RJ Balaji’s LKG is due for release on February 22. The film is a political satire, and from the promos it is clear that it will go after the state government and the centre, no holds barred.
The Tamil film industry has always been closely linked to politics, with several leaders in the state emerging from cinema. While aspiring politicians have cemented their image through messaging in their films, cinema has also been a medium that voices the angst of the public against the government.
In recent times, after Jayalalithaa passed away when in office, Tamil films have increasingly reflected the public anger against the state government and the centre. The people are fed up of the high drama and unabashed infighting within the AIADMK following their leader’s death. The centre, meanwhile, has been criticised for being indifferent to the state’s interests.
It is to be noted that when Jayalalithaa was in power, she was infamous for her clampdown on criticism. Her death and the subsequent chaos in the state have prompted filmmakers to question the political leadership loudly.
Here’s a look at films, upcoming and released, which take a potshot at the government.
LKG: The trailer of the film shows a TN politician, played by RJ Balaji, aspiring to move to national politics. From gau rakshaks to spending Rs 3,000 crore on a statue and doing ‘fitness’ videos, the trailer obviously satirises the Modi-led BJP government at the centre. But TN politicians take a hit, too. Sellur Raja’s thermocol fiasco, Kamal’s attempt to use Bigg Boss Tamil as a political plank, Vishal’s efforts to jump into politics, and the general trend of cinema stars starting political parties all find mention. Directed by Prabhu, the film has Priya Anand playing the female lead.
Gypsy: The teaser of Joker director Raju Murugan’s next, Gypsy, suggested that the film will be political in nature. The makers followed it up with the release of the song ‘Very Very Bad’, which featured several prominent social and political activists from the state, along with lead actor Jiiva and music director Santhosh Narayan. The song questioned the arrest of several activists for questioning the government on various infrastructure projects and other issues.
Petta: Produced by Sun Pictures and directed by Karthik Subbaraj, Petta had Rajinikanth playing the lead. The actor, who has taken the plunge into politics, made a few references to how things stood in the state, in the guise of resolving issues in the canteen of the college where he works as hostel warden. He also took a potshot at Jayalalithaa’s famous war cry “Seiveergala!”, saying that it wasn’t enough to ask the question but that his supporters had to do it. The film also had the antagonist (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) heading a saffron party, the cadre of which indulges in moral policing for Valentine’s Day and cow protection.
Sarkar: Also produced by Sun Pictures, Vijay’s Deepavali release directed by AR Murugadoss was about an NRI who decides to take on the politicians in the state after someone casts his vote. The film soon ran into controversy because of its references to real life political incidents in the state. Moreover, the antagonist, played by Varalaxmi Sarathkumar, was called Komalavalli, which is believed to be Jayalalithaa’s real name.
NOTA: Anand Shankar’s NOTA was Vijay Deverakonda’s debut in Tamil. The film was even bolder than Sarkar in depicting real life political incidents in Tamil Nadu. From how the state government mismanaged the 2015 floods (including holding up relief work in order to paste stickers) to making fun of the Jayalalithaa statue fiasco, resort politics and reminding the audience about the 2000 Dharmapuri bus burning incident, the film had several references. However, it did not gain the notoriety that Sarkar later did.
Kaala: Pa Ranjith’s second Rajinikanth film was a direct attack on saffron politics. Turning the Ramayana on its head, the film made a strong statement against Hindutva and established how intertwined private property, gender and caste are. While the film was set in Mumbai and mostly spoke of saffron parties, in the end, it shifts to Tamil Nadu to suggest that a similar revolution was beginning in the state. And in the background is a hoarding with the name ‘H Jara’, a reference to the BJP’s National Secretary who is from Tamil Nadu.
Tamizh Padam 2: CS Amudhan’s sequel to the first parody film took on several mainstream cinema tropes. However, it also parodied politicians in the state. From the whole ‘Dharmayudham’ drama at the Marina to Sasikala’s sabadham, and even references to a certain 'Thatha’, the film took digs at the state of Tamil Nadu’s politics.
Irumbuthirai: PS Mithran’s action film with Vishal in the lead questioned several central government policies such as Aadhaar, demonetisation and GST. The film is about an army man who gets sucked into the digital world and learns about data theft.
Mersal: Like Sarkar, Vijay’s 2017 film also released for Deepavali. And was controversial. However, it was the BJP which objected to Mersal for dialogues on demonetisation, GST, and building a hospital in place of a temple. The BJP’s National Secretary H Raja pointed out that Vijay’s full name was Joseph Vijay and claimed that it was because of this that he was against the BJP. Raja’s claims, however, backfired badly with Vijay receiving the support of the public and the media alike.
Apart from these films, Tamil cinema has also come up with a new stock character – a man eating mixture all the time. The ‘mixture man’ is a jibe at the current deputy CM of Tamil Nadu, O Panneerselvam, who was widely criticised for being a puppet at the time of the jallikattu protests. Films like Seethakaathi and Junga
Selvaraghavan's upcoming film NGK, starring Suriya in the lead, is about a man entering politics to clean up the system and is expected to attack the current political leadership. Kamal Haasan, who has floated his own political party, will be acting in Shankar's Indian 2. The first film was about an old freedom fighter who fights corruption and the sequel is expected to be even more directly critical.