Film clan under fire, writer Karuna turns fighter

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By G.C. SHEKHAR
  • Published 24.08.10
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Chennai, Aug. 23: M. Karunanidhi, once a scriptwriter, can swap his pen for punches — if his clan is under attack.

The Tamil Nadu chief minister did so yesterday, questioning critics what was wrong if his sons and grandsons made their presence felt in Tamil cinema.

“If Prithvi Raj Kapoor’s family is in films till today, if Rajnikanth’s daughter can produce movies and his son-in-law Dhanush can act, what is wrong if my grandsons Kalanidhi, Udayanidhi, Dayanidhi, Arlunidhi and Arivunidihi are into film-making? It is just another conspiracy by the threaded class (Brahmins) because I work for the Dravidian community,” Karunanidhi said after laying the foundation stone for a colony for film workers.

Apparently, what piqued the DMK veteran was a cartoon in a Tamil magazine that suggested the state would soon get to see a movie scripted by Karunanidhi, produced by one grandson, directed by another and distributed by another and to be telecast on the family-owned Kalaignar TV. The cartoon was seen as a jibe at the grandsons taking over Tamil cinema — after Karunanidhi’s sons and daughters had entrenched themselves in politics.

But what Karunanidhi did not disclose was that all his family members he mentioned had, by a strange coincidence, entered cinema during the tenure of the present DMK government and within a short span, started wielding a virtual hegemony over production and distribution of big-ticket movies. “Karunanidhi has used his political might to thrust his entire family on Tamil cinema,” said Thuglak editor Cho Ramaswamy.

The feeling has been reinforced because, barring Sun Pictures promoted by Kalanidhi Maran, all other production/ distribution companies owned by the Karuna clan are promoted by first-timers.

M.K. Stalin’s son Udayanidhi Stalin, who started his production house Red Giant Movies in 2008, had earlier burnt his fingers running a bowling alley in central Chennai. But barring a couple of flops, all his productions and releases have proved to be runaway hits, and he now drives a Hummer. His latest movie will feature Kamal Haasan.

In the same year, Union chemicals minister M.K. Alagiri’s son Dayanidhi, just out of college, floated Cloud Nine Movies and outbid more established distributors to bag Vaaranam Ayiram, directed by hit director Gowtham Menon.

“It has become the unwritten rule in Tamil cinema today that only if these three companies do not show interest in a new production, can other distributors step in,” a producer said of the virtual monopoly wielded by the trio.

Even big stars are reluctant to commit themselves to other banners. For instance, all of actor Surya’s movies, the biggest grossers in the past two years, have been produced or released by Sun Pictures, Red Giant or Cloud Nine.

With Sun Pictures set to release the Rs 1,500-crore trilingual Endhiran — touted as the costliest Indian movie ever made with Rajnikanth and Aishwarya Rai in the lead — the stranglehold, established in such a short time, on Tamil cinema by the DMK’s first family is stronger than what the Kapoors enjoyed after decades of toil.

“It is not a level-playing field any longer since other producers or distributors do not enjoy the same political clout as the Karunanidhi family does,” a distributor said.