The clock’s ticking. October 18 is election day for the Nadigar Sangam. And a number of well-known actors are in the fray. the Nadigar Sangam elections. Plus some fun facts.We take a look at who the candidates are. What their stands are. And the story behind the rift in the organisation. Here’s a tour through everything you need to know about
The Nadigar Sangam was formed in 1952 by MGR, Sivaji Ganesan, MR Radha and a few others. Officially named the South Indian Film Artistes Association, it formerly had members from all the four South Indian Film Industries, as Chennai was the hub of film-making in those days. But since each industry took off in its own way, separate organizations were established for each state, and SIFAA came to be commonly called the Nadigar Sangam. The Sangam comprises of approximately 3000 members, which includes both film and theatre actors. The main functions of the Sangam include looking after the welfare of underprivileged actors, helping them find employment, providing pension facilities, etc.
In 1977, when MGR became the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, a building was constructed in the 99 cents of land that belonged to the Sangam. The building housed a preview theatre, gym, canteen, and some office space.
In the early 2000s, the Sangam accumulated a huge* debt, that it managed to paydown by conducting star-studded events under the stewardship of then president Vijaykanth. Vijaykanth stepped down in 2006 when he formed a political party – the DMDK – paving the way for Sarathkumar to take over as president of the association. Sarathkumar has since won 3 consecutive elections, the last of which was held in 2012.
In 2010, President Sarath Kumar and Secretary Radha Ravi signed an agreement with SPI Cinemas to lease the land owned by the Sangam for a period of 29 years and 11 months, to SPI, for them build a seven storey multiplex, allotting one floor for the Nadigar Sangam’s use. During the stipulated period, SPI would pay Rs.26 lakhs per month to the Sangam and handle the maintenance of the property. In March 2011, the original building was demolished.
In December, Poochi Murugan, a member of the Sangam, filed a case in the court alleging that President Sarathkumar and Radharavi (who are related to each other), had signed the agreement with SPI cinemas without consulting other members of the Sangam, and that the requirement of obtaining signatures from the nine committee members had not been met. In fact, he alleged, the members had not seen the agreement. That case is still pending and hence, work on the new building has been stalled.
In 2013, actors Vishal, Nasser and Karthi took up the issue with the incumbent office bearers. They said that the SPI Cinemas agreement should be nulled and a new building should be built by the association itself. The new building would have a multipurpose hall, where weddings could be held, and plays and other community activities could be organised. Vishal’s team proposed that this would ensure a stable revenue for the Sangam, and provide multiple benefits to its members. Vishal’s altercation with the top brass of the Sangam continued when he questioned the association’s inaction during the Vishwaroopam issue. Tempers frayed. Allegedly, after this, office bearers like Radha Ravi and KN Kaalai abused Vishal and a few others over the issue.
The situation continued to escalate, and when the incumbent members refused to budge, Vishal and his supporters announced that they would contest the elections this year against Sarathkumar’s team. We are only a fortnight away from the elections now. Nominations have been filed. Here’s a look at who’s contesting against whom:
The Pandavar Ani: Throwing the gauntlet in the face of the establishment, they’re the rebel group, and they’ve chosen their name strategically. Fashioning their name after the righteous underdogs of the Indian epic, the core team of the Pandavar Ani consists of Nasser, Vishal, Karthi, Ponvannan, and Karunaas. Their aim: win the elections, cancel the contract with SPI Cinemas, and construct a community-focused building on the disputed land.
The Candidates :
Nasser (President) : One of the most versatile actors in South Indian Cinema, he rose to prominence with Mani Ratnam’s Nayagan. After playing similar negative roles in a several movies, Nasser branched out, as a comic (who can forget Avvai Shanmugi) and a critically acclaimed director while continuing to play negative roles. A recipient of six Tamil Nadu State Awards, Nasser is a highly respected actor in industry circles, known for speaking his mind out. He was among the first, along with S Ve Shekhar, to throw his support for Vishal.
Vishal (General Secretary) : A popular action hero, Vishal comes from a family of cinema professionals. His father is producer GK Reddy. Vishal’s career began with Chellamey, and took off with successful action films like Sandakozhi and Thimiru. After a series of failures, thanks to redundant action template films, he made a powerful comeback with off-beat films like Paandiyanaadu and Naan Sigappu Manidhan. Known for his straightforward attitude and engaging manner among contemporary actors, Vishal has been a pivotal figure in this election. Lately, Vishal has also been involved in welfare activities for students and animals. Legend has it, Vishal was intent on contesting the post of Secretary against Radha Ravi, because it was Radha Ravi who called Vishal ‘a dog’ during one meeting.
