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The Nadigar Sangam elections could beat the drama in any movie. If the Sangam wants to make a film to fund the construction of its building, it doesn’t have to look far for a story. Its own elections would make riveting screenplay.

Tamils love actors and elections. The Nadigar Sangam election combined both their loves.

Though around for 70 years, the Sangam has been receiving much attention only recently due to media coverage.

For 24/7 TV and online media, the Nadigar Sangam election was perfect fodder. They covered it wall-to-wall, or rather screen-to-screen.

An actor association was originally started by Somasundaran who was in Nawab Rajamanickam Pillai’s theatre group to ensure theatre actors got their due wages. The association stepped into the cinema era when in 1952, the South Indian Nadigar Sangam was started with producer K Subramanian serving as its first elected head. NS Krishnan, MGR, Sivaji and Vijayakanth have served the Sangam as office-bearers at various times.

Sarath Kumar had the backing of the then ruling AIADMK. Vishal and present DMK MLA Udayanidhi Stalin were collegemates and friends. Further, Vishal had the backing of Kamal Haasan whose friendship with Nasser is well known. Though not overtly political, the clash certainly had a political backdrop.

The election of office-bearers happens every three years. In 2015, the election received much publicity and drew the attention of the people. The Nadigar Sangam president was actor Sarathkumar and general secretary was Radha Ravi who faced many allegations. A fiver front was formed, christened Pandavar Ani, to take them on. Nasser sought to be the president, Vishal the secretary, and Karthi, treasurer. Personal attacks mounted during the campaign.

Sarath Kumar had the backing of the then ruling AIADMK. Vishal and present DMK MLA Udayanidhi Stalin were collegemates and friends. Further, Vishal had the backing of Kamal Haasan whose friendship with Nasser is well known. Though not overtly political, the clash certainly had a political backdrop. The question then was whether the incumbents with the backing of the AIADMK would win or whether the challengers will triumph.

When results came out, it showed that Sarath Kumar’s team had lost in a big way. The Pandavar Ani got all the office-bearer positions. The newly elected team said a focus will be the construction of the Nadigar Sangam building. The contracts for the building drawn up by the previous team were cancelled. The new regime decided that the funds necessary for the construction would be raised through shows and producing films. Ishari Ganesh was slotted produce this film. Vishal was supposed to act in it. But proper efforts were not put in. No film was made.  The talk was that Ishari Ganesh and Vishal had a falling apart. Kutti Padmini and others left the Pandavar Ani after a falling out with Vishal over putting up shows.

The discontented got together. With the backing of Ishari Ganesh, a new front named after theater pioneer Sankaradas Swamigal was formed. The AIADMK, then in power, supported the insurgents. K Bhagyaraj joined the front.

The tenure of the Pandavar Ani office-bearers ended in 2018. But the election was postponed by six months. The elections were finally held on June 23, 2019.

Despite film personalities dominating the scene, the results of Nadigar Sangam elections are decided by theater actors who often vote through postal ballot. Though cash distribution to voters as bribes is frowned upon, it is a feature of elections in our state. The Nadigar Sangam election was no exception.

Pandavar Ani and Sankaradas Ani headed by Bhagyaraj contested the elections. Nasser clashed with Bhagyaraj for president post. General secretary was a toss up between Vishal and Ishari Ganesh while Karthi and Prashanth challenged each other for treasurer. For deputy president post, Karunaas and Poochi Murugan of Pandavar Ani and Kutti Padmini and A L Udaya of Sankaradas Ani were the contenders.

Despite film personalities dominating the scene, the results of Nadigar Sangam elections are decided by theater actors who often vote through postal ballot. Though cash distribution to voters as bribes is frowned upon, it is a feature of elections in our state. The Nadigar Sangam election was no exception. It appears both sides did this. Bhagyaraj went to court to annul the results of the election in these circumstances. As courts were deciding on the issue, the votes were carefully stored away in the locker of a bank.

The Nasser group relentlessly fought in the courts to prove the election was conducted as per norms and got the approval to count the votes. Three years later, on March 20 the votes were counted. The results showed that the Nasser group had won the elections. Nasser got 647 votes more than Bhagyaraj, bagging a total of 1701 votes. Vishal got 1,720 votes, 688 more than Ganesh. Karthi got more votes and won by a bigger margin than Prashanth. Karunaas and Poochi Murugan were elected vice presidents. The Pandavar Ani had swept the Nadigar Sangam elections.

Vishal has promised that the construction works for the Nadigar Sangam building will restart. Ordinary members of the Sangam are hoping the building gets constructed finally and the Sangam stands to gain from it so it can support actors during times of distress. There is still time and hope for Pandavar Ani that it will stay true to its promises. The goodwill is still there, for now.


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