPDATE at 9:20 pm: After TNM published the story, Bay of Life Foundation reached out to us to inform that Mani Ratnam's team has promised to help clean up the beach along with the Foundation in due time.