Fun Fact : Vishal announced that he wouldn’t get married until the Nadigar Sangam Hall is rebuilt.
Karthi (Treasurer) : Karthi hails from a respected K’town cinema family – he is the son of legendary actor Sivakumar and brother of actor Suriya. Karthi made a memorable entry into Kollywood with Paruthiveeran (2007). After experiencing a string of flops between 2012 and 2014, he made a comeback of sorts with Madras, directed by Pa Ranjith. He’s known for his jovial attitude. And his diplomacy. He surprised many by taking a strong stand on this issue.
Ponvannan (Vice President) : Ponvannan has played memorable supporting roles not just in films, but on television as well (Annamalai, Vidathu Karuppu) since the early 90s. But it was Paruthiveeran which brought him to the limelight. Known for his strong opinions, Ponvannan contests for the post of Vice President.
Karunaas (Vice president) : Karunaas is still remembered for his role as Lodukupandi from Bala’s Nandha (2001). He has acted in over 90 films, some of them as the lead.
The Supporting Cast : Kamal Haasan voiced his support for Nasser, one of his good friends. A move that immediately irked Sarathkumar. Actors Sathyaraj, Vadivelu, Sivakumar, Suriya, Prakash Raj, S Ve Shekhar, K Bhagyaraj, Vinu Chakravarthy, Vadivukkarasi, Kumarimuthu, Khushbu, Lakshmi, Rohini, Sachu, Kutty Padmini, Rajesh, Saravanan, Arya, Jiiva, Jayam Ravi, Siddarth, Santhanam, Soori, Vemal, Vaibhav Reddy, Shanthnu, Ashok Selvan, Naren, Niveda Thomas, and Aishwarya Rajesh have also announced their support for the team. Fun fact: Ladies man Arya has apparently promised to get the support of 20 heroines for the Pandavar Ani!
Sarathkumar’s Team :
The Candidates :
Sarathkumar (President) : Sarathkumar has been one of Kollywood’s top actors for almost two decades. A former Mr. Chennai and a journalist for Dinakaran, Sarathkumar remains one of the fittest actors in town even at 61. Like many, he began his career with negative roles before transitioning into hero characters. He is best remembered for Naattamai, Suriyavamsam, and the recent Kanchana, where he sensitively portrayed a transwoman (aravani). Sarathkumar is also the founder of the All India Samathuva Makkal Katchi, and an MLA from the Tenkasi constituency.
Known for his outspoken approach, he is one of Kollywood’s most respected personalities. Although, of late, allegations against him over the Sangam issue have cast a shadow over his reputation.
Radha Ravi (Secretary) : An iconic villain from the 80s and 90s, Radha Ravi is the son of legendary actor MR Radha, who was a founding member of the Nadigar Sangam. Like his father, Radha Ravi donned a variety of roles, from villain to comedian and everything in between. Radha Ravi is infamous for his snide comments and abusive language against other actors. Interestingly, his sister and actress Radhika Sarathkumar defended him with some rather odd (albeit devoted) logic. Fun fact: according to her, it’s surprising only if he doesn’t use foul language. She apologized on his behalf and requested actors to not look too much into it.
Silambarasan (Vice President) : Controversy’s favourite child. Simbu is the youngest representative of Sarathkumar’s team. He began his career as a child artist in his father T Rajendar’s films. Today, he is one of Kollywood’s most notable young actors. Although, somehow Silambarasan always manages to get into controversies. Be it delays in his films’ release, courtship trouble with actresses, or rivalries with fellow actors. His inclusion in the elections was a surprise move, and is expected to appease the younger members of the Sangam.
Vijaykumar (Vice President): Vijaykumar has been the perennial supporting artist in Tamil cinema. Frien d, brother, brother-in-law, father, father-in-law, uncle. You name it. Vijaykumar has played it. What’s more, Vijaykumar has been a constant supporter of Sarathkumar.
SSR Kannan (Treasurer) : Son of the late SS Rajendran, Kannan will be contesting the elections for the post of Treasurer.
The Supporting Cast : Radhika Sarathkumar, T Rajendar, Nirosha, Arun Vijay, Ramki, Arun Pandian, Shaam, Mumtaz, Babloo, Neelima, Kuyili, Vindhya, Fatima Babu among others.
The Swing Factor : Several actors have remained neutral, at least in public. Interestingly, none of the major contemporary actresses have taken a stand – Khushboo excepted. (She has come out in support of the Paandavar Ani). Prominent names who haven’t taken a stand include Rajinikanth, Vijay, Ajith, Vijaykanth, Dhanush, Vikram, Prabhu, Vikram Prabhu, Goundamani, Sendhil, and Madhavan.