Tamil Features

Getting Pulitical: Vijay’s Puli Pulls Through Last Minute IT Raid

Director Chimbudeven’s fantasy adventure film Puli released today, but not without a major hiccup which left many questioning the government’s intentions. Was this a case of income tax (IT) officers just doing their job and carrying out a legitimate raid with really bad timing? Or was this an instance of politically motivated harassment, given actor Vijay’s past history of political trouble. We take a look.

The first show was scheduled for 4:30 am. However, an ongoing IT raid since yesterday in 35 places, including Vijay’s house, and premises owned by producers PT Selvakumar and Shibu Thameen, disrupted the early morning 4:30 am and 8:00 am shows. There was some resolution by mid-morning, because Sathyam Cinemas in Chennai began issuing tickets for the 12:00 pm show. Meanwhile, overseas theatres also confirmed receipt of the KDMs (Key Delivery Messages – a code to open the reels).

Because the raid had carried over to the second day, the producer’s bank accounts had been locked. This meant that producers couldn’t pay the digital cinema distribution networks QUBE and UFO. And that meant the KDMs hadn’t been released by the networks. Actors T Rajendar and Vishal rushed to Gemini Labs to resolve the issues. As did Vijay, after he was cleared by the raid team early this morning. At the time of writing, the Tamil and Hindi releases have been confirmed.

The big question: why was the raid timed for the last minute?

Some sections allege that the raid was triggered by large amounts of cash transfers from the stars’ and producers’ accounts yesterday, ahead of the release. Others blame the Government for targeting certain celebrities.

DMK leader J Anbazhagan pointed out that the raid could have been carried out days before the release. With a thinly veiled dig at Chief Minister J Jayalalitha, he seemed to have no doubts that this was a deliberate attempt by the Government to cause trouble.

Fans and journalists were unimpressed with the timing of the raid. Since the IT department was aware of Puli’s budget, the raid could easily have been carried out a fortnight prior to the release.

Fans began a social media campaign on Twitter, with #ISupportPuli trending quickly. Even Ajith fans were drawn in.

Less heartwarming were reports of attacks by angry fans on buses in Madurai and obstruction of traffic in Chrompet in Chennai led to extra police presence in several places in Tamil Nadu.The sentiment was much the same.

This situation isn’t new for Vijay. In 2013, when bomb threats were issued by ‘Oppressed Students’ Revolutionary Union’ against his film Thalaivaa, the government banned the film’s release, instead of providing additional security. And when director AL Vijay and Vijay tried to meet CM J Jayalalitha to resolve the issue, they were snubbed and turned away on the grounds that they had come without ‘prior appointment’.

Despite the cold shoulder treatment from CM J Jayalalitha, Vijay has consistently voiced his support for her and her party AIADMK. He had even campaigned for them during the assembly elections. Theatre distributors attributed the ban to external forces and the AIADMK party. The seeming cold war continued during the 100 Years Of Cinema Centenary Celebrations, which was presided by CM J Jayalalitha. Vijay was seated in the last row while other actors were given front seats. Actor Vikram and Aishwarya Dhanush made it a point to sit by him on that day.

From Vijay’s side, however, it seemed as if every olive branch was being extended. Vijay attended the protest against the Sri Lankan Government for publishing an article demeaning the image of J Jayalalitha. He even said,

“Reading the article, I felt like my mother was being insulted.”

But Vijay isn’t the only one at the receiving end of the stepmotherly treatment. When actor Kamal Haasan’s spy thriller Vishwaroopam ran into trouble with Musilim civic organisations in Tamil Nadu on the grounds that it would hurt Muslim sentiments, the Government (under CM J Jayalalitha) banned the film indefinitely. Both Thalaivaa and Vishwaroopam were released elsewhere in India and abroad.

Without any delay on a Tamil Nadu release, box office collections would see a dramatic drop, as pirated DVDs would flood the market.

2015 seems to have been a particularly bad year for a number of films and last minute hitches. Vishal’s Paayum Puli, STR’s Vaalu, Ashok Selvan’s Savaale Samaali all had to deal with last minute shockers for a variety of reasons.

The bottomline: the raid may or may not have been politically motivated, but last minute antics cause an irreplaceable loss. It hurts producers, it hurts artists. And it especially hurts the fans, who wait eagerly for the first day, first show. At 4:30 in the morning. For an experience of a lifetime.