A masked man with a keyboard pointed at you, as if he's going to fire some shots straight through the screen. That's the logo of Mystic Tamil, inspired by Anonymous, the global hacker group. The Facebook page is infamous for its merciless trolling of Tamil cinema actors. With a following of over 43K, the page regularly takes jibes at Tamil films, the culture of extreme hero worship prevalent in the state, and the demi-gods of Kollywood. The posts are far from polite, can get abusive, and are often politically incorrect – a fact the mysterious page admin readily admits to in his first ever interview.
"I'm not the original creator of the page. The founder, known as Annan Mystic, created the page to discuss movies, Tamil history, and more mature content. I was just a follower. Then one day, he made a request for a new admin, I threw my hat in, got the job, and then, well, things got out of hand. Annan Mystic is no longer associated with the page. We're still friends and he repeatedly tells me how disgusted and disappointed he is with me," he says, with his characteristic black humour.
Mystic Tamil (MT) currently lives in the UK, working at a job that he says would surprise people if they have gone through his page. He identifies as an Eelam Tamil who was born in Jaffna, and says he went to the UK when he was just 11.
The page spares none when it comes to trolling – including children (he calls out kids he believes are faking earnestness) – and has a lot of haters and critics as a consequence.
"I don't ignore hate and criticism. Ok, I tell a lie. I ignore some criticism and hate. When some nerd is moaning about the page not being funny, or not dANk, or me recycling one of my old posts, I generally just block and ignore them. If you don't like the page move on, stop lurking. However, when someone has reached out to me because they feel one of my posts is sexist, elitist, or homophobic etc, I listen to their point of view and try to adapt. Unfortunately, due to my dark sense of humour this is difficult, there are a lot of slip-ups. I grew up in an environment where my dark sense of humour was the norm and I can understand why others would be irked by it. However, I am working on it and Rome wasn't built in a day," he says.
MT wasn't always so woke though. There was a time when the page routinely carried sexist content in an attempt to sound funny. But this is something he has consciously reduced after receiving feedback from his female followers, he says.
"In the early days, I had a lot of sexist content but thanks to the feedback from our female followers, I have toned this down. Also, recently, I've decided to end the Mano-Ashwin series since I accept it was homophobic. Again, thanks to several LGBTQ MT followers, who reached out and educated me," he says.
The series trolled director and actor Manobala, characterising him as a gay man, and cricketer Ashwin, as an innocent who doesn't understand his predatory behaviour. It was supposedly a parody on the relationship between MT's cousin and his mridangam master, whom everyone but the cousin used to believe was a closet gay man since the latter had a wife in India but would never meet her.
"I was 15 and dumber then," MT says now.
But though he has reduced sexist and homophobic content, MT is quite firm on not cutting any slack for the male heroes, many of whom he body-shames in the posts quite badly.
"Kollywood actors take themselves too seriously and most are fake as hell. They need to be brought down a peg or two. Yeah, I body-shame them, but they body-shame people in their movies. Two wrongs don't make a right, but I don't care. I can't stand them," he says.
And their fans, too, he says, deserve to be shamed for "hanging from a crane or screaming and spraying milk at a 100ft cardboard cutout of Vijay".
Followers of MT would be familiar with his vocabulary. A 'kanni' is an extreme fan of an actor, while 'yer-na' is "someone who is into social awareness, but only for social promotion." Another term he commonly uses is 'Big Time Nadippu' to refer to people who are being pseudo.
"True story, I once overheard a group of Tamil school kids roast a friend of theirs for owning a bag with a picture of Ajith on it. They were calling him 'kanni', it brought a tear to my eye. The future is bright," he says.
And then there are his 'meenachi' stories, about women who are the female version of 'kanni' – over-enthusiastic and annoying.
"Most of my content is autobiographical, including meenachi stories. I'm drawn to strong-minded, opinionated and independent women. Women who don't take crap from anyone. All those relationships have ended because I have the same characteristics (laughs). Yet, I'm still drawn to them. My chitappa is the same and he has been married four times. I hope my future isn't like his though," he says.
MT himself does not take the Facebook page seriously, calling it a "timepass". He watches Tamil films but doesn't believe in paying to watch them.
"For me, writing down my random thoughts and seeing people's reactions to them (positive and negative) is incredibly therapeutic. If I had only two people following me, I'd still be posting the same stuff. I don't force or ask anyone to follow the page," he says.
But people from the Tamil film industry and their fans definitely don't see it as harmless trolling. According to MT, actor Prashanth, about whom he's made several posts, repeatedly reports them.
"He actually follows the page and repeatedly reports my posts about him. I'm forced to refer to him as the Failed Actor now. He even once threatened legal action," claims MT, "I have also received death threats. Kannis have tracked down my friends and family on Facebook and trolled them. One guy even stole the photo of my two-year-old niece and made a meme just because I called Ajith fat. It's all fun and games. You live by the sword, you'll die by it. I think that's the saying.”
However, though he trolls Ajith among other actors, MT adds that he has a "slowly growing respect" for him.
"I'm convinced he hates his fans and have shared numerous compelling evidences to support this on the page," he adds.
Ask him about the pinned post on Balasegaram Kandiah aka Balraj, and MT says, "Balraj is an Eelam Tamil legend and war hero. However, I can't take credit for that post, it was written by the first admin."
MT receives a fair amount of abuse from followers who don't necessarily approve of his posts. Among them is the word "Agadi", which means refugee.
"The taunting about me being an Eelam Tamil doesn't faze me. I grew up in Eelam and although I wasn't born during the early stages of the war, and left Jaffna before the 2009 genocide, I have seen what impact it has had on family and friends who didn't. Several members of my family served and died fighting, many were killed in bomb blasts etc. Then when I came to the UK, I experienced racism from Whites and Indians (non-Tamils). So yeah, some butthurt Chennai Tamil guy calling me 'Agadi' means nothing," he says.