by D.B.S. Jeyaraj
The South Indian state of Tamil Nadu has a robust Film industry. From it’s nascent stages ,film- making in the state has been inclusive in nature. Artistes and technicians from various parts of India have worked and continue to work in Tamil films. Many non –Tamils employed in the film sector have chosen to live in Chennai.
Asin Thottumkal looks up during a news conference, about her new film “Ready” which is being shot in Sri Lanka, in Colombo June 30, 2010.~ Reuters pic
Sri Lanka’s film industry too has had historical links with Tamil Nadu. The first Sinhala film produced by SM Nayagam a Tamil was shot in Madras as Chennai was known earlier. Several other Sinhala films in the forties and fifties were made in India.
Several South Indian artistes were involved with Sinhala films then. The veteran director P. Neelakandan, music composer Vedha, Playback singers like AM Rajah, Jikki ,Ranee and Jamunarani have all left their imprint on Sinhala films.
Movie: Wana Mohini. Singers: H. R. Jothipala and Jamuna Rani
An interesting aspect of this Madras-Ceylon collaboration was the record created by Indian film producer-director Sri Ramulu Naidu in 1954. Naidu the owner of Pakshirajah studio in Coimbatore produced the block buster “Malaikallan” starring MGR and Bhanumathy that year. It was adapted from the Novel written by the state’s poet laureate Namakkal Ramalingampillai.
What was remarkable is that Naidu went on to make and re-make the Tamil film in five more languages. Each version was a commercial success. This six film phenomenon has not been replicated by anyone so far.
The Telugu film was “Aggi Ramudu”; the Malayalam version “Taskara Veeran”; in Kannada it was “Bettada Kalla”; the Hindi movie was “Azad”. Now guess in which language the sixth film was made? Sinhala! The film was named “Soorasena”.
I do not know who acted in the film but the music was composed by SM Subbiah Naidu. Among the songs were “athana methane” by Jamuna Rani, “Manaram Ranguman” by Jamuna Rani and Ranee. I believe the Sinhala singer duo Lata and Dharmadasa Walpola sang “Aalokey Alokey” and “Ananda Shreeya” for “Soorasena”.
This phase came to an end from the early sixties. Exchange control procedures being tightened was a restraint. Costs of production in Tamil Nadu escalated. More importantly Sinhala cinema had its tryst with destiny after Lester’s “Rekawa”. Making films in India went out of fashion. Sinhala cinema acquired an indigenous flavour and came into its own.
When the economy was liberalised and exchange control procedures relaxed after the advent of the UNP government in 1977 a new phase began. Indo-Lanka joint ventures flourished.Several actors and actresses like Malini Fonseka (Pilot Premnath) Gamini Fonseka (Neelakkadalin Orathiley) Vijaya Kumaratunga (Nankooram) Geetha Kumarasinghe (Mohanappunnagai) have acted in Tamil films.
Who is the black sheep – HR Jothipala ~ Sinhala – dubbed film: Pilot Premnath (1985)
Currently Pooja Umashankar acts in both Sinhala and Tamil films.She is of Indo- Lanka parentage with a Sinhala mother and Kannadiga father. Sri Lankan beauty queen Jacqueline Fernandez made her debut in Hindi films by playing the heroine opposite Riteish Deshmukh in “Aladin”.
Several Tamils from Sri Lanka too have worked in the Indian Tamil film industry. The reputed cinematographer–director Balu Mahendra is from Batticaloa. The producer – director–story and screenplay writer VC Kuganathan is from Jaffna. Others like “Ceylon” Vijayendran, AE Manoharan and Ceylon Chinnaiah have also made their mark in Tamil Nadu films. In earlier times Thavamani Devi from Jaffna dazzled Tamil film fans. Her topless female Tarzan role in “Vanamohini” remains unforgettable.
