Tamil Features

Tamil Nadu Film Strike: It’s Not A Level Playing Field Anymore, Rue Some Producers

Five Fridays have come and gone, but not a single new Tamil movie has hit the theatre screens. There’s a long list of movies waiting for a release date. In the fight between the Tamil Film Producers Council (TFPC) and Digital Service Providers (DSPs) over Virtual Print Fee (VPF), it’s the producers who are paying the price for the shutdown.


Most producers have stuck to the TFPC’s rule of complete shutdown in letter and spirit, even if it meant putting on hold productions with just a few days of shooting left. A few have received “special” permissions, due to various factors, and that has got the goat of some in the association.

Some of them tweeted against the move; while others ranted in private, wondering whether the playing field was level at all.

Technically, the strike has been called to support the small producers, who, they say, have been made to cough up steep sums as VPF. A fact that Qube, one of the top DSPs in this part of the country, refutes.

Among the first who raised a question about the permissions was producer J Sathish Kumar of JSK Film Corp, producer of films such as Aarohanam, Thanga Meengal, Paradesi and Kutram Kadithal.

On March 20, in two tweets, he questioned how the council could give special permission and wondered where the unity was? He also said that when lakhs of people were without a job, it was unfair for a star like Vijay to go ahead with his shooting.

He also called out actor Vijay Sethupathi for heading to Georgia to shoot for Gokul’s Junga.

On March 21, actor Siddharth tweeted, “Every single film is an equal challenge in today’s brutal cinema marketplace. If these special permissions to shoot are given to one, please give them to all producers. We are all the same. In the absence of equality and unity, God save us.”

It was clear that the producers are not united in this fight. It seemed to be a struggle between the big names who could handle the financial repercussions of the strike, and producers who make small-budget films driven by passion, but who cannot handle the monetary blow or did not see the point of doing so.

Christy Siluvappan, the name behind films such as Kutram Kadithal and Magalir Mattum says that while money is being spent every minute during the ideation and making of a movie, strike or not, the current agitation will hopefully help resolve various issues, and not just regarding VPF. As for special permissions, he counters saying giving permission is not the issue, what would have been an issue is rejection of permission to a few. “That would be unfair, but how is asking, and receiving permission wrong? That is abiding by the system. This is a strike without an end date, and, sometimes, depending on the situation, one might have to make special arrangements so that all producers are on the same page.”


What Christy and some others feel is that lack of proper communication triggered the issue. J Sathish Kumar says that there was no reason to flout the agreed-upon norms. “What’s the point of everyone obliging if some can get away?” he asks.

What has irked them is that they did not know that getting a special permission was an option. Many presumed it was a blanket order and complied. “After I raised the issue, they said action will be taken against the crew of Junga. My point is why are we diluting the strike? What’s the issue we are fighting? DSPs? Computerisation of tickets? Star salaries? Why are we speaking about all at the same time? Some actors have come forward to say they will pay their assistants, but is this not something that is expected? The producer pays the star; he/she should take care of his/her eco-system,” he says.

Sathish says the issues that demand action are many. “Many actors have started behaving like producers, bringing together a team; the producer is merely expected to bring in money. But, when there’s a loss, the producers face the brunt.”

Another factor that has producers in a fix is the upsurge in the popularity of Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and the like. How viable will movies continue to be? Have people got used to five weeks of no new releases? “Sadly, we have created the space for them to enter,” says Sathish.


Actor-producer Manobala is doubly affected. As a character actor receiving daily wages, he has been without a pay for some weeks now. And, as producer, his productions are in limbo. “As per an earlier agreement between the council and FEFSI (The Film Employees’ Federation of South India), strikes were to never happen, and employment never stopped. This move goes against it. Whatever the movie, big budget or small, the batta is the same. There are so many actors and character actors who depend on the wages. I come to my office in the morning and sit doing nothing. Think of the plight of those less fortunate,” he says.

His only demand: Focus on one issue at a time. And, don’t play with the livelihoods of people dependant on the industry.