Jallikattu ban: Tamil film industry comes to a standstill; top stars express support for protesters

Sreedhar Pillai

Jan,19 2017 12:24:56 IST

Even as protests raged in Tamil Nadu for the third consecutive day against the jallikattu ban, the Tamil film industry — colloquially known as 'Kollywood' — has also come to a standstill.

With the pro-jallikattu protests by students at Marina Beach and other spots throughout the state turning into a mass movement, everybody — including film stars — are looking to ride the wave. On Thursday, 19 January, the directors' union, the powerful Film Employees Federation of South India (FEFSI), the film workers' union and producers' council cancelled shoots across Tamil Nadu. All other audio and new film launches remain suspended from Wednesday over the jallikattu issue.

Jallikattu. File photo

Jallikattu. File photo

Friday, 20 January, will mark a daylong silent peaceful protest by the influential actors' association, Nadigar Sangam. All the top stars like Rajinikanth, Kamal Haasan, Vijay, Ajith, Suriya, Nayanthara and Trisha, in addition to hundreds of other artistes, are likely to participate. Nadigar Sangam chief, the actor Vishal, has left for Delhi and is trying to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi to hand over a letter in support of jallikattu.

How did the jallikattu ban become such a raging issue in Kollywood?

Every actor worth his (or her) box office salt wants to jump on the jallikattu bandwagon. The protests against the ban in Tamil Nadu started via social media, and spread like wildfire. And with students keeping away the politicians, stars got on to it through social media and at events.

Kamal Haasan extended his support for jallikattu a few days back at the India Today southern conclave in Chennai. He had voiced his support for jallikattu, saying it was a tradition that needed to be continued. Haasan said, “For thousands of years it has been known as a sport where we embrace the bull. It is not to be confused with what happens in Spain. Animal rights activists favoured a ban on jallikattu on the ground that it was cruel to animals. If that was the case, even biryani should be banned!" His comments went viral.

At another event, superstar Rajinikanth said the bull-taming sport should be held in tune with Tamil culture. Rajinikanth asked, "Rules can be framed to regulate the sport to prevent injuries, but instead of that (framing rules), is it right to negate a culture?"

And a day after Pongal, Tamil cinema's top hero Vijay came out with a one-minute video in which he expressed his support for those students protesting against the jallikattu ban. Vijay said in his video, "Law was not created to rob people of their tradition and rights but to protect it. Jallikattu is every Tamilian’s identity. Those who are protesting against the ban are united by the feeling that they are Tamilians, not out of compulsion or political power. I bow down to each and every one of them.”

Suriya also hit out at the animal rights organisation Peta (which was at the forefront of seeking a ban on jallikattu). He said that Peta may have won in their legal proceedings against jallikattu, 'but lost the case in the people’s court'. Nikunj Sharma, the government affairs liaison for Peta India replied, "It's no coincidence that Suriya decided to speak only when his film S3 is about to release. During illegal jallikattu events recently held, both bulls and humans have lost their lives. To use a cruel spectacle that routinely causes injuries and death, and which has been condemned as illegal by the highest court in our country for movie publicity is in extremely poor taste."

Suriya, who was promoting his film in Kerala, cut short the publicity tour and flew back to Chennai.

The actor Simbu — popularly known as STR — requested fellow Tamilians to observe a 10-minute silent protest by standing at their respective places, and it turned out to be a massive success. Thanking all the supporters of jallikattu, STR has now released a video in which he says, "When I asked everyone to observe (the) silent protest, many of my own friends discouraged me, saying nothing big will happen. I decided to protest this way because of a common man, who told me that he does not know how to express his feelings against things which are happening against Tamils. After my press meet, the same person called me and thanked for the idea, it was a God-sent message”.

Even actress Nayanthara, who is not on social media and rarely interacts with the press, came out with a pro-jallikattu statement. “The power of the youth is proven again," she said. "What Tamil Nadu has been witnessing for the past  few days in support of jallikattu is unprecedented. It indeed makes me proud to be part of this state. As the youngsters fight out the various law enforcing agencies in the most passive manner, I support the cause of the people of Tamil Nadu who support jallikattu. If not by birth, at least by the force of emotion and pride I’m a Tamilian."

Meanwhile, music director-turned-actor GV Prakash came out with an album — Kombu Vechcha Singamda — the theme of which, is saving jallikattu. He said on Twitter that the revenue generated from the song would be given to struggling farmers and their families in Tamil Nadu. Actor Arya and his brother Sathya have also teamed up for Tamil drama, Santhana Devan, on the bull-taming ritual.

Meanwhile all the leading stars have made a beeline to Marina Beach to meet those protesting the jallikattu ban.

Published Date: Jan 19, 2017 12:24 PM | Updated Date: Jan 19, 2017 12:24 PM