There are other historical links too. The well –known actor and former Tamil Nadu chief minister MG Ramachandran (MGR) was born in Kandy. The comedian Superstar JP Chandrababu lived for many years in Colombo and was an alumni of St.Josephs College. The actress cum producer Radhika and her actress sister Nirosha are daughters of famous Tamil actor MR. Radha. Their mother was from Wennappuwa. The actress Sujatha lived for many years in Galle where her father was teaching. She speaks fluent Sinhala. The music composer L. Vaidyanathan was born in Arali when his father the Violin Maestro was teaching carnatic music at Jaffna College.
It could be seen therefore that a historical connection existed and continues to exist between Sri Lanka and the Tamil Nadu film industry. There was a time before 1983 when the Sinhala film industry was all –embracing with multi-ethnic participation. The Tamil film industry to its credit continues to be inclusive with multi – ethnic , multi-religious participation.
This idyllic state of affairs is facing some upheaval in recent times. The serpent in the name of politics is invading the garden of Eden. The powerful factor causing this is the impact of Sri Lanka’s ethnic crisis or the Tamil problem.
Politics is not something new to Tamil filmdom. Several actors and actresses like MGR, Sivaji Ganesan, SSR (SS Rajendran) KR Ramasamy, TV Narayanaswamy,K. Bhagyaraj,Ramarajan,Sarathkumar,Vijaykanth, Karthik, SS Chandran, Radharavi,Vaigai Chandrasekharan, Cho, SV Shekhar,Napoleon, VN Janaki, Jayalalitha, Padmini, Vyjayanthimala, Jeyachitra, Theepa etc have engaged in politics with at least three becoming chief ministers.
Others like CN Annadurai, M.Karunanidhi, “Murasoli” Maran, Nanjil Manoharan, AVP Asaithamby, have been script writers. Politicians like Kovai Chezhiyan, Rama Arangannal, RM Veerappan have been film producers.
It is however important to note that these cine artistes while engaging in politics did not politicise the film industry. In fact they tried hard to prevent their politics affecting the film industry. On numerous occasions these actors and producers sank political differences to rally on behalf of the film industry.
Currently there are three important political party leaders in Tamil Nadu with a cinematic background. One is Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham (DMK) leader and Chief minister Karunanidhi. The other is All-India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagham (AIADMK) leader Jayalalitha.The third is Desiya Mutpokku Dravida Kazhagham (DMDK) leader Vijaykanth.
While their political rivalry does cause waves the film industry is not affected by this on a large-scale though individual film artistes do flock around these leaders .The industry is not politicised by this brand of politics.
There are however two tendencies within the Tamil film industry that are politicising it on a large scale and causing ethnic divisions. One is the mobilising of the film sector for political causes affecting the state. One such instance is the agitation against the Karnataka state over sharing of Cauvery river waters.
All the film artistes in the state are expected to participate in these activities. Those who do not are vilified as anti – Tamil. Woe unto those who are from Karnataka state or from the Brahmin caste. They have to be extra-careful in not “offending” these abrasive sentiments expressed in the name of Tamil nationalism.
The second and perhaps more potent source of politicisation and division is the Sri Lankan Tamil issue. On a broader political level the Lankan Tamil issue has been hijacked by pro-LTTE, pro – Eezham, minor politicians like Pazha. Nedumaran and Vaiko (V.Gopalaswamy). A vociferous minority hogs the megaphone and engages in actions that are detrimental to Tamil Nadu-Sri Lanka relations.
This tendency has now pervaded the film industry too. Just as in the political sphere, a short-sighted, selfish group has assumed the leadership of this type of politics in the cinematic sphere. As a result a virulent form of politicisation is imposed on the film industry. An extremist agenda is set by an active minority and the silent majority is compelled to fall in line or face the threat of being ostracised.Politicisation encompasses the entire industry in this manner.
