In Raja's land, Rancho keeps political pot boiling - Actor set to ally with Jaya after seeing DMK family's hand in role denial and movie hurdles

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By G.C. SHEKHAR
  • Published 13.12.10
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Asin and Vijay in Kaavalan, the release of which is caught in a tussle

Chennai, Dec. 12: Rancho of 3 Idiots is shaking things up in Tamil Nadu, as if the movie-wrapped politics in the southern state needed some cinema spice from elsewhere.

Local hero Vijay is set to strengthen Jayalalithaa ahead of next year’s Assembly elections by expressing support for her party after the Karunanidhi family allegedly tried to trip his film career.

Vijay’s father, producer-director S.A. Chandrasekar, called on Jayalalithaa at her home yesterday and told her how the DMK’s first family was harassing his son.

That’s where Rancho comes in. “Chandrasekar told Jayalalithaa how Vijay was unceremoniously axed from the Tamil remake of 3 Idiots, and how the release of another Vijay film (Kaavalan) is being stalled to benefit a Kamal Haasan-starrer produced by Udayanidhi Stalin,” a source close to Vijay said. Udayanidhi is the son of Stalin, whose father is chief minister and DMK patriarch M. Karunanidhi.

“Vijay, who was to play Aamir Khan’s Rancho, underwent a new look for the 3 Idiots remake but director Shankar, who made Robot recently for Kalanidhi Maran, dropped him without citing any reason. Although Shankar would not admit it, we know he acted under pressure from very powerful people,” a source involved in the film project said.

Vijay, 36, is expected to openly endorse the AIADMK after he returns from the US where he is promoting his latest film Kaavalan (Protector). In return, his well-networked fan clubs can help Jayalalithaa during the poll campaign.

For Jayalalithaa, the development represents a huge psychological boost after having rattled the DMK over the spectrum scandal that scalped A. Raja.

Vijay has another grouse. Theatre owners in the state have refused to screen Kaavalan, which was set for a Christmas release, till Vijay compensates them for the losses they suffered over his last movie Sura (Shark), released six months ago. The Tamil Nadu Film Exhibitors Association wants Vijay to pay Rs 3 crore — a third of its alleged losses of Rs 9 crore.

Industry sources, however, say the real reason for the sudden hurdle placed by the exhibitors is the pressure exerted by the three production houses owned by the Karunanidhi family.

“They do not want Vijay’s movie to come in the way of the collections of the four films being released by members of the ‘K family’ in December and January,” a film financier said. “The theatre owners have been asked to delay Vijay’s film for as long as possible. Even if Vijay pays up, it is doubtful that the movie would be released on time.”

Kaavalan is not being produced or released by any of the three Karunanidhi family banners: Sun Pictures of Kalanidhi Maran, Red Giant Movies of Udayanidhi Stalin or Cloud Nine Movies of Dayanidhi Alagiri.

These three production houses are releasing films starring Surya, Kamal Haasan and Dhanush (Rajnikant’s son-in-law) over the next two months. In the past two years, these three banners have cornered the largest chunk of the Tamil film business by booking top stars and blocking theatres, thus establishing a virtual hegemony.

Udayanidhi Stalin, who had produced a movie with Vijay two years ago, has denied he has anything to do with the actor’s current troubles.

“In spite of his recent flops, Vijay remains a box-office draw and is the No. 2 after Surya if one takes Rajnikant out of the equation,” a film critic said.

“No wonder, producers are willing to pay up to Rs 12 crore per movie to feature him. Since Bodyguard, the Malayalam original, was a super-hit and the same director is making Kaavalan, there is every chance of this becoming a runaway hit, considering Vijay’s committed fan base. This has made the big three really nervous.”

Besides, Vijay’s recent moves to carve out a political space for himself have not gone down well with the ruling DMK. The actor had attempted to join the Congress in 2009 but dropped the plan after being arm-twisted by the DMK leadership.

Last week, Vijay met officials of his fan club and indicated he might support the AIADMK. With the DMK set against him, Vijay has concluded that only political patronage can help him.

“Since the state’s film industry is highly politicised, the protection offered by the AIADMK will embolden certain theatre owners to screen Kaavalan in spite of pressure from the ruling party,” said a theatre owner in Coimbatore.