Real life is imitating reel life in Tamil Nadu film industry with celebrities taking on each other in the elections to the most prestigious and powerful film and theatre artists’ body – the South Indian Film Artistes’ Association (SIFAA) or Nadigar Sangham.
The dramatis personae in this real life political drama are: yesteryears hero R Sarathkumar, young actor Vishal and his team that comprises veteran character artist Nasser. The veteran artist is taking on Sarathkumar for the post of president.
What makes the contest interesting is that Nasser and Vishal have the blessings and support of superstar Kamal Haasan. Haasan’s backing has rankled Sarathkumar, who has accused the superstar of instigating Vishal to break the Nadigar Sangham. This he says is despite his help to Haasan when he faced a problem during the release of Uttama Villian.
The D-day is on October 9 when the electoral college comprising 3,139 members of the film and theatre fraternity will vote to elect their office bearers – president, general secretary, treasurer, two vice-presidents and six executive committee members.
Sarathkumar, who is also the leader of All India Samathuva Makkal Katchi and a sitting MLA from Tenkasi, has been heading the Nadigar Sangham for the past nine years.
The protagonists in this real life developing story are scripting their own dialogues, akin to their onscreen punchy one-liners, generating interest among the film fraternity and their supporters.
Team Vishal and Nasser have accused Sarathkumar of “inept handling of issues of artists and being non-functional”.
“Our fraternity is aghast at the inaction as well as the attitude of Sarathkumar’s team. Which is why, there is so much support from everyone to oust it completely,” Nasser told Hindustan Times.
They say SIFAA was supposed to have a commercial complex on its land and it has not come up so far.
Nasser also accused the incumbents of indulging in some questionable dealings which he said would be investigated by the new association office bearers once his team wins and assumes office. Team Vishal has released a manifesto promising transparency and efficiency in its functioning.
“We are not hungry for power. We want justice for the association and want to bring about change and are fighting for a cause,” said Vishal.
Sarathkumar has rejected all charged as “rubbish” and in turn accused Vishal and others with playing pure politics at the behest of a political party that wants to break the Nadigar Sangham. He has indicated that Vishal is a friend of Udayanidhi Stalin, the grandson of DMK patriarch M Karunanidhi and son of former deputy chief minister of Tamil Nadu MK Stalin, and has the DMK’s support.
“We will definitely overcome this challenge and the members will give a befitting reply to the absurd campaign against me,” said Sarathkumar.
“I had no intention to contest and would have gone, but for the ugly, wrong, false and malicious campaign they are running. I have to stand and fight and disprove their charges,” he told Hindustan Times.
Nasser was equal, if not more, confident of overthrowing the present lot from the association.
“On Friday, 1,300 members attended our meeting where we released the manifesto. Several colleagues are backing us to the hilt to take the present leadership on as they did nothing for the fraternity,” said Nasser adding “the support is only growing.”
Only the counting of votes would reveal who – the incumbent or the challenger – will have control over the prestigious and powerful film fraternity body, for the next three years.
It's time. Yes I have filed my nomination for the post of gen secy in 2015 Nadigar sangam elections slated for October 18th. God bless— Vishal (@VishalKOfficial) October 2, 2015