The proponents of this new ultra-nationalism in the Tamil film sphere are hell bent on rupturing all links with Sri Lanka. Tamil film artistes are prohibited from travelling to Sri Lanka or engaging in film related activity there. This unhealthy trend in a sense is ahistorical as it seeks to reverse an amicable relationship that has been in existence from the time movie making commenced in both places.There is a strong element of coercion here as those who flout this process face punitive consequences.
Chief among this group holding the entire industry to ransom is a man called Sebastian Seeman. This man is a film director and actor. He is an ardent supporter of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam(LTTE) and a rabid follower of Velupillai Prabhakaran.He is one of those propagating the myth that Prabhakaran is alive and that Tamil Eezham is around the corner.
Seeman has formed a political organization called “Naam Thamizhar” or “We Tamil”.This was the name of a movement founded in 1958 by the lawyer and publishing tycoon SB Adhithanar. The “Naam Thamizhar” movement of Adhithanar advocated secession from India for Tamil Nadu state and also demanded a Pan-Tamil state comprising Tamil Nadu, the North-east of Sri Lanka and even other regions in Malaysia and Burma where Tamils lived in large numbers.
Adhithanar dropped his separate Tamil state demand after secessionism was disallowed Constitutionally in 1962. He later contested on the DMK ticket and was Tamil Nadu legislature speaker when Annadurai was chief Minister. When Karunanidhi became chief minister Adhithanar was co-operatives minister.
It was Adhithanar’s “We Tamil” label that Seeman borrowed for his party. Incidently Seeman too hails from the same Nadar community as Adhithanar.Seeman inaugurated his party in Madurai in mid-May. Around 60,000 members were enrolled on the first day. Seeman’s flag has the tiger symbol.
Seeman has a pathological hatred of the Sinhala people and Brahmins .He accuses Sri Lanka of unleashing genocide on his Tamil brethren in Sri Lanka.The Brahmins are accused of colluding in this. He often utters blood-curdling threats. Last year he was deported from Canada for threatening that Sinhalese should be killed.Last week he issued similar threats against Sinhalese in India.
A public meeting was organized to condemn the alleged shooting of a Tamil Nadu fisherman by the Sri Lankan navy. Seeman addressing the meeting said that if Tamil fishermen were continuously killed then Sinhalese students in India will have to face death. The Tamil Nadu police cracked down on him for spreading disaffection among people and threatening to commit violence.Seeman has been remanded till the 23rd.
The harsh reality in Tamil Nadu is that Seeman’s stock has been rising among supporters of the LTTE in the state. He has actually overtaken politicians like Nedumaran and Vaiko in becoming the accredited pro-tiger leader in Tamil Nadu.One reason for this is Seeman’s claim that he had met Prabhakaran when the war was on and received his endorsement. One of the films directed by Seeman was named “Thamby” or younger brother. Thamby is the pet name for Prabhakaran.
The primary cause for Seeman’s ascendancy among pro-LTTE sections in Tamil Nadu is due to his chauvinist outpourings and irresponsible pronouncements. He makes a tremendous impression on emotionally vulnerable youths. In addition Seeman also has a cinematic charisma being a director and actor. Seeman has been in the forefront of powerful moves to politicise the Tamil film industry over the Sri Lankan Tamil issue.
Those involved in the industry were galvanised into staging demonstrations and protest fasts over the issue. There is a great deal of concern and sympathy in Tamil Nadu on this.Protesting or expressing sympathy over the Tamil predicament in Sri Lanka by their Tamil Nadu counterparts is understandable and legitimate.But Seeman and those of his ilk channelled these sentiments into a strident extremist stance.
Moreover those not participating were branded as traitors to the Tamil cause. Extra pressure was exerted on non – Tamils in the industry. The actor Jeeva is of North Indian origin but hails from a family resident in Chennai for decades. When Jeeva attended a demonstration , Seeman singled him out for praise saying that Jeeva was manifesting his gratitude for living comfortably in Tamil Nadu for years. What Seeman was saying in his crude fashion was that non – Tamils in the state had to toe the “Ultra- Tamil” political line.
