2017 was a year of ups and downs for the Tamil film industry. It was a year that saw several controversies rocking Kollywood and not all of them had to do with cinema.
PETA vs Kollywood stars
In January, as the jallikattu protests broke out in the state, many stars including Kamal Haasan, Vijay and Suriya, came forward to register their protest against the ban on the traditional sport.
The animal rights organisation PETA came in the eye of the storm as the public turned their wrath towards it. When a tweet was posted from actor Trisha's Twitter page in support of PETA, all hell broke loose. Though the actor deleted the tweet and claimed that her account had been hacked, she was abused incessantly. The shoot of her film Garjanai was disrupted because of the protests.
Actor Vishal who has previously supported PETA causes also came under attack as an old video of his was circulated on social media. Vishal chose to get off Twitter.
Actor Suriya took the legal route after PETA suggested that Suriya was campaigning against them because of his upcoming film Singam 3. PETA later issued the actor an official apology.
Varalaxmi Sarathkumar blows the lid off sexual harassment
The abduction and sexual assault of a prominent woman actor in the Malayalam film industry in February sent rumbles across the country. Following this, actor Varalaxmi Sarathkumar opened up about the "casting couch" culture in the Tamil film industry and said that she too had been subjected to such harassment. She also said that she would start the Save Shakti initiative to promote gender equality and security in the industry.
Other women like Lekha Washington, Aishwarya Rajesh, Kasthuri, and Lakshmy Ramakrishnan also spoke about the issue and acknowledged that sexual harassment in the industry is real.
March was a tumultuous time for the Tamil film industry as the Twitter account of singer and RJ Suchitra put out bizarre allegations against several people. Even as there was a lot of confusion on what was going on and who was actually tweeting from the account, a series of photographs and nude videos allegedly of celebrities were released. The "leaks" went viral instantly, dragging in the mud the names of several celebrities.
Both Suchitra and her husband stand-up comedian Karthik claimed that the account had been hacked but no arrests were made in the case.
Bigg Boss buzz
The reality TV show generated a number of discussions and debates on social media ever since its premier in June. A relatively unknown starlet called Oviya became phenomenally popular in Tamil Nadu, beating the likes of actors like Harathi, Namitha, Vaiyapuri, Ganja Karuppu and Ganesh Venkatraman, who were all well-known to the audience.
'Jallikattu girl' Julie went from hero to villain as the show progressed and along with her, choreographer and director Gayathri Raguramm also came under a lot of flak. The show ran into several controversies but the one that really got people talking was when Oviya allegedly tried to commit suicide on the sets by drowning herself in the swimming pool.
While some say that this was a publicity stunt by Bigg Boss, others say the actor was under real stress in the house. She chose to quit the show soon after. The show was also criticised for its portrayal of the mentally ill.
Actor Kamal Haasan, who had been hinting that he would enter politics, dropped many a politically coloured statement using Bigg Boss as a platform.
AR Rahman's Wembley concert
After several Hindi speakers slammed the AR Rahman concert in the UK for having "too many Tamil songs" and staged a walk-out, there was much outraging on social media about the issue.
While the Hindi speakers who'd walked out protested that they'd been "misled" by the ads, several asked why they could not listen to Tamil songs when it was well-known that AR Rahman is from Tamil Nadu. The angst came not in the least because of the brewing anger against Hindi imposition in the south.
The storm led to AR Rahman deciding to have language-specific concerts for his fans in international concerts.
Actor Vijay's self-proclaimed fans went after a journalist who'd tweeted that she had walked out of one of his films. This led to a huge social media storm and started conversations on how fans issue rape and death threats against those who say something critical about their favourite star's films.
Singer Chinmayi also pitched in with her experiences in the past.
Following this, actor Ajith issued a notice clearly stating that he did not want anyone to abuse other people in his name and that he would take legal action if necessary. Actor Vijay too pitched in, asking fans not to abuse anyone in his name.
However, after reviewer Maran (known as 'Blue Sattai') ripped the Ajith film Vivegam, he was mercilessly abused and harassed by fans. Many industry insiders also lashed out against him for his review, adding fuel to the fire.
TR's behaviour at Vizhithiru meet
T Rajendar humiliated actor Dhanshika at a press meet for Vizhithiru after she forgot to thank him onstage. TR spoke to the actor derisively and reduced her to tears, even as other men onstage either laughed or did not intervene. Following this, Dhanshika spoke up about how lone women in the industry are treated poorly.
This led to Vishal, the President of the Producers' Council, issuing a statement condemning TR's behaviour. Since then, there have been attempts to rationalise TR's behaviour but Dhanshika has stuck to her guns and termed it insulting.
Strike against taxes
The Producers' Council called for a sudden strike from October 6, protesting against the imposition of local body taxes. The government and the Producers' Council finally came to an agreement about ticket prices and taxes.
However, the sudden strike led to resentment from directors whose films had been stalled. Actor Dhansika later spoke up about how small films were derailed while big ones like Mersal were given all the support.
Mersal vs BJP
Vijay's Deepavali release struck a raw nerve in the Bharatiya Janata Party. The jibes against demonetisation and GST in the film led to much outraging against the film. There was also opposition to a scene where the actor says the people should build a hospital instead of a temple in the village.
The BJP's H Raja made things worse by claiming that Vijay was attacking the BJP government only because he is a Christian. He tweeted the actor's voter ID and letterpad which had his full name 'Joseph Vijay'. The attempt to communalise the issue badly backfired, with H Raja becoming a subject for comedy on social media and otherwise.
Actor Vijay thanked everyone for their support and he wrote the letter on the same letterpad which had his name Joseph Vijay on it.
Ashok Kumar suicide
Producer Ashok Kumar, who is actor and director Sasikumar's cousin, committed suicide, alleging harassment from financier Anbu Chezhian. The death brought out skeletons from the cupboard and there were a few voices who spoke out against the politically powerful Anbu Chezhian. There were rumours about how the financier had sexually harassed a woman actor and held Kollywood in a vice-like grip.
However, several prominent members from the industry like Vetrimaaran and Kalaipuli S Thanu backed Anbu Chezhian.
Vishal's entry into politics
The bitter battle in the Nadigar Sangam and Producers' Council elections have earned Vishal enough enemies in Kollywood.
When the actor decided to contest in the RK Nagar bye-elections as an independent candidate, there was much grumbling and resentment from industry insiders. However, the brewing controversy ended in an anti-climax as the actor's nomination was rejected for allegedly forging signatures.
Vishal claimed that the whole thing was a sham but he was unable to contest in the elections.