The Tamil industry is already riddled with tensions between producers, Digital Service Providers (DSPs) and theatre owners over the ongoing strike in relation to the Virtual Print fee (VPF). The Tamil Nadu Producers Council had initially seemed united with even directors supporting their fight against paying the fee to DSPs.
Agreement in the form of silence prevailed as the TFPC announced that it will no longer bear costs for usage of digital projectors.
To augment this fight, they first announced that there will be no new releases in the state from March 3. And next, in an effort to intensify its agitation, it was announced that all operation pertaining to even shooting of Tamil films will have to stop from March 16.
However, despite this proposed total shutdown the shooting, actor Vijayâ€™s untitled next venture with director A.R. Murugadoss went ahead as planned. The film was shot at Victoria House in Chennai and resulted in criticism of TFPCâ€™s preferential treatment for actors.
Amongst the first to question the permission granted was Producer J Satish Kumar, who took to Twitter to say, "Actor #Vijayâ€˜s shooting is happening now at Victoria Hall. Where is our unity? How can our council give special permission? I strongly oppose this decision. Donâ€™t split up. When more than lakhs of people (day to day workers) without jobs, it's not fair to let a few people work and make others starve. Biggies like Actor Vijay should not encourage this, instead should put his efforts to solve our needs. That's the love, care and justice to our film industry."
When TNM asked TFPC President Vishal about the permission given, he denied that any special favours were granted. "Four film units had requested for permission. We had initially said no, but after considering the situation we let them go ahead because they had planned shoots and it would have been costly to cancel them. In Vijay's movie for instance, they had flown in stunt men from Hyderabad and they were not available after this for the next three months. So we told them they can shoot," he says.
While actor Siddarth refused to comment on the matter of the VPF strike, he did say on Twitter that, "Every single film is an equal challenge in today's brutal cinema marketplace. If these special permissions to shoot are given to one, please give them to all producers. We are all the same. In the absence of equality and unity, god save us. This TN govt. does not and will not care about cinema. They have proved that for a decade. It will take a miracle for them to suddenly turn around and change that. Revamping the industry is needed, but at what cost? Let the industry show unity first. Then change will follow."
The producer's council even issued a statement to explain their decision regarding the other three films.
"Weâ€™d received letters from four people and on that basis, permission had been given. Samuthirakani sir said he has an outdoor schedule (for Nadodigal 2) and is required to shoot on March 23 and 24. Similarly, another production house, 18th Cross Pictures, had said that theyâ€™ve erected a set on the ECR and they wanted an extension. They stopped shooting on March 16 and then requested for an extension. Anto Joseph also submitted a letter, stating he needed to shoot for a day because heâ€™d got permission in Delhi," said SS Durairaj (one of the EC members of TFPC) to the media.
But even producers and directors who have so far offered unquestioning support to the strike, have now raised doubts.
"It is true that if we give 4 people permission based on letter submitted, then everybody can submit letters. We should stay united in this matter. But there is lack of clarity on how this happened," a director of a a yet-to-be-released film told TNM. "We will have to ask the Producer's council how exactly this happened."
When asked about the alleged lack of unity in producer's council, Vishal says, "There is enough solidarity. We can't do much if certain members perceive the issue in this manner."