Thus Seeman was virtually intimidating and influencing the Tamil film industry on this issue. Seeman and supporters were presented with a fresh opportunity when the India International Film Awards (IIFA) festival was scheduled to be held in Colombo in early June this year. The IIFA ceremony has been criticised by the Indian non- Hindi film industry for virtually ignoring non – Hindi films. But it was not on this count that Seeman spearheaded a campaign against it.
Seeman was opposed to the IIFA being held in Colombo. He and his supporters alleged that genocide was on against Tamils in Sri Lanka and that as a mark of solidarity with Tamil Nadu the Hindi film industry should boycott the festival in Sri Lanka. Those who wanted to attend were warned that their films wont get screened in Tamil Nadu and that they wont be allowed to work in Tamil Nadu.
The anti –IIFA elements targeted the brand ambassadors for the festival Amithabh Bachchan and Shah Rukh Khan. Seeman’s supporters transcended state boundaries and spread their protests in Mumbai the cradle of Bollywood movies. Demonstrations were held opposite the Bachchan and Khan residences.
As the protests escalated the Hindi filmwallas began capitulating. Both Amitabh and Shah Rukh retreated and said they would not be able to make it to Colombo. So did Amitabh’s son Abishekh and daughter in law the ravishing Aiswarya Rai. None of them said they were boycotting due to the protests but it was quite obvious . A number of other stars also kept away citing various excuses.
The protestors also targeted the famous director Maniratnam whose film “Ravan” was to premiere in Colombo for IIFA. Maniratnam backed out saying post-production was incomplete.
Tamil Nadu stars invited for the IIFA festival were also asked not to proceed. Superstar Rajnikanth announced that he was not going. The other superstar Kamal Hassan stated that he had already turned the invitation down. Emboldened by their success , Seeman & co demanded that Kamal return the “Padmashree” honour awarded by the Government. Kamal refused saying it was an honour bestowed by his country.
In Tamil Nadu a joint meeting was held among the various bodies connected to the film industry. The “Nadigar Sangam” (Actors Guild) along with the Film Employees Federation of South India (FEFSI) representing film industry workers, the film producers council,Theatre owners association and film distribuotors association met and issued an ultimatum to those planning to attend the IIFA in Colombo. It was common knowledge that Seeman was the hidden force behind this move.
There were however many Hindi film stars who defied the diktat and proceeded to Colombo. Salman Khan, Hrithik Roshan, Bipasha Basu, Kareena Kapoor, Diya Mirza,Suniel Shetty and Vivek Oberoi were among those who boldly defied the objectors and attended the IIFA. Salman stepped in as brand ambassador and took Amitabh to task for bowing out at the last minute.
The festival took place as scheduled though with a few mishaps. It had however lost its lustre as a result of the boycott. Lanka’s Jacqueline made the nation proud by getting the award for best debut performance.
In Tamil Nadu the film industry big-wigs began cracking down on those who had attended the IIFA. Genelia D’Souza a Goan actress was acting opposite Vijay in the Tamil movie “Velayutham”. When media reports stated that she had been in Colombo, Genelia was promptly fired from the movie.But Genelia appealed saying she had not attended the Festival. It was accepted. She now continues to act in the film.
Namitha the buxom bombshell from Gujarat announced that she had rejected the IIFA invitation as her loyalty was to Tamil Nadu where she had made her mark in Tamil movies. Namitha was praised lavishly for her solidarity with Tamils.
The casualty in this exercise was Hrithik Roshan. His film “Kites” was pulled out from Theatres in Tamil Nadu as the actor had gone to Colombo and also captained a team in the friendly Cricket encounter. This sent the shivers down many film stars.
Two actors however were unfazed by this high-handed action. They were Salman Khan and Vivek Oberoi. Both had been romantically entangled with the gorgeous Aishwarya Rai. In fact they had clashed openly over her. But now both had lost out to Abhishekh who had made Aishwarya the Bachchan “bahu”. The jilted two stood by Sri Lanka despite the pressure. Apart from participating at the IIF both actors extended their stay in Sri Lanka.
