Tamil Nadu government and Kollywood are locked in battle: Who will blink first?
The relationship between the Tamil film industry (or Kollywood, as it is colloquially called) and the E Palaniswamy government in Tamil Nadu has reached an all-time low. First the state government was humbled when they had to withdraw the additional local body taxes in addition to GST on cinema tickets. Theatres across the state shut down for four days and a gentle reminder from a central government minister that you cannot have double taxation, had the Tamil Nadu government running for cover.
Then Kamal Haasan made a statement that the state government was “highly corrupt” — which rubbed EPS and his colleagues the wrong way. Kamal Haasan's battle with the state government has been a long-running one, going back to when J Jayalalithaa was alive. After the Chennai floods, Haasan had remarked that the “(Tamil Nadu) government's mismanagement almost sank the state”. And the actor also commented a while ago that the “system has collapsed”, when the Jayalaithaa government needled him. In fact, a few months after her death, even superstar Rajinikanth had also said that the “system needs a revamp”.
The EPS government perhaps thought that Kollywood would remain docile, like it was during the Jayalalithaa regime. Now all and sundry in the industry, in one way or the other, have started talking against the EPS government — a government that Kollywood thought would never last for 100 days. A superstar like Vijay openly declared his support for the farmers of Tamil Nadu, who were said to have been neglected by the state government. And Rajinikanth has dropped hints about joining politics and cleaning up the Augean stables. EPS government expected film stars and the trade in the state to continue with the servile attitude that they showed during the last six years of the Jayalalithaa government.
Finally, the state government has hit back. They have told the Tamil film trade that as per GST rules, the state — through local bodies — can impose additional tax and they will not waive it, unlike other states. The industry is already under pressure with falling footfalls when they increased ticket prices after 11 years following GST implementation. The Tamil Nadu government has set up a committee to look into the matter, as they do not want the film industry to slip away from their hands.
Meanwhile Kamal Haasan’s big splash on Star Vijay with Big Boss Tamil ran into trouble when a fringe Hindu group (Hindu Makkal Katchi) filed a police complaint against Bigg Boss and the star. The group said he should not endorse a show like Bigg Boss “which is against Tamil culture and Hindu tradition”. They also threatened that if the show is not taken off air, then they will attack the sets and the participants and ensure the shoot is stopped.
In an attempt to get back at Kamal Haasan, the ruling AIADMK has also stooped to attacking him personally. Tamil Nadu law minister CV Shanmugham said, "Kamal Haasan deserves to be booked under the SC and ST ACT for the remark about 'slum behaviour' made by one of the participants on Bigg Boss Tamil, which is hosted by him." The minister also said that Haasan had no moral right to question and criticise the functioning of the state government. Shanmugham also made disparaging comments about Haasan’s personal life by saying, "Kamal Haasan has no moral right to comment on people’s life. He was living with a woman he was not even married."
The Municipal Administration minister in the EPS cabinet SP Velumani said, "Kamal Haasan, if he has some kind of evidence against the state government, should show it. Let us also audit your accounts and check on the amount you have paid as taxes.” There seems to be an all-out effort to tarnish Kamal Haasan, who was bold enough to express his views.
The only person who came out in support of Kamal Haasan was Opposition and DMK leader MK Stalin, who said, "Kamal Haasan is reflecting the sentiments of the people. It is the right of every voter, including Kamal, to criticise the benami and horse trading government in power.” Kamal Haasan thanked Stalin through a series of tweets, while his colleagues in the industry — as usual — have kept their mouths shut.