Photos by Dani Charles and Sriram Narasimhan, Text by Niveda Manohar
It was October 18. D Day had arrived. The whole of Kollywood, and Kollywood fans had been waiting for this Sunday. Mutiny within the actors community. A rebel group had arisen. Raising allegations against the office bearers of the South Indian Film Artistes Association. (Full background of the issue here.) The day of the election was no different from the plot of a typical Kollywood commercial potboiler. It had everything – mass heroes, a suspense-arousing interval, action scenes, comedy, a second half filled with startling plot twists. And a a happy ending climax for some, tragedy for others.
The First Half: The venue was set. St Ebbas School at Mylapore handled arrangements that are usually done only for general elections. With barricades, policepersons, and media vehicles scattered across the grounds, the school looked like a battlefield. The organisation hadn’t seen an election since 2000. There were no parameters to compare this election with.
First to arrive were members from both teams, who polled and addressed the media, exuding confidence about the outcome. The first plot twist came in the form of Rajinikanth, who addressed the media with a strongly worded request to change the name of the Sangam to the Tamil Nadu Nadigar Sangam. Kamal Haasan, on the other hand, said he would be happy if it was called the Indian Nadigar Sangam. Goundamani topped them both saying “Nadigar Sangam nu irundha podhum” (Calling it just ‘Nadigar Sangam’ is enough), evoking laughter from the press. Till then, the Sangam polling continued smoothly. That was, until…
Interval Block (Plus action scenes): Around 12:20 pm, we could spot a minor scuffle near the entrance of the polling station. Shouts and raised voices of both men and women. A little later, a physically uncomfortable Vishal could be seen escorted by his friends and the police, dodging the media and entering a caravan parked in the distance. Turns out that Vishal had been pushed around by a few people, and had fallen unconscious. A few minutes later, a visually breathless Vishal requested everyone to cooperate with the teams and ensure that the election went on peacefully.
Second Half: The second half heated up as actors like Vadivelu and Sangeetha accused Sarathkumar for provoking the ‘attack’ on Vishal. Sarathkumar denied the charge, and responded by saying that Vadivelu was a comedian, and whatever he said was a joke. Meanwhile, polling continued. When Jayam Ravi arrived to cast his vote, the press asked him what he thought about Vishal getting attacked. A perplexed Ravi replied, “Is it so? I’m sorry, I didn’t know, I was sleeping.” Along with most of the contemporary actors, there were also several veterans who arrived at the polling station. Including those who usually stay away from public appearances, like KR Vijaya, Sharadha, Vyjyanthimala, Revathi, Janakaraj, Vinu Chakravarthy, and Visu, to name a few.
Polling ended at 5 pm. Ballot boxes were sealed. We waited as the counting began. First, the postal votes were counted. For the postal votes, it was Sarathkumar’s team which led the elections. There was dejection in the Pandavar Ani camp, as Karthi could be looking forlorn and worn out at this time. But when the on-day votes were counted, there was a major twist in the plot. First to take the lead over Sarath’s team was Vishal, who started off with a good margin over Radha Ravi. Then came Karthi, who soon had a formidable margin over SSR Kannan. Vishal soon gained a majority in votes and was the first candidate to emerge victorious. Vishal fans outside the venue rejoiced. Nasser and Sarathkumar had a tough fight which went neck to neck for a long time, until Nasser trumped Sarath. At one point, Naseer was leading with a margin of only two votes. From there onwards, things went the Pandavar Ani’s way, as Karthi and Naseer emerged victorious.
Congratulatory messages flew across social media, with fans and the film fraternity excited to have comment on the rebel team’s success. At this stage, the results of the Vice President polls hadn’t yet been announced. Some started sniggering and joked that the results were delayed because STR was a part of the polls. Oops. But the results finally came. Both Ponvannan and Karunaas from the Pandavar Ani had emerged victorious.
Climax: 12:10 am. The scorecard reads 5-0. For the Pandavars, there were hugs and smiles everywhere. For the Sarath’s team, there were long faces, and gracious statements of acceptance. Vishal, Nasser, and Karthi told the media that they wanted to soak in the moment, and would address the press soon. All along, Vishal’s eyes kept glancing at the skies. In silent prayer and gratitude. We understood. Happy faces, eyes almost welling up. They needed a day of rest. So did we.