Vivek Oberoi at the June 13th mass wedding ceremony ~ pic: indi.ca
Vivek accompanied Namal Rajapaksa to the North and had a first –hand experience of the situation there. He was at Poonagari for the inauguration of the Pooneryn – Gurunagar ferry. Oberoi was also a Guest at the mass wedding ceremony for ex –LTTE cadres in Vavuniya. Vivek was a big hit and was seen dancing with the newly weds.
Vivek also went to Nedunkerny where he was appalled by the condition of a school there. Oberoi has now taken the responsibility for renovating and re-building the school, equipping it and providing assistance to teachers and students.
Those who recall the yeoman service rendered by Vivek to coastal villagers in Tamil Nadu affected by the Tsunami are confident that Nedunkerny too would benefit as pledged by Vivek. Incidently his father Suresh is an actor from Punjab while Vivek’s mother is From Tamil Nadu.
Salman Khan also promised aid to the affected Tamils in the North. He promised to construct 125 housing units. Salman however was bowled over by the scenic beauty of Sri Lanka and the friendly hospitability of her people. He stated that he would shoot his movie “Ready” in Lanka.
Asin Thottumkal (L) stands next to Salman Khan gesturing during a news conference, about their new film “Ready” which is being shot in Sri Lanka, in Colombo June 30, 2010-Reuters pic
The film was already slated to be shot in Mauritius. But Salman got the location shifted to Sri Lanka. Soon his co – star Asin arrived in Colombo. The defiance of Vivek Oberoi and Salman Khan had irritated the hardliners in Tamil Nadu filmdom. The involvement of Asin angered them further.
24 year old Asin Thottumkal is a “Mallu” or Malayalee actress from Kerala. She was born in Kochi on October 26th 1985. Her father is a businessman and mother a medical doctor. The name Asin means without sin . The “A” is from Sanskrit denoting without and the “Sin” is from English.Asin says poetically that her name means “pure without blemish”
Asin ~ Mukunda Mukunda in Dhasavatharam
Asin has acted in Malayalam, Telugu, Tamil and Hindi films. The first movie she acted in Tamil was “Ullam Ketkuthe” but the first to be released was “M.Kumaran son of Mahalakshmi” She has acted in many successful Tamil films like Sivakasi, Pokkiri, Varalaru, Vel, Maja, Alvar, Ghajini and Dhasavatharam. Within a few years Asin had established herself as the uncrowned queen of Tamil cinema
Asin captivated the hearts of many through her role in “Ghajini” where she played Kalpana , a vivacious and impulsive girl with a heart of gold. The film was re-made in Hindi with Aamir Khan paying the male lead. This movie was Asin’s entry into Hindi films. It was a smashing success with Asin receiving rave reviews and awards.
Her second film was opposite Salman Khan . “London Dreams” was a flop but Asin had earned a place in Hindi cinema. She stopped acting in Tamil films and relocated to Mumbai. Tamil film fans were deeply distressed.But recently she was signed opposite Vijay for a Tamil film.
The sight of Asin visiting Sri Lanka along with Salman Khan and the announcement that she was acting in a movie being filmed in the Island infuriated the anti –Lanka lobby in Tamil film industry. Asin was warned to drop out of the film or face consequences in Tamil Nadu. She was informed that she would not be allowed to act in Tamil unless she recanted and withdrew from “Ready”.
But the attractive actress was made of sterner stuff. Instead of succumbing to the intimidation , Asin made a spirited defence explaining her position. She pointed out that the initial appeal was not to attend the IIFA festival as a token of sympathetic concern for the suffering Sri Lankan Tamils. Asin said that she respected that appeal and had refrained from going to Colombo for IIFA ceremony.That was her own decision, she said.
