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Actor Vijay’s film Varisu has run into a couple of political problems even before its Pongal release — one interstate and the other within his own film fraternity in which real-life politicians hold the strings.
As the Telugu festival Makar Sankranti falls on the same day as Tamils’ Pongal, Vijay’s Varisu which is scheduled to release on the festival day has run into a cultural barrier of sorts. Telugu film producers have appealed for only films originally produced in Telugu to be released on festival days in the Telugu states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana; and Tamil nationalist politicians are taking up the cudgels on behalf of Kollywood saying they would retaliate similarly in Tamil Nadu.
While both the producer/distributor and director of Vijay’s Varisu are well-known Telugus Dil Raju and Vamshi Paidipally respectively, and the film itself is being dubbed in Telugu — titled Varasudu in Telugu — it doesn’t quite make the cut.
One reason for this is that the release of Vijay’s Varisu/Varasudu is headed for a clash with two highly-anticipated original Telugu releases — Chiranjeevi’s Waltair Veerayya and Balakrishna’s Veera Simha Reddy — in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. While Varisu/Varasadu producer Dil Raju wants to ensure a big release for his film in the Telugu states, the Telugu Film Producers’ Council thinks it would undercut the Telugu films’ chances of having a good opening. They also point out that Dil Raju himself had agreed in 2019 that original Telugu films should be given a free run during Sankranti and Dussehra, and not have to compete with other language films dubbed in Telugu.
Telugu film producers have appealed for only films originally produced in Telugu to be released on festival days in the Telugu states of Andhra Pradesh and Telangana; and Tamil nationalist politicians are taking up the cudgels on behalf of Kollywood saying they would retaliate similarly in Tamil Nadu
Tamil nationalist political parties have taken offence to this stand of the Telugu Producers’ Council. Thamizhaga Vazhvurimai Katchi leader and MLA T Velmurugan called it discrimination against Tamil movies in Andhra Pradesh and Telangana. “This is not a problem faced by actor Vijay but an attempt to block the screening of Tamil movies in theatres of Andhra and Telangana,” he said, attempting to shift the issue from the cultural to the political arena. “In Tamil Nadu, no restriction or discrimination is shown to films of other languages like Telugu, Malayalam and Kannada. It is often said that the arts have no language or race, a statement that we still believe,” he asserted.
Velmurugan, who has been at the forefront of agitations on several issues, including the Cauvery dispute with Karnataka, warned that films of other languages would not be screened in Tamil Nadu if the Telugu producers refused to withdraw their decision against Tamil films.
Naam Thamizhar party leader P Seeman has also issued a similar warning. He pointed out that several Telugu films are being released in Tamil Nadu without any restriction. When films like Bahubali, RRR, Pushpa (all Telugu) and KGF (Kannada) were released in Tamil Nadu, theatres were allocated based only on the likely audience reception; they were not discriminated against based on the language, he said.
Seeman also pointed out that the film artistes’ association in Tamil Nadu calls itself the ‘South Indian Film Artistes Association’, and said that the decision of the Telugu producers should serve as a lesson to those in Tamil Nadu who persist with the idea of a south Indian film fraternity.
Another kind of political trouble that Vijay’s film Varisu finds itself in involves the ruling party DMK’s youth wing secretary Udhayanidhi Stalin, who is himself an actor and runs the major production/distribution house Red Giant Movies.
Opponents of the ruling party DMK have accused Udhayanidhi Stalin of trying to curb Vijay’s growth and success by buying up the distribution rights of the star’s movies and then restricting it to a smaller number of screens.
When films like Bahubali, RRR, Pushpa (all Telugu) and KGF (Kannada) were released in Tamil Nadu, theatres were allocated based only on the likely audience reception; they were not discriminated against based on the language
Former minister Kadambur C Raju alleged that Udhayanidhi has been controlling the Tamil film industry monopolising the distribution of the films of mega stars like Vijay. Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam party organ ‘Namadhu MGR’ has also slammed Udhayanidhi for blocking the growth of Vijay, who seems to have political aspirations.
In a report that did not cite any sources, the publication alleged that Udhayanidhi had limited the number of theatres in which Vijay’s Varisu would be screened, and that the star himself had brought up this issue with his fans at a meeting on November 20. The report said that Vijay also discussed the possibility of his Vijay People’s Movement contesting the 2024 parliamentary elections against the DMK.
It is not known if Udhayanidhi has indeed obtained the distribution rights of Varisu, but a significant question arises as to why he would want to reduce his own profit by restricting the number of theatres for a movie’s release if he possesses the distribution rights.
However, when asked about the possible blocking of Varisu in Andhra and Telangana, Udhayanidhi refused to say anything on the subject. He also did not give an answer when asked if he would raise his voice for the release of Tamil films in the neighbouring states.
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