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Beneath its glossy artistic and commercial exterior, cinema has an underbelly teeming with guile, deceit, behind-the-scenes intrigue and lack of scruples. Everyone associated with the world of glamour and glitz has his/her own tale of disappointments, failures, betrayals and so on — tales which most times go untold.  Tamil cinema’s funny man Yogi Babu seems to have become caught up in this dark, side of tinsel town.

His latest film, the soon-to-be-released Dhaadhaa has caught him on the wrong foot. In fact, the term ‘latest film’ is a misnomer for Dhaadhaa is one of his earlier films, long in the making which is finally set for release. The makers of the film are keen on cashing in on his current popularity and market value though it was made when the actor not much of a name to contend with.

Sensing the producer’s bid to exploit his present status and also his fans’ likely disappointment over Dhaadhaa and the possible downturn after its release, Yogi Babu took to social media to set the record straight. In a tweet on Nov. 28, the actor said Nithin Sathya was the hero of the film and he just played a second fiddle as the hero’s friend. The remarks sparked a furious response from producer Guinness Kishore, sensing a box office disaster.

It once happened to Superstar Rajinikanth too.  At a time when his popularity graph started going up, a Hindi film he had acted in was dubbed into Tamil with the title Latchathil Oruvan. Rajini  did not particularly like the move because feared it would wreak havoc with his all-powerful image in Kollywood.

Kishore countered the comedian during the release of the film’s album, saying whether Yogi Babu had acted in just four scenes or forty scenes will be known after the film’s release. He also threw down a gauntlet to the comedian, asking if the latter would give up acting if he was proved wrong, that is, if it was proved he had indeed acted in several scenes in the film.

The Yogi Babu imbroglio is not new to Tamil cinema. With cinema being more about business than a work of art, producers will go to any lengths to ensure good returns on their investment. If an actor hits a purple patch with a string of hits, producers scramble to dub his not-so-popular films in other languages into Tamil, indifferent to the impact of such films on the actor’s image and popularity.

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It once happened to Superstar Rajinikanth too.  At a time when his popularity graph started going up, attempts were made to dub a Hindi film into Tamil with the title of Latchathil Oruvan. Rajini did not appreciate the attempt as he feared the film, in which he was in a far from superstar role, would hurt his growing stature as an omnipotent and omnipresent hero.

Similarly, when matinee idol MGR or PuratchiThalaivar was reigning supreme in the Tamil cinema, a film that he had acted in several decades ago was revived. Posters proclaimed the film a ‘PuratchiThalaivar’ film. Ironically, the hero of the film, Ashok Kumar, based on the life of emperor Ashoka, was the original Tamil superstar, M.K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar or MKT, who had cast an irresistible spell on audiences with his melodiously mesmeric voice. In the film, MGR appeared in a few scenes. But as he grew in stature to point of being deified, fans did not mind having a re-look at his early films though they showed him in a poor light. The crowds turned up just to see how MGR looked.

At a time when MGR was reigning supreme in the Tamil tinsel town, one of his past films was released after about three decades with posters proclaiming the film as ‘PuratchiThalaivar’s film.’ The funny part was that the film Ashokkumar’s hero was actually the Tamil cinema’s first superstar M.K. Thyagaraja Bhagavathar and back in the day MGR was not the central character

But Yogi Babu is no MGR and the actor fears that the old film will hurt his present popularity. The controversy marred the Dhaadhaa audio release event, with no major film personalities or actors associated with the film present.  A feeling of resentment was expressed by a few speakers at the function where it was also disclosed that Yogi Babu was one of the two heroes of the film.  But the onlookers could not help asking why the comedian’s face alone figured in the first-look poster. A hint of how long the film has been in the making was evident by the reference to lyricist Na.Muthukumar in the poster. The lyricist passed away in 2016.

Yogi Babu made a foray into filmdom in 2009 through Vijay TV. He debuted in the film Yogi – the title later became an epithet to his name.  His face was identified in KakkaMuttai in 2015 and his career graph started rising with off beat hits Pariyerum Perumal and Kolamaavu Kokila in 2018.

Also Read: In Tamil cinema, body shaming makes for ‘great’ comedy

Films such as Dharma Prabhu, Gurkha etc… revolved around him alone.  The film Mandela made during the corona times earned him a good deal of appreciation from all viewers. Having acted with leading actors Rajini, Vijay, Ajith, Dhanush, Jayam Ravi and Sivakarthikeyan, he made an endearingly elegant performance in the latest small budget film-turned-blockbuster Love Today.  Now news is doing the rounds that he is set to write and direct his own film.

Against this background, it is not surprising that he feels one of his earlier films that he had acted in when he was struggling to make ends meet will hurt his hard-earned image and name. But at the same time, the producer concerned can hardly be blamed for hoping to cash-in on Yogi’s present brand value. The buzz about a ‘new’ Yogi babu film could cut both ways. Only viewers can decide on the success of the film.

Yogi Babu fears that his old film seeing the light only now will fly in the face of his present-day popularity achieved, of late, thanks to his back-to-back runaway successes

Meanwhile while producer Kishore is said to have lodged a complaint with the Producers’ Association against Yogi Babu, one DuraiRajan has moved the Madras High Court, seeking a stay on Dhaadhaa’s release. Rajan has alleged that Kishore is trying to release the film with a different title which was actually his own film Mani.  The case has been adjourned to December 23.

Kollywood watchers are keenly following this latest controversy and how Yogi Babu handles it.


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