However the decision to shoot “Ready” in Lanka was not hers. When she signed up for the film it was to be shot in Mauritius.But it was now changed to Sri Lanka. As an actress she had no say in the matter. In terms of her contract she had to act wherever the location.It was unfair therefore to penalise her for this.
Asin also had the temerity to challenge the chauvinist hawks in Tamil tinselworld. “Why are actors being forbidden to go to Lanka”? She queried. The Cricketers were going there and no one was objecting, businessmen were going and no one was protesting, tourists were going and no one was criticising but only actors were being threatened with penalties for going to Sri Lanka. “Five planes with full load of passengers were going to Colombo daily” Asin argued.
Even as the Asin furore gathered momentum the double standards and hypocrisy of Seeman was further exposed. Seeman had assembled a pack of “volunteers” to be used for demonstrations against “traitors” to the Tamil cause. Now these dogs of war were straining at the leash to launch a campaign against a forthcoming Hindi film “Raktha Charithra”.
The film directed by Ram Gopal Varma had Vivek Oberoi playing the lead role. Since Vivek had not only attended the IIFA festival but had also teamed up with Namal Rajapaksa to travel to the North, Seeman’s “attack canines” wanted to teach him a lesson. But to their shock Seeman vetoed the proposal.
Asin, Surya in Ghajini
“Raktha Charithra” was also the first Hindi film of Surya the Tamil actor. Surya was the son of veteran actor Sivakumar , elder brother of young actor Karthi and husband of actress Jyothika. Surya had a good role in the Hindi film which was to be dubbed in Tamil as “Ratha Sarithiram” or blood history.
Thus any campaign against the film due to the Vivek Oberoi presence would also affect Surya.Seeman did not want to offend Surya as the actor had consented to star in a future film project of director Seeman. So Seeman who debarred Hrithik Roshan’s “Kites” from flying in Chennai was not prepared to oppose screening of Vivek Oberoi’s “Raktha Charithra” due to Surya.
This hypocritical attitude was typical of Seeman. He would flex muscles and then be flexible for his selfish requirements.For instance he professes to be virulently anti-Brahmin and anti-Sinhala but his hero in many films including “Thamby” was Madhavan a Tamil Brahmin.Likewise his heroine in “Thamby” was Pooja who acts in Sinhala films and is half-Sinhalese. All this showed that Seeman was an opportunist and was hypocritically practising the politics of hate against Brahmins and Sinhalese.
Despite this stance vis a vis Vivek Oberoi’s film the Seeman brigade was howling for Asin’s blood expecting perhaps that she would grovel at their feet. It was announced that Asin would not be allowed to act in Tamil films or in Tamil Naadu. But an unrelenting and unrepentant Asin embarked on an unexpected humanitarian mission.
Asin established a Trust and organised two humanitarian projects aimed at helping the affected Tamil people in the North. One was to conduct special eye clinics and the other was adopting or sponsoring orphaned children
Asin visiting Jaffna Hospital
150 children ranging from Age one to sixteen were sponsored or adopted by Asin’s trust in the “Sevana” home at Vavuniya. A three day eye clinic was conducted in Jaffna and Vavuniya hospitals. Five medical doctors were brought down from India at Asin’s expense. Over 300 surgeries were performed in Jaffna and around 100 in Vavuniya. Spectacles costing 5,000 rupees each were provided by Asin. There is a waiting list of 4,000 requiring eye surgery and Asin says she will bear the cost.
Instead of being intimidated by the Tamil extremists in Kodambakkam (the Hollywood of Tamil Nadu) Asin boldly travelled to Sri Lanka again. She accompanied the first Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa and Gampaha district MP Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle to the North. Asin became the first Tamil film actress to visit Jaffna in three decades.
When she was in Jaffna people began flocking to the Teaching hospital to get a glimpse of her. Those who were let in amidst the tight security were thrilled to interact with the alluring actress. Asin posed for photographs and talked with the people. She also visited the eye clinic patients and received their gratitude and blessings.
