A bitter battle in the Tamil Nadu Film Producers Council that began nearly six months ago culminated on Sunday, with actor Vishal being elected to the post of President.
His victory, however, is a first for the Tamil film industry. Vishal will not only control the all-powerful Producers’ Council but is also the Secretary of the actors’ body, Nadigar Sangam. But will the concentration of power in one person’s hands do more harm than good for Kollywood?
Explaining the importance of the Council, Srinivasa Ramanujam and Vishal Menon note in The Hindu that TFPC, which was established in 1979, is vital in ensuring the completion and release of a film. Being an office bearer allows close proximity to the powers that be in government, which decides on tax benefits for films.
Vishal had run his election campaign on the platform of eliminating piracy, bringing down the costs of producing films and seeking subsidies from the state government.
Vishal and team, which includes actor-producer Prakash Raj and director-producer Gautham Menon, swept the April 2 elections in Chennai, with the exception of the Secretary’s post.
Old guard versus the new
Weighing in on Vishal’s victory, an actor told TNM, “He's setting himself up to work more than anyone else here. Can he change the way things are done? Absolutely. The old guard was so scary bad. His victory is definitely good considering what it was.”
The tussle with the “old guard” comprising of the then TFPC President Kalaipuli S Thanu, who has produced many big banner films including Rajinikanth’s Kabali and Vijay’s Theri, flared up after Vishal’s interview with a Tamil magazine last August. The actor had criticised the functioning of the Council, stating that its office bearers had failed to take any measures to tackle the problem of piracy and the issue of satellite rights. For his criticism, Vishal was slapped with a suspension by the Council, which was eventually revoked after he moved court.
An industry insider, who also spoke to TNM on the condition of anonymity, says, “These people who came together all have had problems with the old guard of the Producer’s Council. This is the reason why they decided to contest. Now that they have won, it remains to be seen if they can work well.”
“It won’t be an easy job,” says a producer. “There are many problems that the Producer’s Council has to deal with, even the Nadigar Sangam. There have been times when association members have stayed here overnight trying to solve problems. Can these new members do that?” he asks.
For instance, producers of Linga, Rajinikanth’s 2014 film, which bombed in the box-office, ran into trouble after distributors demanded compensation for the heavy losses they suffered. The matter, which made headlines given that Rajinikanth’s name was attached to the project, was eventually settled following the intervention of the Council. Like Linga, a number of Tamil films have run into trouble just ahead of their release. Bodies like the Nadigar Sangam and TFPC mediate to ensure the film can go ahead without further delay.
Admitting that Vishal has grown more powerful in K-town overnight, a young actor who spoke to TNM, sounds optimistic about his victory, “He's very powerful on paper but the films will need to run and he will need to get better at what he does. I think it's a good starting point. Let's see. Things could really get better from here.”
Explaining the significance of Vishal’s victory for the film industry, the actor says, “He just took the corruption and cheap money games out of the equation. Vishal’s not corrupt that's for sure. He likes the power and he should. He's young considering what he's achieved. I'm very bullish.”
While the mood is largely optimistic about Vishal and team, the industry insider says, “Yes, everyone is hopeful of a change. But this won’t be easy. Previous heads had a strong control over the industry and by whatever means they employed, they ensured that people listened to them. Will everyone listen to the new team? They need to ensure that,” he said.
One of the biggest fears for those that belong to the old guard is the “interference” of actors in the Council that was once solely the domain of producers. R Radhakrishnan, who lost to Vishal, had told The Hindu ahead of the elections, “In the past too, actors such as MGR, Sivaji Ganesan, Vijayakanth, Sarath Kumar and Radharavi have not meddled with the affairs of the Producers Council. But it looks like Vishal has political ambitions, and wants to create some kind of commotion every time an election takes place.”
Another big challenge for the new team of the Producer’s Council is in maintaining cordial relations with the ruling government. “Diplomacy is the key here. It is important to have good relations with the government or most problems cannot be solved,” pointed out the industry source.