In Vavuniya too Asin visited the hospital and spoke with patients. She spent many hours with the orphaned children and distributed many presents along with Mrs. Rajapaksa. The children warmed to Asin and began chatting eagerly. They called her “Akka”. Many started crying when she was leaving and implored her to stay longer. A visibly moved Asin promised to return and left.
The extremists in the Tamil Ndu film world were stunned. They now attacked her viciously for accompanying Shiranthi Rajapaksa to the north. Unable to stomach the fact that this actress had single-handedly accomplished a great deal more for the Northern people than themselves, pro –LTTE Diaspra media accused her of being an Indian Agent.
An unperturbed Asin , fortified by her first-hand experience , went on the offensive. She began giving interviews to Tamil Nadu media organs . She told them of the children, the people with eye ailments and above all the abject plight of the Tamil people.
Asin related her experience with the people and said how happy the people were that a Tamil film star had come to see them.She said that the Tamil people were feeling isolated and abandoned and yearned for more and more visits from their kinsfolk in Tamil Nadu. “Instead of boycotting Sri Lanka more people from Tamil Nadu film industry should visit Sri Lanka and express solidarity with the people” she said.
The talented actress described as “Goddess Asin” by some of her fans related anecdotes of how the Tamil people had requested her to bring actors like Surya, Vijay and Ajith with her on her next visit. She pointed out that instead of penalising actors for going to Sri Lanka more people from the Tamil film industry should be encouraged to visit Lanka. “Film stars and cine artistes should build bridges between people and not get embroiled in politics.Please do not mix politics with cinema and art” she appealed fervently.
Asin’s stance and appeal resonated with lots of people. She struck a responsive chord in the minds of many who recognized the futility of “sanctions against Sri Lanka” by the Tamil film world. But the hearts of some hardliners did not melt. While Seeman was quiet due to his arrest, the Actors Guild secretary Radha Ravi announced firmly that Asin would be banned from filming in Tamil Nadu and acting in Tamil films. He said that representatives of all five organizations connected to Tamil filmdom will meet and finalise the verdict against Asin.
The course of events took a different turn when Sarath Kumar the President of the Actor’s Guild issued a statement contradicting the secretary Radha Ravi. Sarath who is also the leader of “Samathuva Makkal Katchi” said that Asin should not be penalised. He said that in deference to an earlier appeal to boycott IIFA festival all Tamil film artistes including Asin had not gone to Colombo.
The matter ended there and the travel ban should not be extended further , Sarath Kumar said. “When so many Indian professionals and entrepreneurs were regularly visiting Sri Lanka it was not fair to debar Tamil film stars from Sri Lanka” he said. The decision against Asin will be reviewed, he said.
Sarath Kumar also went on to say that he had received letters from many Sri Lankan Tamils requesting assistance to re- build their homes. He said that he would submit these letters to the Actors Guild executive committee and discuss the matter. Sarath Kumar said a decision would be taken soon about a delegation of Tamil actors and actresses visiting Northern Sri Lanka.
It remains to be seen whether Sarath Kumar would be able to convince his colleagues about an enlightened approach to the issue in general and the Asin affair in particular. It does seem however that the defiant courageous stand adopted by Asin would receive broad approval.
Asin has certainly demonstrated her mettle by confronting and combating the extremist elements in the Tamil film industry. Her principled stand over the Sri Lankan issue should endear her to all right –thinking people. The humanitarian projects she has financed will bring greater benefits to a section of the people than all the rants and raves of Seeman and his rabid followers.
The Tamil Nadu film industry should transcend politics and reach out to Sri Lanka. Tamil films are viewed not only by Tamils and Muslims but also by a large number of Sinhala people. A visit by a Tamil film star delegation would be welcomed by the people of Sri Lanka regardless of ethnicity. As for the Sri Lankan Tamil people a visit by Tamil actors to the North and East would be appreciated more than a protest demonstration in Tamil Nadu.
DBS Jeyaraj can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org